ICT for Sustainable Development

ICT (Information & Communication Technology) plays a pivotal role to deliver sustainable development objectives of governments across the globe. Role of ICT has been acknowledged towards bringing about the required level of efficacy within the delivery systems to achieve developmental objectives so far.

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    Obviously potential is immense in ICT to serve for larger domain of sustainable development. The ability of IT tools, information networks (Internet & Intranet based Content) and communication infrastructure (Mobile communication, Broadband etc.) enables global collaboration possibilities to accelerate human ability to bridge the digital divide and develop knowledge societies.

    ICTs facilitate access to key development services like m-Health leading to a healthy society, Literacy and learning augmentation services are more likely to change skill and economic abilities, gender equality, increasing women’s access to health, nutrition, education and other development opportunities. ICTs also provide real means to innovative services to deal with access to financial systems and financial inclusion enabling millions to have access to financial opportunities.

    Other ways energy efficiency can be accelerated by using ICT as an enabler by making energy generation, distribution and consumption more environmentally sustainable. Infrastructure can be increasingly managed through technology, building resilient and sustainable power networks, intelligent transportation systems and smart water systems.

    In turn data management and sharing also become important keys to monitoring the progress of various sustainable development objectives. Climate change can be better monitored through ICT services such as meteorological services and radars, providing precise forecasting and timely information to ensure beneficiaries such as farmers etc. they can plan for better yields and at the same time help in governments initiative of economic resilience by implementing mitigation systems. The growing perception within the governments towards use of open data would increase transparency, empowers citizens and helps to drive economic growth in a collaborative manner.

    Today, we are at the inflection point of an opportunity to accelerate sustainable development initiative which would lead to improving the lives of billions of people around the world. ICT has an important and distinct role to play in realizing this future. ICT delivers important, cross-cutting collaborative opportunities across different sectors such as mobile banking, e-education, e-government and m-Health; making them transparently and universally available to users and creating new opportunities which will ultimately help in achieving the sustainable development towards transforming the world around us with enhanced quality of life.

ICT Innovation in Emerging Economies

Innovation has long been proven as a key driver to economic prosperity of nations; it has proven to be a tool to alleviate economic levels within society and enableability to find and sustain newer economic opportunities.

However, innovation needs to be plantedon a foundation of equitability, accessibility, availability and affordability. Furthermore, it needs to be accompanied by proper dissemination processes to put such innovation to good use and enable use by one and all.

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    Emerging economies are the nations in the process of rapid growth, industrialization, and socio-economic development. These nations are positioning themselves to the next generation global growth drives and generally represent two-thirds of the global population, generate more than 20 percent of its gross domestic product, and are restructuring themselves to foster further growth and development.

    These markets generally had lagged behind advanced economies of the world in adopting and innovatively leveraging IT to address their problems, but they are now harnessing and adopting ICT in areas including business, education, socioeconomic development, healthcare, and governance to address the fast changing expectations of the users and governments themselves.

    ICT plays key roles in enhancing emerging countries’ socioeconomic status. Realizing that fact, many such countries are now enthusiastically adopting IT and building new infrastructure, leapfrogging adoption of legacy infrastructures. Users in emerging markets are harnessing IT in unusual ways to address their real problems. For example, a healthcare project by PHFI, India is using low cost tablet based solution for diagnostic and testing using FHW’s.

    Mobile payment systems such as M-Pesa, developed in Kenya, are widely used for making payments and person-to-person money transfers even where banks or bank branches don’t exist. Companies like PayTM in Financial Technologies, App based transit systems like Taxi-for-sure, governments push for financial inclusion like JanDhan Yojana etc. are collectively offering conducive platform for ICT based innovations to augment the goal of stable and sustainable initiative of growth and economies. Other such applications have been deployed or are being developed to cater to the needs of people in emerging markets, as well. Innovation in ICT is enabling governments and entrepreneurs to think globally and apply their solutions locally to ensure maximum impact and growth opportunities.

    Cost has been a major barrier for emerging markets in embracing ICT, but ICT as-a-service model based on cloud computing, low-cost mobile devices and communication, free or low-cost open source software, and low-cost mobile apps are lowering the barriers. Cloud computing and mobile phones are making substantial gains in emerging markets, compared to advanced markets for a simple reason of scale of economy and also that cost distribution leading to lower cost of service ownership make adoption of such services a reality.

    Innovations in technology, design, service delivery, and business models are needed for ICT to make further inroads into the world’s emerging markets and embrace the untapped potential. Cloud computing is changing the technology landscape, and it’s becoming increasingly popular in emerging markets, which are enthusiastically embracing it for a host of applications.

    Mobile payment (m-payment) and financial and banking services conducted via mobile devices (often simple devices with basic capabilities) are widely used in emerging markets despite some limitations of the current systems. People in emerging markets must be able to affordably access information that’s relevant to their needs. Yet, although many people in emerging economies now have cell phones, access costs and user literacy barriers make it difficult to access the information they need.

    Information and communication technologies are playing and will continue to play a key role in political and societal transformations in emerging markets.

Information Technologies for Smart Cities

Implementation of smart technologies & processes will enable urban cities to cope up with the tremendous burden of urban influx and will help make growth sustainable.

Smart cities use ICT to improve the services that support urban environments – security, healthcare, and transport and governance. Some of the common ICT applications which ensure smart city objectives are achieved are:

  • Deployment of Sustainable and Highly Available Communication Networks
  • Use of Smart Devices and Agents
  • Developing Smart ICT based Urban Spaces
  • Developing e-Services
  • Open Government Data
  • Mobility to serve citizens at their doorstep
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    More than half of the global population now lives in urban areas (United Nations, 2012) and rural to urban shift is continuing due to socio-economic considerations of inhabitants. For example Asia is home to half of this population, and by 2025, more than 1.3 billion people will be added to urban areas, with nearly 400M+ in India and China alone.

    The overall objective of implementing smart ICT based solutions not only helps in reduction of the environmental impacts of urbanization but also helps in optimised use of resources and with the result cities will consume lesser resources to deliver higher and efficient outputs. Smart ICT solutions have a capability to alter social behaviour which is one of the most critical requirement for cities to be smart (People need to be smart irrespective of socio-economic considerations). It can offer new ways of operations, learning, living, working and travelling, and help apply smart and integrated approaches to the management of systems and processes.

    ICT is changing the evolution of cities and is enabling urban planners to bring about paradigm shift in thinking and resultant planning process which is largely driven by smart thinking and use. The access to internet is changing the traditional urban planning processes and designs and is offering planners to fuse physical and automation systems to deliver next generation smart infrastructure to make the economy, environment, mobility and governance of a city more efficient and effective.

    A city is smart when it connects the physical infrastructure, the ICT infrastructure, the social infrastructure, and the economic infrastructure to leverage the collective intelligence and efficiency of the city. Regardless of whether ICT takes centre stage in the development of a smart city or not, it is clear it is a key driver of smart city initiatives and thus needs attention from city planners and the various stakeholders interested in sustaining and improving quality of life in urban areas.

    Some of the common ICT applications which ensure smart city objectives are achieved are:

    Deployment of Sustainable and Highly Available Communication Networks

    Communication system is one of the most critical infrastructure required to realize smart city goals and city managers should focus on building rich environment of communication networks that support digital applications, ensuring that these networks are available throughout the city and to all citizens. This plan for easy access to networks should include a communication infrastructure that combines cable, optical fibre, and wireless networks. This will offer maximum connectivity and bandwidth to citizens, businesses and government. The widespread availability of fast Internet speeds has often been shown to lead to the development of innovative approaches towards social challenges, governance challenges and economic challenges. Wireline and Wireless networks compliment the explosive availability of mobile applications, smartphones, the increased connectivity of smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), utility sensors and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology thus enabling an environment of collaborative computing and intelligent operations.

    Use of Smart Devices and Agents

    While implementing ICT for smart city, city managers should consider implementing a plan for a city which ensures that physical space and infrastructure elements of the city are enriched with embedded systems, smart devices and sensors which have capability of offering real-time data exchange, alerts, and information processing. The data stream received from such sensors and process should be able to effectively deliver city management dashboards to ensure resilient service and infrastructure state. ICT is currently being used to revamp city’s critical infrastructure and enabling new ways for city transport management, traffic control or environmental services. Additionally, the extensive and ubiquitous use of ICT is empowering the development of essential services for health, security, police and fire departments, governance and delivery of public services.

    Developing Smart ICT based Urban Spaces

    Developing smart ICT based urban spaces, by connecting the embedded systems, sensors and smart devices located across the city together to form a cohesive and integrated ICT infrastructure for the city. Smart urban spaces leverage ICT to deliver more efficient and sustainable services and infrastructures within that specific area. These spaces could possibly include services like electric car charge points, energy-efficient buildings, smart’ meters and smart heating and cooling systems. WiFi hotspots and service delivery kiosks that allow people to connect to the services on the move. These urban spaces deliver a wide range of innovations that can be of enormous environmental and economic benefit. The current focus and developments in cloud computing, IoT, open data, semantic web etc. have much to offer cities looking to deliver smart solutions. These technologies can assure economies of scale in infrastructure, standardisation of applications, and turn-key solutions for software as a service (SaaS), which dramatically decrease the development costs while accelerating the learning curve for effective functioning of smart cities.

    Developing e-Services

    The availability of ubiquitous ICT infrastructures stimulates the development of new services and applications by diverse forms of users leading to citizen- government participation and largely contributes to innovation in service delivery, and allows for the gathering of a more realistic assessment of users’ perspectives by conducting willingness surveys. Smart city e-services include services for the local economy and its development, governance, environment, energy, transport services, security services, education and health services etc.

    Sensors can be used to manage the mobility needs of citizens with an appropriate Intelligent Transport System (ITS) that takes care of congestion, predicts the arrival of public transit vehicles or other public transportation options; managing parking spaces and so on. ICT can also be used for environmental and energy monitoring such as using sensors to manage solid waste systems, or to measure energy consumption and emissions. ICT can also be used in improving the health of citizens through telemedicine, electronic medical records etc. ICT helps deliver safe living condition by providing public Safety and Security systems, sensor-activated video surveillance systems can be employed along with location aware enhanced security systems, and estimation and risk prevention systems. Integration of the e-services is a critical factor which enables smart processes to deliver efficient & collaborative operations environment.

    Open Government Data

    The effective use of government data can precipitate the smart evolution of cities, creating national competitive advantage. Open government data leads to citizen – government connect, collaborative services, innovation in services etc., which leads to resilient and sustainable cities.

    Mobility to serve citizens at their doorstep

    Mobility has rapidly transformed the means of communication, information access and collaboration. It is undoubtedly the new IT frontier for government agencies to re-write the rules of citizen services. For example, government agencies can create apps to enable citizen make swifter payments for utilities such as electricity bills, gas connections. Such apps can be orchestrated by a business process management engine and authentication services, ensuring the right process flow for payments as well as security of sensitive citizen details including bank account or credit / debit card details etc. These apps can also inherit native mobile security features such encrypted data, automatic data wipe-out geo-fencing and data masking etc.

ICT in Quality of Engineering Education

Engineering education is witnessing a major change over the past few years because of the changing business and industrial environment in the developing economies, due to rapid globalization and substantial increase in the demand for high-quality education, which has led to the adoption of ICT to extend the outreach and elevation of training standards in engineering education.

Engineering education today needs to address global quality requirements and hence the standards of delivery can be elevated by introduction of ICT based tool to ensure global teaching talent and aids are made available to ecosystem to match the delivery requirements.

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    The fast changing economic and social requirements demand transformation in the skills, capabilities and capacities in the education system. This requires a shift in the delivery and pedagogy used in the current education system. The technical education needs to be easily accessible, affordable and quality higher education leading to the economic upliftment of India. ICT increases the flexibility of delivery of education so that students can access knowledge anytime and from anywhere.

    ICT can ensure wider availability of best practices and best course material in education, which can be shared by means of ICT, can aid better teaching. ICT also allows the academic institutions to reach disadvantaged groups and new international educational markets. Thus, ICT enabled education will ultimately lead to the democratization of education. Especially in developing countries like India, effective use of ICT for the purpose of education has the potential to bridge the digital divide. These steps would ensure that accountability, quality assurance, accreditation and consumer protection in ICT based education is taken care of.

    The main rationales for introducing ICT in education:

    • Social: Perceived role that technology now plays in society and the need for familiarizing students with technology.
    • Vocational: Preparing students for jobs that require skills in technology
    • Catalytic: Utility of technology to improve performance and effectiveness in teaching, management and many other social activities.
    • Pedagogical: To utilize technology in enhancing learning, flexibility and efficiency in curriculum delivery

    Today ICT—including laptops wirelessly connected to the Internet, personal digital assistants, low cost video cameras, and cell phones have become affordable, accessible and integrated in large sections of the society throughout the world. It can restructure organizations, promote collaborations, increase wide spread participation of citizens, improve the transparency and responsiveness of governmental agencies, make education and health care more widely available, foster cultural innovation & creativity, and enhance the development in social integration. It is only through education and the integration of ICT in education that one can teach students to be participants in the growth process in this era of rapid change.

    ICT can be used as a tool in the process of education in the following ways:

    • Informative tool: It provides vast amount of data in various formats such as audio, video, documents.
    • Constructive tool: To manipulate the data and generate analysis.
    • Communicative tool: It can be used to remove communication barriers, Voice, Video, Print

    E-learning allows higher participation and greater interaction by providing audio-visual and electronic content management tools. The components include e-portfolios, cyber infrastructures, digital libraries and online learning object repositories. All the above components create a digital identity of the student and connect all the stakeholders in the education.

    It also facilitates inter-disciplinary research by facilitating learning by real time conversation, delayed time conversation, directed instruction, self-learning, problem solving, information seeking and analysis, and critical thinking, as well as the ability to communicate, collaborate and learn. It also helps researchers by provisioning of information, networking, online journals, libraries and data.

    Benefits of ICT in education to the main stakeholders:

    – Social –

    • Increased access
    • Flexibility of content and delivery
    • Combination of work and education
    • Learner-centred approach
    • Higher quality of education and new ways of interaction

    – Vocational –

    • High quality, cost effective professional development in the workplace
    • Upgrading of employee skills, increased productivity
    • Development of a new learning culture
    • Sharing of costs and of training time with the employees
    • Increased portability of training

    – Catalytic –

    • Increase the capacity and cost effectiveness of education and training systems
    • To reach target groups with limited access to conventional education and training
    • To support and enhance the quality and relevance of existing educational structures
    • To ensure the connection of educational institutions and curricula to the emerging networks and information resources
    • To promote innovation and opportunities for lifelong learning

    ICT can affect the delivery of education and enable wider access to the same. In addition, it will increase flexibility so that learners can access the education regardless of time and geographical barriers. It can influence the way students are taught and how they learn. It would enable development of collaborative skills as well as knowledge creation skills.

Big Data Analytics

Big data is a general term referring to the massive amount of digital data being collected from diverse set of sources (Structured & unstructured) for analysis purposes. This data thus collected is characterised by 4 V’s; Volume, Velocity, Variety and Veracity.

Big Data could provide transformative ability aligning with government’s vision to knowledgeable growth environment. Big Data can help by enabling better decision making ability for social workers to better manage and deliver intervention outcomes. Health, personalising public services, fraud management could deliver a game changing opportunity to enable governments to better manage and utilize funds to ensure wider coverage of beneficiaries.

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    Approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is added each day globally and moreover, approximately 90% of it is unstructured.

    While the volume of data may seem to be overwhelming, it does offers new opportunities for discovery, value creation, and rich business intelligence for decision support for organizations. Big data also means new challenges involving complexity, security, and risks to privacy, as well as a need for new technology and human skills. Big data is redefining the landscape of data management, from extract, transform, and load, or ETL, processes to new technologies (such as Hadoop) for cleansing and organizing unstructured data in big-data applications.

    Although the business sector is leading big-data-application development, the public sector has begun to derive insight to help support decision making in real time from fast-growing in-motion data from multiple sources, including the Web, biological and industrial sensors, video, email, and social communications.

    Big Data management and analytics harvesting strategy if applied properly can help governments to help serve their citizens and overcome national challenges (such as rising health care costs, job creation, natural disasters, and terrorism). There are several examples available today where governments globally have applied big data techniques to have better insights related to healthcare, education and security. US government for example uses big data in a big way to have better insights to manage internal security, employment generation opportunities, public health priorities etc.

    Internal security is one of the important area and can be dealt in a more effective manner by use of big data analytics and tool to policing infrastructure, this approach will surely deliver safe living conditions. There are obvious win-win approaches, such as developing systems to use social media as early warning systems after a major disaster etc. and also as a tool for intelligence gathering and surveillance.

    While big data analytics surely can provide a game changing ability to governments, we still need to ensure that while end objectives are being met, the Privacy and data protection are taken care of and people are assured of judicious use of the data.

    Governments should promote use of more statisticians, analysts, or data scientists to reveal intelligence from vast amount of data gathered and create actionable outcomes. Promote champions of data to ensure initiative is being internalized and that this activity becomes backbone of decision making. Incentivise use of data and analytics to support competency framework.