The Role of ICT in
Sustainable Development
Raj Reddy
Aug 29, 2002
www.rr.cs.cmu.edu
Johannesburg Summit Presentation
The Vision
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is not the
cure-all to the world’s problems. But it can be a powerful
tool to facilitate and enable affordable solutions to
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Economic Development
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Societal Development: Empowering the Individual
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Economic growth
Job creation
Low-cost access to goods and services
Improved literacy
Reduced mortality such as U5MR
Access to safe water (as a result of monitoring)
Free flow of information (supports democratization)
Increased transparency
Environment Protection
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Pollution monitoring, diagnosis and elimination
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Clean air, clean water, clean energy, etc.
Logistic Support for Disaster recovery
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Oil spills, e.g., Exxon Valdez
Indonesian fires
Chernobyl accident
Is ICT Necessary?
ICT cannot improve the quality of life but can
facilitate access that can improve the quality of life
such as

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Providing access to entertainment
Providing access to education and life-long learning
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ICT cannot make you literate but can enable learning
independent of age and physical limitations
Providing access to all human knowledge anytime
anywhere
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Access any book, magazine, newspaper, music, or video
regardless of language by anyone
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Universal Library video
The Million Book Digital Library project of China, India and US
Is ICT Necessary? (cont)
ICT cannot feed the poor but can enable wealth
creation and expense reduction
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through applications such as price discovery, creating export
opportunities, and job creation
ICT cannot cure the sick but can provide a link to
doctors and treatment

using telemedicine
ICT cannot save the environment but can help to
monitor it
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and diagnose and provide options to policy makers
eventually can be linked to appropriate technologically-controlled
remediation approaches as well
Necessary Conditions
for Sustainable ICT
Sustainability has been traditionally linked to
environmental sustainability
Sustainability of ICT is also essential
To achieve sustainable ubiquitous use of ICT, it
must be accessible and affordable

ICT can not be deployed as charity
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Even an illiterate farmer must desire a TVPCR and be willing to
pay for it
ICT must also create a clear value proposition

would you rather spend the money on food?
Accessible ICT?
Connectivity within a walking distance
Costing less than cup of coffee per day
Language divide
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Usable in any language
Literacy divide
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Permitting communication using speech
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Recognition and synthesis
Affordable ICT?
If ICT is to achieve pervasive presence in
developing economies, it should be affordable
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A TVPCR at the same price as the current TV set
The value proposition should be self evident
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It should be more than a TV for entertainment
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More than a cell phone for communication
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IP phone with no long distance charges, voice email, video email
Better than a teacher in a class room for learning and
education
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Any movie anytime, interactive entertainment, massive
multiplayer games
A teacher for every learner
Better than a local expert for rapid and reliable access to
knowledge and knowhow
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Easy to use, easy to learn, and affordable
Trustable ICT?
Trusted sources of information--local and global
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prices of crops at regional markets
civic obligations (e.g. tax information, filing deadlines)
news
Anonymity guaranteed where needed and
appropriate
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requesting information about a potentially communicable
disease
On-line assets and records as safe,
anonymous, and accessible as the best hiding
place in your house!
What should
the Scientific Community do?
Get the IT firms to see the developing economies as huge
markets - not as charity
Develop affordable low cost systems and software
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Support and codesign of low cost options
Dependable designs: 6 sigma reliability
Radically simpler software and user interfaces
Low cost, easily deployed and integrated sensors
Develop solutions that support low levels of literacy and
languages of developing economies
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Support of R and D for orphan languages
Develop power without the power gird
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E.g. Solar, biomass and crank power options
Develop technologies for connectivity without telephony
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Explore low cost connectivity using satellite and wireless
What can Each Nation do?
Supportive national policies for ICT from
developing economies
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Provide “Free Broadband Internet”. It is only about 1% of
the cost of building roads
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Immediately eliminate exorbitant prices for connectivity from PTT
monopolies
Eliminate and/or radically reduce taxation on ICT
Develop multilingual software tools
Support and incubate local entrepreneurs solving local
problems
What can the UN do?
Provide free access to knowledge and knowhow
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Create a center that can provide answers to problems
faced by national, metropolitan and rural communities
using ICT
The center can have access to world class experts
from TWAS and other academies who can provide
timely inputs to pressing problems
Create a World Knowledge Bank which acquires
intellectual property rights from owners and
makes them available to developing economies at
affordable costs
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Owners of IPR get little revenue and profit at present
from developing economies
And many of them would make available their IPR
under appropriate safeguards for a lower fee or royalty
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