The ICT economy

Meera Kaul, MD, Optimus Technology and Telecommunications

At the side tables of a conference in the Silicon Valley, the discussion is bordering on the proliferation of new technologies in the daily lives of the people who make technology happen. Little do they know how the innovation led by these very people is creating technology adoption for the policy makers and business leaders the world over.

There is a stark choice between the old road and the new. And should the new road be trodden, the clear choice to make will have to be crossing the technology threshold.

As we welcomed another Gitex event in the region, the most apparent revelation was the extent to which economic progress of the countries in our region will depend on the adoption and propagation of ICT.

In a world where more people have access to mobile phones than to basic essentials like electricity; the government policy makers the world over, have started looking at ICT as primary GDP driver of their countries.

Data reflects that countries that have adopted greater ICT in their national infrastructure have realised momentous economic, social and political benefits. The greater impact of ICT has been in the social and economic realms and has reduced unemployment, enhanced quality of life and made it easy for the citizens to access services provided by the governments.

As more and more technology products and service providers consolidate their vision and look towards Middle East and Africa as potential regions for high growth; policy makers in our countries have a huge role to play in moving our countries towards advanced levels of technology adoption.

Apart from access to the latest technologies and higher capacity building policies, the execution of this strategy needs to be focus on higher adoption and usage.

The Internet population of the world exceeds the populations of India and China put together. Most users are connected through broadband or handheld devices and have access to information in a manner they have never had before. More than half a billion people access the Internet from the highly dispersed African sub-continent.  The degree of ICT readiness of a country today is a function of the portfolio of ICT services are available to the population; how affordably priced are these services; the speed of access and usability of the technology infrastructure of that country and the ability  of users of technology are able to access and use the services thus enabled.

Our countries have to place technology enablement and use as a top priority in their national strategies. Policy makers have to clearly set precedence to increased use to technology in governance. A good method would be to look at technology as a sector that is fundamental to socioeconomic growth of the economy. When the State of Qatar slashed the royalties to be paid to them by the telecom sector a few years back; it  reportedly spurted technology entrepreneurship contribution to the country’s GDP by over 15%. The governments will need to evolve a technology, media and telecom ecosystem to integrate the adoption of technology with usage metrics across the economic supply chain. Our policy makers will need to foster better ICT enablement by setting policies, regulations, investment laws as well creating transparent government policies. A public- private partnership in an e-government model is seen to work very well with most countries all over the world. Technology is an ever-changing spectrum and nothing will foster more growth in our countries than a fair chance to compete. Opening our markets to fair competition in technology products and services has seen vital results in the previous years with major ICT players growing their revenues in double digits.

Technology enablement is imperative to the growth of opportunities in our region. Where decisions for business strategy for corporations and businesses the world over are highly technology dependent today; there is a greater need for our region to embrace technology and its benefits by building the capability of our resources and raise the level of opportunity for our people.

On this note, I hope you had a great GITEX


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