Table of Contents

  • I am pleased to present you this publication on The Role of ICT in Advancing Growth in Least Developed Countries: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities. The Fourth United Nations Conference for the LDCs (LDC-IV) is a momentous occasion to release a publication of this nature. It is with great pleasure that ITU has on also launched at LDC-IV another publication on ICT and Telecommunications in Least Developed Countries: 2001 – 2010.

  • The Role of ICT in Advancing Growth in Least Developed Countries: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities report is being published on the occasion of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV), to be held in Istanbul, Turkey in May 2011. Ten years after the adoption of the Brussels Declaration, with its Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the Decade 2001-2010, and in view of the assessments of results to be conducted at LDC-IV, ITU has prepared this report to evaluate the progress these countries have made in the deployment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the last decade and the opportunities ICT can bring about to help LDCs address some of the key challenges they still face. Particular emphasis is given to changes made by LDCs in their ICT policy and regulatory environment and how these changes have resulted in advances towards universal access.

  • During the past two decades, the regulatory environment of telecommunications has undergone multiple transformations. Although the patterns are diverse and vary from country to country and region to region, overarching global developments are visible and influence policy at the national level. After many decades of state monopoly, since the 1980s an increasing number of countries have pursued policies of privatization, market liberalization, and independent regulation. Countries with a stronger and more stable state tended to be more successful in managing these transitions.

  • Historically, the participation of least developed countries in global trade has been limited. According to the UN, their share in the global merchandise trade rose from 0.62 per cent in 2002 to 1.08 per cent in 2008, with exports destined equally to developed and developing countries. To promote economic growth and industrialization, LDCs require the support of schemes that facilitate access of their exports to new markets and provide stable sources of development financing. A primary benefit low-income countries derive from their inclusion in the LDC category is access to special support measures from bilateral donors and multilateral organizations, as well as preferential treatment in multilateral and regional trade agreements they participate in. Mainly, LDCs receive support in the areas of international trade – through preferential market access, special treatment in their obligations before the World Trade Organization (WTO) and support in developing capacity in trade-related matters – and of official development assistance (ODA), which can be provided through development financing or technical cooperation.

  • Botswana gained its independence from Britain in 1966 and was among the first countries classified by the UN General Assembly under the LDC status in 1971. In 1994, Botswana formally graduated from the LDC status to a developing country – one of the first countries to do so.

  • ‘Information and Communication Technologies’ and ‘Development’ are two domains of thought and practice. Each domain contains its own differences of opinion and each is understood and experienced in widely different ways, even by those who work within it. It is therefore not surprising that the domain seeking to bring these domains together, known as Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD) or ICT4D, is riven with widely different assertions as to what needs to be done. Within these differences there may be some deep-seated conflicts of opinion or of interest, as is discussed in this chapter. However, these divergences may also relate to differences of understanding, of actual ignorance of other points of view and of approach, and consequently, of ignorance about some of the potential synergies between the many existing approaches.