Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are no longer considered a luxury in the developing world, where an estimated 70% of the population now has access to fixed or mobile telephone services. Thanks to substantial investment, mobile networks in particular have expanded phenomenally, with subscriptions in developing countries increasing from 200m to 3.7bn between the years 2000 and 2010. In the same period, the number of Internet users grew more than tenfold.
ICTs are strong enablers of economic growth, boosting employment and productivity across all sectors and helping to overcome many of the infrastructure barriers characteristic of the developing world. ICTs are also an important direct source of revenue, representing well in excess of 5% of GDP in many countries. In addition, they deliver numerous social benefits.
Despite the sector’s rapid growth, however, considerable challenges remain, particularly in terms improving affordability, expanding mobile penetration and widening access to more advanced services such as broadband and high-speed Internet.
In view of the sector’s increasing importance, OFID’s contribution to telecommunications has grown steadily over the past decade, with financing totaling over US$174.0m going to mobile network operators in Africa and Asia between 2004 and 2013.
In 2013, OFID’s contribution to the telecommunications sector comprised one private sector loan worth US$39.0m for a regional project with Bharti Airtel Ltd that will finance infrastructure development across 17 African countries.