ICTs usage key to mainstreaming marginalized segments: Experts

STAFF REPORT ISB: Experts at a two-day international workshop have called for taking maximum use of Information and sCommunication Technologie (ICTs) in order to evolve better policies and improve mechanism of implementation, arguing it would help in identifying ways through which the poorest and most marginalised can access and benefit from ICTs.

The workshop on Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) for Development: Mainstreaming the Marginalised was organised by the Inter-Islamic Network on Information Technology (INIT) in Islamabad.

The experts through their presentations, panel sessions and open discussions highlighted the importance the theme of identifying ways through which the most marginalised benefit from ICTs.

The workshop was conducted by Prof. Tim Unwin, who has an extensive experience in the area of ICTs for development and is considered a leading authority on the subject.

The workshop steered away from the conventional design of training programs and aimed to deliver a unique participation-based learning experience for the participants.

ICTs have played a major role during the last decade in changing our ways of life by directly influencing the norms of our culture. Until now many aspects of ICTs have been explored in detail in regards to their applications in education, health care, agriculture, academia and governance, but there is still a gap to fill when it comes to their applications for helping the most marginalised.

Prof. Tim Unwin said that ICTs have led to dramatically increased inequalities between those who have access to them and those who do not. He focused on developing a synergy between the participants from different fields and promoting a constructive dialogue with real practical implications for participants.

A panel of highly experienced individuals from different fields with respect to the usage of ICTs supported Prof. Unwin in creating a constructive argument that identifies some of the best ways of supporting the marginalised through the use of ICTs, and thereby reducing social and economic inequalities.

In his remarks, Dr. S M Junaid Zaidi, President INIT and Rector Comsats Institute of Information Technology, said that the workshop would go a long way in addressing the issue of mainstreaming the poor and marginalized segments of the society.

He also said that allout efforts from the stakeholders should be made to achieve this goal so that the national progress is ensured.

The workshop noted that poor and marginalised people and communities often include people living in isolated areas, people with disabilities, women, the urban poor, underserved rural areas, and the elderly and suggested to enable them to get benefits of ICTs if these inequalities are indeed to be reduced.

Over the last 20 years, “development” has broadly been defined around the notion of economic growth, which is seen as being crucial for the elimination of poverty. Indeed, ICTs have played a key role in such development, with the expansion of mobile phones and access to the internet as key contributors to the growth of economies across the world.

One of the major themes of the event was to influence government processes in order to address the inequalities and abuses of power that the poor face on a daily basis.

The panelists were of the view that education, access to government information, better healthcare, and engaging in political processes through the use of ICTs can all benefit the marginalised and help societies as a whole move in a positive direction. Such positive change is needed for those who live under a blanket of isolation; this isolation can be reduced through the effective deployment of ICTs, they said.

In his address as chief guest, Minister for Science and Technology, Rana Tanvir, said the cost of technologies was decreasing day by day and their usage and deployment was becoming ubiquitous.

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