BRICs performing well at using ICT for citizens’ benefit

The social, economic and environmental benefits of ICT are the subject of Ericsson and Arthur D. Little’s Networked Society Index, which ranks 25 of the world's largest cities according to their ability to implement ICTs to this end. Several BRIC cities are faring well, with Shanghai and Beijing ranking in the top 10.

The study shows that several BRIC cities, such as Sao Paulo and Delhi, have promising initiatives in place to rapidly close the socioeconomic gap through multi-stakeholder ICT engagements. Sao Paulo, in particular, has been awarded several national and international awards for its e-inclusion programs. These initiatives highlight an awareness of the need for improving ICT literacy and the key role that it has in enabling further development.

In Delhi, several promising initiatives aim to leverage ICT for the benefit of citizens. An excellent example of a multi-stakeholder project is Eko, which enables low-value financial transactions to be completed using mobile phones or through retail outlets. Eko serve over 1.3 million customers and processed USD 500 million in micro deposits, payments and remittances. In a city such as Delhi, citizens benefit from gaining access to basic financial services - for example, by using them to engage in entrepreneurial activities and receive payment for their work.

The top three cities in the index - Seoul, Singapore and Stockholm - have successfully met many social, economic and environmental targets by making extensive investments in ICT. Singapore, for example, is aggressively driving innovation in e-health, and is a pioneer in traffic-congestion management. Seoul, meanwhile, is using ICT to realise many environmental benefits of high tech initiatives.

Increased GDP per capita often is equated with increased consumption and thus increased impact on the environment, for example due to increased CO2 emissions. This environmental part of this index indicates how ICT can be used to decouple GDP growth and CO2 emissions: a city with high GDP could use ICT to reduce their consumption, for example, with smart commuting, or how a city in a developing country or city can chose a more sustainable development path, by obtaining the same type of services, but e.g. virtually, as opposed to physical products.

"It is crucial to analyse the perspective of individual citizens," says Patrik Regårdh, from Ericsson's Networked Society Lab. "Successful cities excel at attracting ideas, capital and skilled people. Such positive attraction requires constant progress in economic terms, as well as within a social and environmental context."

The new study looks at the benefits ICT has enabled in various cities in areas such as health, education, economy, the environment and efficiency, as well as at citizens' interactions with ICT.

"As people get their most basic needs satisfied, attention shifts to e.g., balanced life styles, a rich cultural scene, good transport and transaction facilities, good health also in their senior years, self-fulfilment - for example - in terms of higher education and a clean environment throughout the city," says Erik Almqvist, Director Arthur D. Little. "ICT has the potential to improve quality of life in many of these fields and connectivity itself anytime anywhere is increasingly regarded as a basic citizen's right."

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