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Introduction for non-ICT Specialists

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Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are contributing to the achievement of development goals in diverse and ever-expanding ways. They are used to increase the effectiveness and reach of development interventions, to enhance good governance and to lower the delivery costs of many public and private services. When used appropriately, ICTs facilitate the creation and strengthening of new economic and social networks with the potential to advance and even transform the development process. ICTs are increasingly applied to interventions in such critical sectors as education, health, agriculture and disaster management.
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A number of crosscutting issues arise in almost every application of ICTs to development processes. These include equity in the access and use of ICTs by competing social groups; the capacity to reorient ICTs to multiple uses; ensuring information flows across the barriers of illiteracy and limited access; production of meaningful content for distribution via ICTs; and the challenge of utilizing ICTs in areas where infrastructure such as electricity and technical support are notably lacking. A growing number of organizations seek to apply ICT best practices in unelectrified areas, but are faced with the questions of how to adapt those practices to the conditions in rural and remote areas and how to meet ICT energy needs given the limited availability of financing.

To help answer these questions, this guide describes a variety of energy systems that can power small-scale ICT projects in off-grid areas and identifies practical ways to reduce the costs of those systems. Informed selection of ICTs can net savings of thousands of dollars for off-grid projects by reducing the need for energy. As will be demonstrated in this toolkit (see Telecenter Model), simply using energy efficient notebook computers instead of desktop systems can reduce the net investment in an off-grid telecenter by over US$30,000. One of the primary goals of the toolkit is to raise awareness of the relationship between ICTs and energy, and the financial benefits of considering energy needs early in the process when planning ICT programs in unelectrified areas.

When energy specialists are called upon to provide their expertise in establishing power solutions in poorly serviced areas, it is important that they know how to calculate the energy consumption associated with the ICT equipment being proposed and more appropriate alternatives that may be available.