UTILISING Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions for e-services and reaching all groups of society, including the poor, users in remote areas and other disadvantaged groups will transform development landscape.
Rural access to communication networks in Tanzania and the rest in the region is still limited than it is in urban areas and the inequality of access to ICTs is even greater thus widening the digital divide between urban and rural areas.
Evidence has also been found on there being intra-national social divides between rich and poor and a democratic divide within the online community, between those who do and who don’t use Internet to actively participate in public affairs.
The impacts of ICTs for rural households include savings in time and other resources, access to better information leading to better decision making, improvements in efficiency, productivity and diversity. ICT includes a whole range of technologies that facilitate communication and the processing and transmission of information by electronic means – from conventional radio and landline to computers, Internet and mobile phones.
To establish the role of ICTs in supporting and building the capacity of indigenous knowledge systems, the mechanism for information sharing must initially be assessed within the local context and ICTs have the potential to initiate new rural networks of information exchange but their use in the first instance will need to be determined locally, according to local choices.
Successful experiences in the application of ICTs in marginalised and rural areas have shown how ICTs enable access to markets by providing information about prices that improve the informed position of rural producers for decision making, and by facilitating the connection to complete transactions.
ICTs has proven successful in the provision of services such as banking and health and the creation of knowledge networks between universities to support open, distance and e-learning institutions. The impacts of ICTs on a poor household, the benefits of ICTs for poverty alleviation, can be measured by gains in welfare, under the assumption that monetary improvements eventually bring about non-monetary welfare improvements.
Models of ICT adoption and diffusion are discussed followed by an examination of the areas in which ICTs have been shown to demonstrate effective poverty alleviation. These technologies are continually being integrated in every aspect of business activities and daily lives.
Thus the presence of ICT has somewhat carved out as an alternative path to development. But the question that remains and often asked is whether economic growth and globalization the nexus of which ICT is expected to strengthen alone will reduce poverty. Studies show that the relationship between growth and poverty impact is rather complex and depends largely on the existing inequalities such as illiteracy or initial conditions that favour or discourage the distributional effects of growth.
Economic growth is necessary but not sufficient when it comes to poverty reduction. It cannot preclude the role of economic growth in creating necessary resources for social development, but at the same time, complementary social and environmental policies are required too.
In the interest of direct poverty reduction, ICT plays a more important role in enhancing the activities of the poor and increasing their productivity: by increasing their access to market information or lowering the transaction costs of poor farmers and traders. It can provide governments, businesses and citizens with access to better information to make more informed decisions. It enables more efficient processes.
And it gives a voice to traditionally unheard peoples. ICT technologies can be used to increase efficiency, competitiveness and market access for developing country firms. Poor people will gain fruitful access to ICTs through shared facilities that are appropriately managed and properly constituted within sound development strategies.
Information is not a magic cure for hunger or poverty. However, the right information at the right time can help in finding a solution. With ICT, the multi-dimensional changes have been observed in almost all aspects of life; economics, education, communication, and travel.
In a technology-driven society, getting information quickly is important for both sender and receiver. An information society is one that makes the best possible use of ICTs. In such a society, living standards, patterns of work and leisure, the education system and marketplace are all influenced by advances in information and knowledge. Against such background it shows that ICT can play vital role in solving some human problems.
Furthermore, modern technology has revolutionalised the world to such an extent that all those who can afford them apply them in virtually all aspects of their day-to-day endeavours. To this extent, it is strongly believed that with the kind of success which ICT has recorded in all spheres of life there is no doubt that it will be of tremendous assistance in solving the intractable problem of insecurity in our society.
Urbanisation and Internet expansion is expected to drive the convergence of ICT and urban infrastructure and telecommunications particularly broadband is at the centre of Tanzania development. ICT is at the heart of economic changes and it plays an important role, notably by contributing to rapid technological progress and productivity growth.
Since ICT can impact positively on governance and other sectors of the economy, it is high time that more investment is directed into the sector for it to contribute to the improvement of living standards.