Cooperatives and the Role of Information and Communication Technologies

Here is a blog by Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations volunteer intern Sophie Beal on Cooperatives and the Role of Information and Communication Technologies from an event she attended at the UN.

Today, Elodie and I attended the panel discussion on Cooperatives and the Role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This event was held as a part of the United Nations 2012 International Year of Cooperatives.

There were three speakers who presented on the panel about the role that ICTs play in globalized cooperative business today. The first speaker was Lila Hanitra Ratsifandrihamanana of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The second speaker was Carolyn Hoover of dotCooperation—a company that seeks to promote the use of the coop business strategy internationally and increase coop presence on the Internet. The final presenter was Gary Fowlie of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Although each speaker presented the issues facing cooperatives today from a different angle, each described the same essential challenge to the spread of ICTs: a general lack of access to Information and Communication Technologies for cooperatives in many parts of the world. Despite the growing importance of ICTs in our globalized economy, many cooperative groups lack basic access to the broadband, electricity, technology, and funds needed to benefit from ICTs. Each of the organizations represented by the panelists are working to resolve many of the challenges facing ICTs in cooperatives today. Some proposed solutions include improved infrastructure to increase channels of access to broadband as well as a universal charger in order to make battery and electricity access more widespread.

Regardless of the many challenges global cooperatives face in implementing the use of ICTs today, one fact remains clear: Information and Communication Technologies are a fast-growing asset to the cooperative business model worldwide. The panel agreed that it is imperative that the world community commit to improving access to such technology so that global cooperatives with sustainable values are able to connect, collaborate, compete and grow.


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