Stay networked. Get informed. Broadcast your projects.
The growing importance of ICTs in all facets of human societies cannot be overemphasized; ICTs facilitate real-time communication, boost productivity (Dubai Internet City, 2012), distribute timely information and open up governance. Further, they spawn whole new industries in smart countries, reduce unemployment, empower the people and build new global cultures, typified by mobile lifestyles and consumption of digital goods, which we all relate to. The question is not whether forward-looking countries need to promote investment in ICTs; the issue really is “what are the best approaches to attract both foreign and local investments?”
Firstly, the point must be made that business cannot thrive in countries broken down by war, ruled by tyrants or rife with corruption. Countries need to establish systems of governance that work and uphold the rule of law. Political stability reduces conflict, thereby reducing the risk of unexpected closure or destruction of investments as seen in Ghana (Quandzie, 2011). Similarly, Parliament must enact laws that are relevant to the ICT industry, while the judiciary should be ready to implement them when necessary.
Also, countries readying for ICT take-off must focus on building distributed critical infrastructure such as reliable power systems, comfortable housing, good roads, quality telephony and high-speed Internet connectivity. Presence of the required infrastructure reduces both the anxieties of entrepreneurs and startup costs significantly. This has the potential to benefit other sectors of the economy as evidenced in Malaysian Trade (Ahmad et al., 2011). Similarly, extending core infrastructure to rural communities opens them up to new possibilities.
Laws and infrastructure cannot build ICT projects and businesses by themselves, people do. Countries need to re-engineer their educational systems to nurture their workforces with the requisite skills and culture needed to deliver. A functional project-based curriculum, focusing on ethical principles, strong IT and business know-how is more responsive to the needs of industry than the status quo that persists in many countries. Graduates of universities such as Ashesi (Ghana) and Strathmore (Kenya), match up to the international standards that encourage investment (Awuah, 2012).
Further, government policy must engender the evolution of an economic system that encourages local innovation and entrepreneurship. ICT investments will not pay off in an economy stifled by excessive bureaucracy; they thrive in environments that support entrepreneurial culture and private sector initiatives. A free market economy provides the needed competitive environment that ensures that only the best ideas stand. This proposition does not seek to diminish government’s role in the economy but to redefine it to focus on regulating the activities of key players to ensure fairness and the highest levels of quality.
Moreover, since changes in the field of ICT come about at the snap of the finger, it is necessary for local entrepreneurs, developer groups, businesses and the government to come together to create innovation hubs in local communities to foster continuous development of relevant technological solutions. These hubs will become the culturing ground for raising local talent, the distillery for brewing the best ideas and the networking space of the tech community. Hubs are not just geeky spaces for showing off the latest code; they are ultimately spaces for building and sustaining the central cultural pillars of vibrant technology communities: creativity, collaboration, openness and dynamism (Moraa and Mwangi, 2012).
Finally, countries must employ strategic marketing to sell their ICT potentials to both local and international organizations. There is truth in the biblical saying “no one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light” (Luke 8:16 NIV). Local uptake of ICTs will create demand that entrepreneurs can harness. Countries can exhibit at international business conferences and also advertise on global television networks such as CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera. Even more crucially, a well-coordinated Internet marketing campaign, galvanized by social media, highlighting the potential of a country as the next big thing will go a long way to bring in curious investors who are always looking for the next goldmine.
To summarise, countries need to create the enabling environment, build capacity, implement deliberate policies and market aggressively in order to increase investments in ICTs. This will go a long way to boost their socio-economic situation and their international profiles.
Ahmad, N.A., Ismail, N.W. and Hook, L.S. (2011). The Role of ICT Infrastructure on Malaysian Trade. Int. Journal of Economics and Management , 5(1): 140 – 148.
Awuah, P. (2012). Path to a New Africa. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 10(3): http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/path_to_a_new_africa.
Dubai Internet City. (2012, March 28). Dubai Internet City. Retrieved May 28, 2012, from Dubai Internet City Website: http://www.dubaiinternetcity.com/press/7-news/210-uae-based-smes-in...
Moraa, H. and Mwangi, W. (2012). The Impact of ICT Hubs on African Entrepreneurs: A Case Study of iHub (Nairobi). http://www.ihub.co.ke/downloads/ihub_entrepreneurs_report.pdf
Quandzie, E. (2011, August 4). Home: Investment. Retrieved May 28, 2012, from Ghana Business News: http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2011/08/04/ghana-named-4th-best-in...