Advancing Life & Work

ICT4D 2016: Everyone must be counted to close the digital divide


Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can and must help advance the Sustainable Development Goals and close the digital divide. In this post, Christopher Wellise shares insights from a recent experience at the ICT4D Conference in Kenya that further reinforces the important mission of the HPE Living Progress Challenge. 

A member of the Masai tribe uses mobile technology In the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Africa.A member of the Masai tribe uses mobile technology In the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, Africa.

While attending the ICT4D conference in Kenya recently I took a side trip to the Masai Mara National Reserve, where members of the famous Masai tribe wore their traditional, iconic red-robes—and carried cell phones.

And on the horizon of the reserve, interspersed amongst the elephants, hippos, and lions, were cell phone towers. Old and new live together. The integration of mobile technology is both personal and social. And technology is ubiquitous.

These very same messages were echoed at the ICT4D conference in Nairobi where I joined representatives from NGOs, business and government from around the world to discuss the role technology can play to help meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Digital transformation was on full display as conference-goers united around the conviction that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can and must help propel alI of the SDGs forward. The power of ICT is not just in access and connectivity, but how tech can be used to improve livelihoods, agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, human rights, and more. Keynote speaker Phillip Thigo, who leads national innovations and data initiatives for the President of Kenya, highlighted that to achieve the SDGs, everyone must be counted. “We need a data revolution for everyone,” he said.

During the conference I gave a plenary presentation on the Living Progress Challenge. This unique program invited the global community to submit their best ideas for software applications and digital services that can improve lives. I’ve witnessed first-hand how technology, combined with the power of the crowd, has sparked incredibly creative solutions driving social impact. Another highlight was meeting some of the teams behind these great ideas at the conference, including:  

  • Jacaranda Health, which is creating a low-cost tool to increase adherence to maternal and neonatal care and improve perinatal health outcomes.
  • Herufi, which is designing a prototype to track the attendance of students throughout Kenya and provide insight into the root causes of absenteeism.
  • VaxTrac, which is creating a clinic-based tool running on Android devices that will monitor women throughout their pregnancy and delivery.

In his keynote presentation Darrell Owen, a renowned authority in technology for development (ICT4D), said, "The digital divide continues to be the development divide.”

The ICT4D conference reinforced the great opportunity we have at HPE to address these divides and accelerate opportunity around the world. And that’s what we mean when we say Living Progress unites people, ideas and technology to solve the world’s toughest challenges.

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