by Mohammed Muhsin
Redmond Washington USA, May 20, 2003.
The Challenge of Poverty.
From Brazil to Uganda to India to Bosnia to China, poverty is rampant due to lack of empowerment and an inability to participate in making decisions in their lives.
On lines of the images shown in the Iraq war, the former World Bank President Mr. Jim Wolfensohn stated “there is the other war that has been raging for hundreds of years – the War on Poverty”
Muhsin highlighted that the fundamental issue was poverty in developing countries which would not only affects the present but the future also.
The Prospect of Hope
Though there was poverty there was also hope which needed to be delivered. There had been an increase in the number of adults would could read and write as compared to the number living in abject poverty.
The Knowledge Gap and Information Technology
Muhsin stated that Knowledge was the most powerful development tool. He stated that the rapid cycle world of Information technology needed to be brought to the service of the challenge of global development and reducing poverty.
The Citizens and Information Technology
He shows how Information technology directly affected the lives of citizens and improved their lives and he proved that access to information and knowledge is something that poor are trying to convey.
Enterprises and Information Technology
He explained how at the World Bank, knowledge and information was important. They saw it as a key factor for economic development and growth.
Information Technology has been the central to the Country’s Assistance Strategies that are jointly developed by clients and the World Bank.
The World Bank also recognized the strong contribution that the corporate sector provided. They ranged from the Networking Academies of Cisco, to the e-Inclusion program of HP and to the very aggressive human development programs of Microsoft and the Gates Foundation.
The “Partners in Learning” initiative that Microsoft announced also made a huge impact on improving education in developing countries.
This demonstrated corporate leadership and responsibility and provided openings for business and investment opportunities that existed to donors and to the corporate world. Corporations had a profit motivation, but they also want to do the right thing to the community.
Governments and Information Technology
Muhsin pointed out how people harnessed information technology in the villages and cities .He then turned to the area of government leadership which promoted the use of Information Technology for development.
He emphasized the importance of Government leadership to be able to put in place an enabling environment. The term “enabling environment” meant different things but in the context of the Knowledge economy, he submitted what it meant:
First, the right policies to enable an information infrastructure—telecommunications, applications, and systems;
Second—a commitment to institutional reforms and educating the population at all levels, for life-long learning;
Third, a climate that built a strong partnership between the government, the private sector, and civil society;
And above all—leadership that believed in and understood the power of information technology.
He reiterated that putting Information Technology to work in developing a country needed serious commitment on the part of leaders.
It is up to us
In his conclusion he recalled what Bill Gates in his book Business @ the Speed of Thought advocated that digital tools magnify the abilities that make us unique in the world: the ability to think, the ability to articulate our thoughts, the ability to work together to act on those thoughts. If we empower our people to solve problems and give them potent tools to do this with, they will amaze us with their creativity and initiative.