Four days of exhibits and interactions among leaders from tech, private industry, government and the development sector next week are expected to generate new partnerships, innovations and commitments that will continue to stake out progress toward achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Hundreds of experts from the relief and development and technology worlds will descend upon the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, May 16-19, to focus on the latest ways to harness cutting-edge IT to help the world’s most marginalized communities at the 8th Annual Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D) conference.
From demonstrations and trainings on how to use UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, i.e. drones) to assess disaster zones as well as deliver emergency supplies, to using remote sensors to monitor water levels at far-flung rural wells and boreholes, to training rural farmers on tablets and mothers on nutrition via SMS, to ensuring good governance and accountability on social media, this year’s ICT4D Conference has something for everyone.
The 4-day event will also have an expert panel discussion on Tuesday, May 17, moderated by the BBC’s Africa Health Correspondent, Anne Soy,who has a particular interest in tech for development. The panel, titled “The Sustainable Development Goals: Not just Pie in the Sky and Why ICT is Key,” will tackle head-on many of the continuing criticisms of the SDG process and emphasize that there is an ICT solution to many of those concerns. Members of the press will be able debate this question with panel members.
The featured panelists are Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT; Shaun Ferris, Director of Agriculture and Livelihoods, CRS; Kate Krukiel, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Microsoft; Dr David Otwoma, Chief Science Secretary, Kenya Government and Lauren Woodman, CEO, NetHope.
For the first time, the conference has been organized by a consortium of companies and 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 Inmarsat, IS Solutions, Microsoft, RTI international, SimbaNET, 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.”
The ICT4D conference has grown from the 80 development professionals who met in Nairobi for one day in 2010, to 750 professionals from some 315 organizations and 75 countries who will meet for four days this year. Speakers include leaders 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 & 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.