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World Bank helps to spread ICT in developing markets

The World Bank Group has played a catalytic role in spreading ICT in developing markets. During fiscal years 2003-2010, the Bank Group provided US$4.2 billion in support of the ICT sector, of which US$2.9 billion was to the poorest countries, including in Africa where it remained the largest multilateral financier in telecommunications. The Bank Group’s strategy focused on support for sector reform, increasing access to information infrastructure, and developing ICT skills and applications (that is, ICT components in projects in other sectors).

IEG’s evaluation found that the Bank Group’s most notable contributions to ICT development have been through support to sector reforms and to private investments for mobile telephony in difficult environments and in the poorest countries. One of the successful examples of such efforts is an IFC supported mobile operator which was the first to adapt a mass market strategy and established a Village Phone Program.

In other priority areas, including ICT applications, the Bank Group’s contributions have been limited. Targeted efforts to increase access beyond what was commercially viable have been largely unsuccessful. Support to universal access programs was largely superseded by the roll-out of phone services by the private sector, in some cases supported by World Bank sector reforms. Access for the poor has been more effectively supported through general, non-targeted interventions focused on the enabling environment and direct support to private investments. The World Bank’s record in ICT applications has been modest, despite their significant role in Bank projects. This reflects high risks of IT projects and shortcomings in the Bank’s delivery mechanism. ICT skills development, which is emerging as an important constraint to the diffusion and use of ICT, has received little attention in WBG projects.

Recommendations

– Continue the shift in World Bank Group support toward broadband and Internet access. The Bank Group needs to maintain its focus on helping client countries to update regulatory frameworks and to preserve competition combined with promoting stability and predictability of the regulatory environment. The Bank Group also needs to support catalytic public-private partnership investments to accelerate the rollout of regional and national backbone infrastructure for greater access, including access to the underserved.

– Strengthen the capacity of the World Bank Group to respond to client demands for ICT applications. The Bank Group needs to build greater ICT expertise and awareness across its networks and regions regarding the potential applications of ICT, including more consistently capturing ICT aspects in country and sector strategies. The Bank Group needs to build incentives mechanisms for collaboration, coordination, and joint approaches for innovation among its institutions.

– Improve the design and implementation of WBG applications projects. It is important that the Bank Group considers local context and capabilities in its projects, support cross-sectoral enablers, and use the benefits of shared infrastructure and services across government agencies, wherever feasible, to avoid waste and to ensure coherence across government agencies.

– Strengthen World Bank and IFC support for skills development. Developing ICT related skills is critical to promote the use and production of ICT applications in client countries.

– Ensure the Bank Group’s organizational structure for ICT enables effective coordination. The organizational structure for ICT needs to enable effective strategy formulation and coordinated delivery, as well as articulate an effective division of labor among the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA.

– Review implications of the global IT platform for how the WBG delivers and assesses the impact of its interventions. The Bank Group can build on the extensive global mobile network to support real-time data collection and M&E for ICT and other interventions in client countries.

– Improve the Word Bank’s procurement outcomes for ICT projects and components, through strengthening expertise and knowledge of procurement specialists, adapting relevant procurement rules.

 


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