Strengthening the knowledge and information systems of the urban poor.


Poor men and women living in urban informal settlements do need knowledge and information to cope with risks and improve their livelihoods, but they sometimes find it hard to access. This project addressed the following questions: How do the urban poor obtain information and develop knowledge? Do they get what they require and is it appropriate? And how could development agencies fill the gaps and help to strengthen their knowledge and information systems (KIS)?

This research focused on the information needs of the urban poor, and the sources they use in accessing that information. Fieldwork was carried out in low-income settlements in the capital city and at least one secondary town in three countries in the developing world: Peru, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. This was complemented by case studies elsewhere, a review of the literature and an electronic conference.

It is suggested that development agencies should:

  • rethink their information strategies, to ensure that the poor get equal access to information, treat them as equals who are a source of knowledge too, create two-way communication, and address a range of needs comprehensively. Following on from this, they may also want to rethink their knowledge and research strategies.
  • reduce exclusion, by targeting groups of poor people that have problems in accessing information, and by reducing external factors that increase exclusion such as violence, oppressive politics and illegality.
  • support urban communities to build their knowledge and information capital, amongst others by taking stock of existing resources and addressing gaps, building the capacity of key informants, empowering communities, stimulating meeting places and exchange visits.
  • improve the attitudes and impact of infomediaries, by sensitizing and supporting public authorities, producing appropriate information resources and building capacity, by documenting and sharing good communication practice, and using a range of media including traditional and modern ones.
  • invest in developing sustainable ICTs for the urban poor, which will require research into a number of issues, the inclusion of ICT equipment and training into urban projects, and the production of appropriate information materials for ICTs.
  • look at the impact of their information dissemination on the urban poor, develop additional methods and indicators, as well as more knowledge of the cost-effectiveness of alternative communication methods, and document and share the results of urban development work more widely.


Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), Bourton-on-Dunsmore, UK, 53 pp.

Strengthening the knowledge and information systems of the urban poor.

Published 1 January 2002