miércoles, 9 de noviembre de 2016

The Global Connect Initiative: another tool for US ICT leadeship

Economic aid for development has been a traditional diplomacy tool. As ICT has been recognised as an engine for growth, the usage of a small percentage percentage of funding for development for ICT projects has been consolidated. According with the OECD data, nearly 642 $ millions was spending in 2014 by OECD countries in Official Development Aid (ODA) for development. An interesting detail is that the biggest spender in ICT for ODA were the EU institutions, more than 160 $ millions and 25% of the OECD area spending. US spent only 10 $ millions. From another source, I have found that China spent around 588 $ millions in 2012 only in Africa.

The risk of losing the battle of ICT4D funding is an strategic one. As a general rule, the main developers of the ICT4D projects are companies from the donor country. Therefore, weakening your position in ICT4D ranking could have as a consequence weakening your position in the global digital economy ranking.

The above numbers was probably the rationale behind the Global Connect Initiative. In 2014 US was clearly losing the battle of ICT4D (ICT for Development) so in order to recover its place launch this initiative that seeks to bring 1.5 billion people who lack Internet access worldwide, online by 2020. Global Connect is a global partnership of countries, international organisations and industry. The initiative was presented in a summit in April 2016.

Although the US has committed that "U.S. development agencies will begin to make Internet access a top priority in their work around the world", there is no ODA budget target associated with the initiative. Furthermore, in the list of projects of the initiative the US has included some projects but there are a majority of projects from other countries.

The initiative is a reinvention of ICT diplomacy, where the lack of funding is suplemented with leadership and marketing in order to maintain the status of US as the ICT lighthouse in the world. It would be important a similar initiative in the EU in case we really want to catch-up the US in the digital economy ranking.

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