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What is the BCO Alliance?

The Building Communication Opportunities (BCO) Alliance is a global network of organisations active in the field of information communication technology for development (ICT4D) that are committed to learning from and collaborating with one another. The Alliance investigates, mobilises and supports key ICT4D opportunities that impact poverty. Its eleven partners include donor agencies from Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, and a range of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

BCO Brochure

At the foundation of the Alliance is the belief that sharing knowledge and experience about ICT4D will enhance the capacity of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in promoting sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

BCO partners are united by their mutual …

  • Understanding that consultation and learning adds value to ICT4D strategy and effectiveness on the ground.
  • Realisation that finding synergies and avoiding duplication increase the levels of success of the work.
  • Awareness that, as a group, there is a critical mass of civil society and public sector experience and voice that enriches the quality of ICT4D debate and action.
  • Recognition that a common framework – with joint goals, mechanisms and meetings – can stimulate consultation, collaboration and learning.

The Alliance seeks to:

  • Integrate ICT4D in development sectors such as health, agriculture, education, and environmental sustainability;
  • Strengthen the voice of poor and excluded communities and facilitate debate and dialogue through the use of ICTs; and
  • Demonstrate the impact of ICT4D on poverty.

The BCO Alliance focuses on the role of ICT in helping to achieve poverty focused development outputs in the following areas: livelihoods; health; education; governance; environment; gender equality; capacity development; and human rights. BCO synergy and collaboration is harnessed through joint partner activities on the ground, as well as through dialogue, networking, sharing and learning.

Guiding Principles

  • Poverty alleviation is the overall purpose of the programme.
  • Development – and not technology – should be prioritised.
  • ICTs should be mainstreamed in development, with sectors such as health, education, and the environment supported by ICTs.
  • Local ownership is a means to sustainable impacts on poverty.
  • Mixed technologies are the target – old and new combined.
  • Networks are an organisational form which must be stimulated.
  • Collaboration among international and national organisations strengthens impact.
  • Learning and accountability for ICT4D are continuous processes.

From BDO to BCO

The BCO Alliance replaced the Building Digital Opportunities (BDO) Programme, which operated from 2001 until 2004 – during which time many achievements were realised.

At the international level, BDO members met and consulted frequently. As a result, many spin-offs to the programme arose organically. These include CATIA (Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa) Radio, which stemmed from a radio days workshop, as well as the e-Brain Forum of Zambia. BDO achievements are well-documented in the BDO Learning Study supported by SDC, DFID, DGIS and CIDA and an Output to Purpose Review conducted by DFID in 2003.

The Learning Study also demonstrated that there remains an insufficient volume of evidence of mixed technologies on the ground. There is also a need for greater in-country networking amongst partners. The BCO Alliance will take the work of the BDO Programme to the next level.

Why BCO?

In the three years of BDO, it became clear that the term “digital” was not optimal. ICT4D is foremost about development, not technology. Including the word “digital” in the name places too great an emphasis on technology and too little on people.

The Building Communication Opportunities Alliance addresses this shortcoming. And, in moving from a programme to an alliance, it also reflects the changed nature of cooperation between and among donor and NGO partners.