Information and communication technology

Information and communication technology

Information and communication technology

ABOUT THIS SECTOR

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) continues to increase worldwide, accelerating the flow of information and boosting key services. However, much of its potential as a driver of development is still untapped.

Globally, only a minority has access to the internet and a large share of this minority uses slow dial-ups that cannot cope with web services designed for high-speed connections.  The EU's development cooperation in the area of ICT focuses on this digital divide. Making the benefits of new technologies, especially ICTs, widely available has also been defined as a target under the Millennium Development Goals.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) and satellite applications can accelerate the transition towards inclusive and sustainable knowledge-based societies. Thus, the EU is supporting the development of ICT infrastructure particularly throughout the African continent, where it is most lacking. At international level, more effective technology and knowledge transfer can be achieved through more flexible intellectual property rights regimes, open access to knowledge and better coordination.
 
ICTs include technologies such as (mobile) telephony, Internet, email, file transfer, fax transmission, data storage, etc.  Over the past decades, they have continued to conquer new ground worldwide: mobile telephone subscriptions, for instance, have increased considerably, notably in the developing countries. ICTs underpin cutting-edge applications in many areas that are of direct relevance to development - health, education, governance, banking and social media, for example, particularly in the context of e-applications such as e-learning, tele-medicine and e-government. Data acquired by satellites feeds into sophisticated tools, e.g. crop and seismic models, and can assist in predicting, managing and even preventing disasters.
 
However, in many parts of the world, the access to key technologies such as the internet remains limited, and therefore much remains to be done to ensure that ICTs reach their full potential as enablers of development. Recent studies (World Economic Forum, 2009) indicate that a 10% increase of Internet access could result in a 1.2% increase of per-capita GDP growth.
 
Improving access across Africa
The EC supports ICT applications in development cooperation, with activities focusing mainly on Africa. These interventions can be backed as research activities - managed by DG Research and/or assisted by the JRC (Joint Research Centre) - or as external aid, provided through European Development Fund (EDF) Intra-ACP funds. For Africa, the EU-Africa Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space sets the framework for action in the field of ICT, in line with the African Regional Action Plan on the Knowledge Economy (ARAPKE) adopted by the African Union, and with the outcomes of the 3rd Africa-EU Partnership on Trade, Regional Integration and Infrastructure.
 
As part of the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure, the EU's development cooperation in the area of ICT aims at addressing the digital divide in sub-Saharan Africa. Particular attention focuses on improving telephony coverage, reducing the high cost of intra-Africa communications, which are often routed via Europe, and securing affordable access to broadband and Internet connectivity.
 
Stimulating the private sector
As one of several targets contributing to the development of a global partnership, Millennium Development Goal 8 defines the following objective for the international community: 'In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.' However, since ICTs are primarily developed by the private sector worldwide, European Commission financing of ICT applications in the developing world is low compared to the budgets allocated to other sectors of cooperation.
 
Instead, the European Commission's policy regarding ICT aid is to concentrate on regulatory reform and institutional capacity-building in order to ensure that private companies can enter the market in secure conditions. There are also a number of broadband telecommunications projects in the form of public-private partnerships.
 
Recent initiatives include:
  • adopting and implementing harmonised and transparent regulatory frameworks;
  • stimulating the uptake of ICTs among public and private sectors (e.g. by providing incentives such as tax rebates);
  • facilitating access to ICT services from both the supply (infrastructures) and the demand (skills) side;
  • improving the management of the radio frequency spectrum for the provision of broadband services;
  • promoting the emergence of regional centres of excellence for training;
  • awareness-raising activities, etc.
 
Harnessing the potential of space technology
Galileo and EGNOS are the first European satellite navigation systems being developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol). The European Commission is supporting the extension of their services to the African continent, mainly at regional level, as well as the installation of ground facilities (stations).
 
Using this satellite data, the JRC is developing monitoring systems that can benefit developing partner countries. Specific to Africa are the 2006 Global Monitoring for Environment and Security in African, Caribbean & Pacific countries (GMES Africa) initiative and the Monitoring of Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) programme (2013-2018).

EU-supported space applications for development include:
  • land mapping and management: land use zoning, parcels measurement, property titling, infrastructure planning;
  • monitoring climate change: state of soil, forest, water resources;
  • food security: information about vegetation levels, desertification, soil erosion, and hydro-geology; crop models, surveillance of fishing fleets to combat illegal fishing, precise spraying of fertiliser;
  • disaster early warning and damage assessment: floods, fires, droughts, volcanoes, earthquakes, technological disasters, pests (locusts);
  • mobile telephony;
  • tracking and tracing of containers of dangerous or valuable goods;
  • remote sensing: geological and topographic mapping, mining exploration, assessment of the impact of quarries, monitoring of oil and gas concessions and pipelines;
  • aviation safety, train signalling, etc.
 
As part of the EU's external aid, the European Commission supports ICT initiatives and space applications for a number of developing countries. Activities focus primarily on African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, with further funding made available to partner countries in Asia and Latin America, as well as the European Neighbourhood.
 
Recent ICT initiatives EuropeAid has supported in ACP countries notably include:
  • the Africa Connect programme (€11.8 million), which aims to provide African researchers and students with affordable broadband capacity;
  • the 'Support for the Establishment of Harmonized Policies for the ICT Market in the ACP' programme, for which 95% of the funding is provided by the European Commission (€8 million) and the remaining 5% by the International Telecommunication Union;
  • various infrastructure projects, funded through the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (through EC grants leveraging loans from development financing institutions), including:
    • the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS), which received an €5.1 million grant from the European Commission;
    • satellite-enhanced telemedicine and e-health for sub-Saharan Africa, which received an European Commission grant worth €4 million;
    • the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy), to which the European Commission has allocated a grant of €2.6 million.
 
Globally, between 2006 and 2012, EuropeAid committed €138 million to ICT-related projects and €163 million to ICT contracts for development cooperation. This aid focuses mainly on ACP states, but also targets Neighbourhood, Asian and Latin American countries.
 
EuropeAid also promotes the development of various space applications for ACP countries. Examples of recent funding allocations include:
  • €4 million of the €9 million project GNSS-Africa (Global Navigation Satellite System - Africa) to support the air transport sector and satellite service applications in Africa, extending previous work undertaken by the EU in Africa by backing a two-year preliminary phase prior to the deployment of GNSS/EGNOS infrastructure in Africa;
  • €37 million for the Monitoring of Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) programme (2013-2018);
  • €60 million to enable Africa to become a partner in the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme (2007-2012).
 
For more information on funding opportunities, please refer to the general funding section.
 
Acronyms of financial instruments used by EuropeAid:
  • BAN: Instrument for banana production
  • DCI: Development Cooperation Instrument
  • DCI-ALA: DCI Instrument for Asian and Latin American countries
  • DCI-ASIA: DCI Instrument for Asian countries
  • DCI-SUGAR: Development Cooperation Instrument for Sugar Protocol Countries
  • EDF: European Development Fund, focusing on African, Caribbean and Pacific States
  • ENPI: European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument
  • EVA: Evaluation
  • IPA: Instrument for Pre-Accession
  • MED: Former Instrument for Mediterranean countries
  • PHARE: Programme of Community aid to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe
 

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