Harnessing the power and potential of ICTs for local development

08 Mar 2012
imageMeryem Youssfi, public documents coordinator for the city of Chefchaouan, Morroco, said the new software system that the city of Malaga provided has streamlined her work and made it possible to do her work more efficiently. “It also saves me a lot of headaches,” she said.

UNDP is helping local governments to improve service delivery through a series of workshops and a new handbook

Geneva – While Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been hailed as starting a new industrial revolution, their application in improving how local governments respond to citizens’ needs is less well known.  However, municipalities the world over are discovering that ICTs can empower them to respond more effectively and efficiently to the needs of their constituents –  through enabling, for example, improved water and sanitation services.  ICTs also are expanding access to online transactional services, public information and communication channels with authorities – thereby promoting voice, accountability and transparency.

“In this way and many others,” said UNDP Geneva Director Cecile Molinier, “ICTs serve as a crucial enabler for territorial development, accelerating progress in poverty reduction, while promoting inclusive growth.”

Molinier said one of the ways UNDP supports the cross pollination of ICTs across the Mediterranean divide is by linking up cities to share knowledge and experiences, as well as resources. Through this approach, for example, the city of Malaga, Spain, was paired up with the city of Chefchaouan, Morocco.  Malaga provided software and training to the city to manage its human resources, as well as an advanced document management system to manage everything from birth certificates to drivers’ licenses.

The mayor of Chefchaouan, Sefiani Mohamed, said the new system has enabled his staff to do twice as much work in a quarter of the time.  “And with this time they can now move on to other important tasks in meeting the needs of our community,” he said.

UNDP Geneva Deputy Director Najat Rochdi said the links between cities in the north and south do not stop there. “What we are really interested in,” she said, “is a form of decentralized triangular cooperation where cities in the north help cities in the south, which then pass on the technology, knowledge and experience to other cities of the south.”

At a recent workshop in Chefchaoaun, organized by UNDP and the municipality, delegations from Mauritania, Senegal, Tunisia, Lebanon and Gabon came to learn about the city’s work in improving its human resources and document management systems. In addition, several local governments from Spain and France came to share their best practices. “Through supporting these networks,” said Rochdi, “we intend to create positive synergies and virtual cycles through which lives are improved and poverty reduced in a South-to-South continuum, with limited engagement from the North beyond the initial stage.”

UNDP’s ISI@MED initiative (Information Society Initiative for the Mediterranean) is the result of a partnership between UNDP and the Centre for Mediterranean Integration (CMI) in Marseille, and is a part of UNDP’s ART Initiative, (Articulation of Territorial and Thematic Cooperation Networks for Human Development)  which seeks to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of local development through better coordination of development actors and a more active involvement of local partners. Through this ART framework, for example, Malaga was also able to directly link up with the city of Tripoli in Lebanon to help it build a Geographic Information System (GIS) to map out its physical infrastructure, such as streets, electrical grids, water delivery systems and sewage pipes.

Rochdi and her team produced a handbook that was piloted in Chefchaouan and which will be officially launched at a workshop in Tripoli, Lebanon on 4 April.  “The guide is targeted at local municipalities because we believe there is tremendous energy and resources there to facilitate equitable and sustainable development in local communities,” said Rochdi.  “It takes into consideration the more developed northern shores of the Mediterranean as well, given the growing efforts in decentralized partnerships between regions and municipalities to build bridges across the digital and oceanic divides that separate the two worlds.”

A copy of the handbook discussed in this release is available to the media: please contact Kelly Papadaki at 0041 22 917 8332 or Kelly.papadaki@undp.org.  For the general public, it is available in electronic and in hard copy from UN Publications, https://unp.un.org/


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