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ICTS AS ENABLERS OF DEVELOPMENT:
A MICROSOFT WHITE PAPER
December 2004
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are transforming societies and fueling the growth of the global economy. Yet despite the broad potential of ICTs, their benefits have not been spread evenly. Indeed, using ICTs effectively to foster social inclusion and economic growth is among the key challenges facing policymakers today. As one of the world’s leading ICT firms, Microsoft brings a unique perspective to this issue, one informed by years of collaboration with the international development community. Microsoft firmly believes that ICTs hold tremendous promise as an enabler of social and economic development. ICTs can help underserved populations obtain, manage and disseminate knowledge and to tap into global networks of information and services. And rapid innovations in technology – the fruits of intensive R&D efforts by Microsoft and others – are making ICTs less expensive and easier to use, bringing the power of ICTs within the reach of ever more people. ICTs promote development across many dimensions. At their most fundamental level, ICTs enable organizations to be more productive, thereby spurring economic growth and helping firms be more competitive. ICTs can also expand the reach and effectiveness of social development projects and have already yielded important benefits in such areas as healthcare, education, and environmental preservation. Public-sector uptake of ICTs is also making governments more efficient and their decision-making more transparent. Finally, many developing countries have achieved important economic gains in nurturing the development of domestic ICT industries. It is not enough, however, to place ICTs onto the development agenda without also addressing other critical elements of the development equation. A nation’s regulatory environment in particular can have a profound impact on ICT utilization and ICT industry growth. Microsoft actively engages with policymakers on a range of ICT policy issues that affect users and the industry, including such issues as property rights, international trade and investment, competition, publicly funded research, online security and privacy, technology standards, e-Government, education and digital literacy, ICT skills development, affordable financing, incentives for private-sector ICT investment, and telecommunications infrastructure and access. Microsoft also recognizes, however, that public-sector leadership must be combined with privatesector investment and commitment. For its part, Microsoft’s proposition for promoting social inclusion and economic growth is reflected not only in the company’s many development initiatives, but also in its fundamental goal as a company – to provide products and services that help people be more productive and to unlock their full potential. The final section of this paper describes Microsoft’s value proposition for development and explains our various initiatives and programs in this area in more detail.

Microsoft hopes that this paper will help readers obtain a greater appreciation for the potential that ICTs hold for social and economic development, and of the important benefits that can accrue to developing nations that fully exploit these benefits. We also look forward to engaging in a broader dialogue with policymakers and thought leaders on how governments, industry, and users can work most effectively to unlock the full potential of ICTs for the developing world.

DC: 1643614-1

I.

INTRODUCTION

Over the past several years, a broad international consensus has emerged that information and communications technologies (ICTs) offer a potentially powerful mechanism for promoting social and economic growth. Several recent studies have described remarkable success in using ICTs to help underserved communities and to create new opportunities in developing countries. Yet these same studies often also cite...
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