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Bytes after bullets: infoDev begins study of ICT in post-conflict reconstruction

Conflict, within and between countries, is a major cause and consequence of poverty. Conflict current affects around one quarter of low-income countries, but conflicts do end, and the challenge then is to bring relief and stability quickly, through good governance matched with rising living standards, in order to create the right conditions for nation building. A newly inaugurated infoDev research project will explore the ways that information and communication technologies (ICTs) can have a transformative role in that process.

Experience in a number of post-conflict countries has shown that mobile communication is one of the first sectors to contribute to economic recovery through increased foreign direct investment, better coordinated reconstruction, increased employment and expanded government revenues. Beyond the economic impact, ICTs can contribute to the development of social capital and trust. This study will seek to identify the specific ways in which this happens and how it might be improved.

In the first phase of this project, infoDev will lead the development of case studies about the role ICT had following conflict in Cambodia, Liberia and Sri Lanka. Cambodia conflict ended in the early 1990s and its transition has widely been lauded; it was also the first country in the world where mobile phones exceeded the number of fixed-line phones. In Liberia, years of civil war ended in 2005 when a newly elected government took office, but much remains to be done in laying the foundations for long-term development. Finally, Sri Lanka is a more recent example due to the May 2009 defeat of the LTTE. The World Bank has supported extensive e-governance reforms in Sri Lanka, allowing the research to explore the benefits of ICT in the public sector.

The diversity of experience in these countries will serve as the springboard for the second portion of the work that will develop high-level policy frameworks for using ICT as a tool for sustainable reconstruction in post-conflict countries. An important part of this will be a workshop that convenes policymakers and experts to discuss and disseminate the findings.

This research is made possible through the support of the UK Department for International Development (DFID).