Harnessing the power of apps for social and economic development across Asia and the Pacific

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Bindu Lohani, Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank.

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in how we think about solutions for global societal challenges. Take the apps revolution for a start. Apps are driving change at an incredibly fast pace – connecting millions more people to data and services. At the Asian Development Bank (ADB), we believe in the transformative power that apps will bring to citizens from all walks of life over the coming years.

This week, I am in India where ADB is holding its 46th Annual Meeting, and where we will recognize the “Apps For Asia: Redesigning Development” winners. Together with Microsoft, we’ve championed the Apps For Asia initiative, which aims to harness the creative power of hundreds of independent software developers across Asia and the Pacific to create apps that address societal challenges faced by governments, civil society and businesses in the region. 

ADB provided guidance to program participants on the economic and social issues facing our 40 developing member countries and insight into their development priorities. The initiative was rolled out as a series of application training and development contests in Australia, India, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, with the top three teams from each country exhibiting their apps at the annual meeting.

It has been inspiring to see the range of ideas generated by these creative teams. To highlight just a few of the winners who are in Delhi, we saw new apps developed to manage blood donor networks, help match youth with potential employers, coordinate indigenous housing projects, assist public transport users plan their travel, raise awareness on water conservation and monitor medication use amongst tuberculosis patients. I am excited to see where these talented teams will take their apps and the next challenges they will address.

ICT has become a powerful tool in the fight against world poverty, providing developing countries with an unprecedented opportunity to meet vital development goals. In particular, developing countries have progressed much faster than the developed world in the spread of mobile telephony, as they have reached 70 percent mobile phone coverage (per 100 habitants) with a growth rate of around 20 percent per year. Mobile apps are driving changes more than ever before in the developing world. With the advancements in technology, such as app creation platforms and cloud computing, creating useful and innovative apps has never been easier.

Guided by our Strategy 2020 vision of an Asia-Pacific free of poverty, we promote the use of technology to enhance education, empower youth, improve environmental sustainability, increase jobs, improve the health of our people and promote safety in transportation. Since 2007, ADB and Microsoft have collaborated on opportunities to spur technological innovation, provide ICT training and skills development and support local software economies.

We believe that programs like Apps For Asia foster innovation to help improve the lives of people across the region. I would like to congratulate the developers of the winning applications in Delhi, including Accelerate Desk, Blood Donors Network, Centium Software, Codetoki, DreamX, Filament, Gnowledge, Grand Domain, Infosys Limited, Mapi, PathFinder, TOTS, Trinary Logic, Winjit Technologies and X Meaning. Together, we are demonstrating how technology can be a fundamental driver in empowering underserved communities and taking positive steps toward a better tomorrow.

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