Creating Mongolia's information society
Mongolia — an isolated country sandwiched between the Russian Federation and China — has become a pioneer in using the Internet as a tool for development, through a lasting partnership with the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that continues today. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Mongolia has made significant progress in democratic restructuring and creating a private-sector-led open economy.
This is a country where travel overland can be difficult, at times impossible. The Internet is playing a crucial role in bringing much-needed services such as education and health care to remote areas.
Extending the reach of the Internet
One of the digital pioneers working to extend the reach and applications of the Internet is Batpurev Batchuluun, CEO of InfoCon, a company devoted to promoting the use of information and communication technologies for development. Based in Ulaanbaatar, Batchuluun has worked with IDRC on a number of Internet applications.
“Mongolia is a big country,” Batchuluun says. “Creating an information society is challenging.”
Challenging it may be, but the benefits are evident.
Batchuluun and his colleague Amarsaikhan Dashtseren have worked to provide online training for rural doctors. Batchuluun also helped the Health Sciences University of Mongolia to develop the “Doctor System.” Using this Web-based diagnostic tool, rural physicians can send x-rays, ultrasounds, and other medical tests to urban centres where health professionals review them and advise on diagnosis and treatment.
A vibrant online environment
IDRC helped introduce the country’s first Internet connections and Web development services in 1996. This early support contributed to the development of today’s vibrant online environment for business, government, educators, and non-profit groups. In collaboration with the Soros Foundation and Mongolia’s English for Special Purposes Institute, Batchuluun and Dashtseren also work with teachers, educational planners, and ICT personnel to integrate Web-based distance education in the country’s educational system.
In recognition of its ongoing support, IDRC was awarded the country’s highest medal of honour, the Friendship Medal of Mongolia, in 2004. IDRC has since contributed to the government’s ICT policy through the Mongolian Information Development Association (MIDAS).
Ongoing projects, ongoing results
Mongolia is one of 11 countries participating in the Pan Asia Networking Distance and Open Resource Access program, an IDRC initiative. The first programming the research team undertook was in Mongolia in the mid-1990s to support the building of basic ICT infrastructure and capacity.
In 2000, the Government of Mongolia produced a national vision for ICT development to 2010. A national strategy and action plan followed in 2003. MIDAS approached IDRC to help build such capacity. This led to the creation of a national strategy and action plan to use information and communication technologies as tools for human and economic development.
Another positive development was the establishment by the government of the ICT Agency (ICTA). Under the auspices of the prime minister of Mongolia, this agency has taken a leadership role in promoting and developing the technologies in Mongolia.
Great strides have been made, and are continuing to be made, says Batchuluun.
“The Internet has really helped people broaden their thinking and their activities. There is still work to do with e-governance, with learning services, and with business. For example, people in the countryside need to be able to easily find the market prices for their cattle or wool or cashmere.”
PAN supports research into innovative ways of adopting ICTs to address key development challenges in Asia
IDRC in Mongolia
IDRC support for research in Mongolia began in the early 1990s, after the breakdown of Soviet-style regimes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia