Despite a bankrupt treasury, as shown through extensive analyses on many occasions through this column, budget 2020, recently presented to the National Assembly, contained sufficient fiscal and monetary stimulus measures to reboot the economy.
Today’s article seeks to examine a few of those key measures, and to discuss how they would work and help to put the economy back on a path of recovery. These discussions will continue in the forthcoming weeks.
Information Communications Technology (ICT)
It has been recognised that ICT is a catalyst for development in education, health, industry and agriculture. ICT enables the reduction of transaction costs, improves efficiency and effectiveness, and enhances overall productivity. This is especially proven in the current COVID-19-restricted environment, wherein every meeting, conference, seminar and business communication is facilitated virtually, and e-commerce is on the rise. This has indeed allowed for significant cost savings in the operation of many businesses.
In the area of ICT development, budget 2020 has allocated over $5 billion.
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.
The following are ten key strategies identified and outlined in the Geneva Action Plan:
1. To connect villages with ICTs and community access points;
2. To connect universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs;
3. To connect scientific and research centres;
4. To connect public libraries, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs;
5. To connect health centres and hospitals with ICTs;
6. To connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and emails
7. To adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information Society, taking into account national circumstances;
8. To ensure that all of the world’s populations have access to television and radio services;
9. To ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach; and
10. 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.
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 more productive and profitable than those that do not. ICTs can be used to directly influence the productivity, cost effectiveness, and competitiveness in industries, which, to the advantage of developing countries like Guyana, they can build their economies upon. Moreover, catching up on developed economies in terms of application of technology and resulting economic benefits had never been that easier.
On the other hand, the results of not being able to adopt ICTs can be disastrous in an ever-changing, rapidly- evolving global economy from almost every dimension of economic and human development.
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 policies’ thrust to strengthen the ICT sector:
1. Develop and improve ICTs infrastructure for all sectors in the economy (communications, electricity and transport);
2. Encourage full utilisation of existing communications infrastructure, to reduce resource wastage;
3. Implement an integrated and equitable framework for accelerated ICTs’ development and uptake;
4. Increase bandwidth on the national backbone and international gateways systems to enhance speed and efficiency of operations;
5. Develop supportive and enabling infrastructure to ensure equitable access to ICTs to citizens, including disadvantaged groups and rural communities;
6. Promote local production of ICT products to ensure relevance of content and use of appropriate technologies that meet international standards;
7. 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.
8. Implement measures to develop and retain skilled human resources in the ICT sector;
9. Rationalise the ICTs tariff structure to make ICTs more affordable and accessible;
10. Introduce and enforce stringent quality of service standards in the provision of ICTs;
11. Create a conducive environment for investment through PPPs in the ICTs sector;
12. Promote local research and development in software and hardware relevant to all sectors of the economy;
13. Promote awareness and use of ICT.
About the Author:
J.C Bhagwandin is a macro-finance and research analyst, lecturer and business & financial consultant. The views expressed are exclusively his own and do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper and the institutions he represents. For comments, send to [email protected]