The Economy: E-Governance and the role of ICT in enhancing local economic development and poverty reduction
News Room reported on June 8, 2018, that the Government of Guyana (GoG) will tap into Estonia’s experience by virtue of it being characterized as a digital government, to help develop and implement an ICT roadmap for Guyana.
Two days prior to this, News Room had also reported that the Honorable Minister of Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes had indicated that the GoG is forging ahead with plans to introduce Information and Communications Technology in all aspects of doing business in Guyana.
Firstly, it must be acknowledged that these developmental commitments are no doubt, commendable on the part of the Guyanese Government and welcomed by the people of Guyana and the business community. For ease of reference: https://newsroom.gy/2018/06/06/ict-can-end-extremely-exhausting-process-of-doing-business-cathy-hughes/. https://newsroom.gy/2018/06/08/guyana-taps-estonias-digital-govt-to-develop-implement-ict-roadmap/.
The ICT development goals are nothing new on any government’s agenda as this has formed part of the Millennium Development Goals and also part of the Geneva Action Plan which African Heads of States and Governments agreed to and signed in December 2003.
In this regard, concerted efforts by governments, the business sector, international community and civil society are necessary to ensure that the activities outlined therein are fully implemented. The following are ten key strategies identified and outlined in the Geneva Action Plan:
- To connect villages with ICT’s and community access points;
- To connect universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs;
- To connect scientific and research centres;
- To connect public libraries, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs;
- To connect health centres and hospitals with ICTs;
- To connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and emails
- To adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information Society, taking into account national circumstances;
- To ensure that all of the world’s populations have access to television and radio services;
- To ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach; and
- To encourage the development of content and to put in place technical conditions in order to facilitate the presence and use of all world languages on the internet.
It was also agreed that nations would operate within their economic strengths as they attend to these action plans aimed at bringing about a global information society.
Importance of ICTs
As evidenced by developments from other countries that ICT as a sector, can contribute immensely to the GDP of a nation and that ICT acting as an enabler, can result in improved market competitiveness of a nation’s products and services. ICTs can also impact positively on governance and other sectors of the economy. In turn, ICT can effectively assist international economic integration, improve living standards, narrow the digital divide and improve biodiversity utilization and management.
ICT as a tool for socio-economic development
Studies have shown that the rate of IT diffusion is correlated to the general level of socioeconomic development. A most recent finding is that ICT plays a vital role in advancing economic growth and reducing poverty.
A survey of firms carried out in 56 developing countries found that firms that use ICT grow faster, invest more, and are productive and profitable than those that do not. ICTs can be used to directly influence the productivity, cost effectiveness and competitiveness in industries, which is the advantage of developing countries like Guyana, can build their economies upon.
On the one hand, catching up on developed economies in terms of the application of technology and resulting economic benefits had never been that easier. On the other hand, the results for not being able to adopt ICTs can also be disastrous in an ever-changing, rapidly evolving global economy from almost every dimension of economic and human development.
As Tahir Hameed puts it, “people do not need word processing to survive, but they may want efficient ways of sharing information about livelihoods and employment. ICTs for human development is not about technology, but about people using the technology to meet basic needs. Understanding human requirements takes time and effort. T
The user needs assessments are essential in planning the introduction of ICTs to communities, no matter where their status or HDI (human development index).”
The ICT vision and strategy should focus on people and not just technology. In so doing, it is important to develop both the ICT vision and strategy with people in mind and with the involvement of these very same people.
This in turn, may require awareness. While planning and implementing an ICT agenda, it is worthwhile to examine established practices. Should Guyana’s national ICT agenda be sector driven or should it focus on broader issues and objectives, on benefits for society and the economy as a whole. Many ICT strategies adopt a sectorial approach to ICT implementation.
The Digital Opportunities Initiative (DOI) report clearly states that while there are many types of strategies that various countries have evolved to develop ICTs, evidence suggests that an integrated approach to ICT development and deployment is most likely to yield success in human, social and economic development over the long term. To conclude this article, hereunder stated are a number of suggested policy thrust to strengthen the ICT sector:
- Develop and improve ICTs infrastructure for all sectors in the economy (communications, electricity and transport);
- Encourage full utilisation of existing communications infrastructure to reduce resource wastage;
- Implement an integrated and equitable framework for accelerated ICTs development and uptake;
- Increase bandwidth on the national backbone and international gateways systems to enhance speed and efficiency of operations;
- Develop supportive and enabling infrastructure to ensure equitable access to ICTs to citizens including disadvantaged groups and rural communities;
- Promote local production of ICTs products to ensure relevance of content and use of appropriate technologies that meet international standards;
- Establish institutional mechanisms to co-ordinate inter-organisational planning, policy-making and implementation of strategies to develop ICTs taking into account the convergence of broadcasting, telecommunications and on-line computer services.
- Implement measures to develop and retain skilled human resources in the ICTs sector;
- Rationalise the ICTs tariff structure to make ICTs more affordable and accessible;
- Introduce and enforce stringent quality of service standards in the provision of ICTs;
- Create a conducive environment for investment through PPPs in the ICTs sector;
- Promote local research and development in software and hardware relevant to all sectors of the economy;
- Promote awareness and use of ICTs.
*The author is the holder of a Master of Science Degree from a UK university in Business Management, with specialism in Global Finance and Financial Markets.