By Claire Wanja
Hundreds of experts from the relief and development and technology worlds are gathering in Nairobi on May 16-19 to focus on the latest ways to harness cutting-edge information technology to help the world’s poor at the eighth annual Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D) conference.
For the first time the conference has been organized by a consortium of organizations on the leading edge of ICT4D: Accenture, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Esri, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, iMerit Technology Services, Mercy Corps, NetHope, Oxfam, Pandexio and World Vision with support from Microsoft, RTI International, Qualcomm Wireless Reach and Making All Voices Count.
This group of organizing partners and sponsors believe information and communication technology (ICT) can be used to accelerate achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aimed at eliminating extreme poverty around the world.
The ICT4D Conference is intended to be a catalyst that will move the entire relief and development community forward with strategic use of ICT to support the SDGs.
“The innovation and partnerships that ICT enables can make the sustainable development goals a reality,” said Carolyn Woo, President and Chief Executive Officer of CRS, which started the conference in 2010. “At CRS we firmly believe that technologies are key to accelerating the end to poverty and inequality – an essential enabler of all nations’ ability to develop a strong, viable local economy and to offer a safe, inclusive, and healthy environment to all its citizens, now and for decades to come.”
“Today across the developing world, people from all walks of life – farmers, teachers, mothers – are using mobile devices to access weather data, market information, financial services, and medical advice,” said Carol Bothwell, CRS’ Director of Technology Innovation for Development.
“Local governments, development organizations, and social enterprises are harnessing the power of real-time data, social media, and analytics to improve the quality and reach of the services they provide to those living in extreme poverty. We can improve the speed with which we achieve the sustainable development goals if we share these innovations and create more.” He added
The conference has grown from the 80 development professionals who met in Nairobi for one day in 2010, to an expected 700 plus professionals from 270 organizations and 75 countries who will meet for four days this year.
Speakers include leadership from a wide range of international and local organizations – the World Health Organization, the International Telecommunications Union, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the governments of Kenya, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and Bangladesh, CISCO, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Equity Group Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, ICRISAT, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Nairobi, and the University of Notre Dame – as well as the CEOs of a wide range of entrepreneurial businesses and social enterprises.