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Knowledge networks through information and communication technology access points for disadvantaged communities


Access to information and communication technology (ICT) applications and services and systematic knowledge-sharing in disadvantaged communities and rural areas is either non-existent or very limited. Individual and household access remains out of reach in the vast majority of rural and disadvantaged communities, in particular for women. Communal access points have been built in different localities around the world, under different labels, such as telecentres and multi-purpose communication centres; in some cases these facilities have revolutionized communities by creating new opportunities for socio-economic development (for example, through the creation of local microenterprises, better access to markets for local produce and e-learning capabilities). Therefore, community access points are seen as cost-effective tools in the realization of those socio-economic development goals where information dissemination and access are important.

ICT access points can act as vehicles for launching various services for empowering disadvantaged communities through networking and sharing of information and knowledge. Such services may include informal ICT-based training and specific applications in areas such as e-health, e-business, e-government and e-learning. ICT access points need to be designed to form nodes of a knowledge network. Access points should serve as development hubs for exchanging business and marketing information. The project will contribute to developing ICT access points into knowledge stations connecting disadvantaged communities throughout various regions of the world and a greater understanding of the information needs for sustainable rural development.

The regional commissions are well placed to help in focusing support for access points on specific services and applications for local needs and linking them into existing knowledge networks and optimizing use of resources. The regional commissions are also aware of the information needs for promoting successful rural development and an entrepreneurial base in rural communities. The regional commissions will work closely with private Internet and network operators in the individual host countries to determine the sustainability, costs and optimal modes of operation (public, private or mixed) of ICT-based rural networks for rural communities. Sustainability will be ensured through stakeholder involvement (including with private-sector operators), central and local authorities/government, rural communities and entrepreneurs and NGOs.

The project is aimed at achieving targets set out in the Plan of Action adopted at the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, held in Geneva in 2003. Specifically, it can provide sustainable prototype models and benefits and build a broad interregional network of community access points by 2015.


To strengthen the capacity of poor and disadvantaged communities, women in particular, for accessing business information and agricultural information services and relevant local knowledge through promoting the creation of a network of ICT access point initiatives.

Expected accomplishments:

Greater understanding of the effect and sustainability of ICT access points in rural communities and business development and ways of increasing their value by establishing knowledge networks

Enhanced capacity of Governments in developing countries to promote and implement effective and sustainable knowledge access points and networks aimed at serving disadvantaged communities

Implementation status:

Overall, the project had a positive impact on all communities where it was implemented. Many of the initially chosen ICT access points were transformed into knowledge hubs that are interconnected via an online regional/global knowledge portal. Knowledge hub leaders received several training sessions on knowledge management, marketing, managing small businesses and most importantly sustaining their knowledge hubs. Many participating telecentres introduced new services that provide them with additional revenue which is necessary for self-sustainability