Monday, 01 May 2017

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Digitalisation for Development: how technology can save and improve lives

Migrant in Calais - IOM

Why talk about digitalisation in development when there are many other more pressing issues to deal with such as HIV/AIDS, poverty or migration?

Access to digital platforms is, however, a priority for many EU Member States in the development sector.

Therefore, the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Government of Belgium organised a high-level event on digitalisation for development to highlight the quintessential role of digitalisation in terms of democracy, good governance, migration management and socio-economic development.

Digitalisation - importance of mobile phones to migrant (IOM)

In his opening statement, Alexander De Croo, Belgian Minister for development cooperation and digital agenda, emphasized the need to go digital by clarifying that “digitalisation is not a goal in itself, but a tool to achieve other goals in developing countries”.

The main goal of the policy around digitalisation and development is to promote collaboration between states, civil society and multilateral organisations active in the ICT sector. They need to work together to provide better access to digital for the whole world.

Andrus Ansip, Vice president of the EC for the Digital Single Market pointed out that “while 4 billion searches happen on Google every day, 4 billion people are still without access to the internet" and added that most of the offline people are still located in the developing world.

When talking about the role of digital technologies in tackling root causes of irregular migration and refugee crisis, IOM Director-general William Swing said that “migration is not a crisis to be resolved but a situation to manage. Data analysis is an essential way to achieve this”.

Digitalisation - IOM registration desk for migrants

Among other projects, the IOM developed a migration app in order to track the movement of people around the world. Digitalisation is definitely a precious tool that needs to be available for everyone.

In November, the EU Ministers for Development agreed to give an important role to digitalisation in the upcoming consensus for development which will provide a framework for a common approach on development policy to implement the 2030 Agenda.

According to Andrus Ansip, “digital elements need to be included in development projects”.

In Tanzania, for instance, birth registration can be done via a text message so that parents do not have to travel days to reach the nearest register office.

Given that 95 % of the world’s population lives in an area covered by a mobile cellular network, it is an interesting project and can easily be implemented elsewhere. 

Even though digitalisation is not a sustainable development goal in itself, mobilizing new means and technological possibilities can greatly contribute to the achievement of the 17 SDGs.

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