June 1, 2009

UN to Provide Technology for Development Training for Afghan Policymakers

In an effort to bridge the digital divide in Afghanistan, I support the United Nations' announcement that it "will be holding an information and communications technology (ICT) 'training the trainers' programme in Kabul to educate the country's decision-makers on using the latest innovations to promote development." The first in a series of eight modules, the UN will produce a four-day workshop "based on the Academy of ICT Essentials for Government Leaders Programme designed by the UN Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT for Development (APCICT) to give decision-makers the necessary knowledge and skills to fully leverage the technology in achieving Afghanistan’s social and economic development goals." (Photo courtesy of the United Nations)

As an entrepreneur and business advisor, I see many opportunities in developing innovative products, applications, and services tailored for people, from top government officials to rural farmers to school-aged kids, living in developing nations. Governments of industrialized nations use the latest technological innovations in warfare, but there are few efforts in developing technological tools for recovery and reconstruction of developing nations. For example, while the industrialize markets are slowly adopting 3G technology, 4G networks are currently being deployed throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Mobile broadband is an ideal channel for delivering a variety of solutions in the developing world. The problem exists, however, that policymakers and ordinary citizens in developing nations lack the hardware (mobile devices), content (mobile applications), and training to effectively utilize the latest mobile broadband networks. Service and equipment costs also pose an large obstacle to gaining access to much needed solutions. This problem creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs who design ICT hardware and applications and I encourage world governments, civil society, and the private sector to collaborate more effectively to harness the latest technology in providing solutions to bridge the digital divide.

The UN announcement explains, "The programme is a collaboration between Afghanistan’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), the body mandated to promote and implement ICT projects in the country, and APCICT, a subsidiary body of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). As part of its commitment to ICT capacity building, MCIT has set up 34 training centres throughout Afghanistan to run programmes for local governments and the public."