The unique characteristics inherent in ICT and the evidence from both micro-level initiatives and national ICT approaches suggest that a development-focused ICT strategy that leverages the powerful synergies of ICT as an enabler of social and economic development can lead to the creation of a development dynamic. The lessons learned point to five important interrelated areas for strategic intervention: policy, infrastructure, enterprise, human capacity, and content and applications (these will be referred to as components of the dynamic).
The development dynamic's distinctiveness arises from the fact that it draws on:
Taken together, these factors suggest that an approach which addresses several components of the dynamic is likely to be more effective than one which focuses in just one area. However, the development dynamic framework does not call for an "all or nothing" approach, nor does it suggest that such a dynamic can only be ignited if action is taken in all five areas at once. While acting on any of the components of the dynamic can produce valuable results, interventions taken across several component areas can generate returns to scale much greater than those achieved by a concentrated focus in any single area. As critical mass and threshold levels are achieved, feedback, multiplier45 and network effects46 can ignite a virtuous cycle of sustainable development.
Consider the following example, which takes a change in infrastructure access as its starting point. Investments in ICT infrastructure can lead to improved access by reducing costs and extending coverage to additional areas. This can have a catalytic impact on enterprises and provide additional incentives for increased adoption of ICT. For example, it can help SMEs improve their competitiveness and expand market access. This in turn can create a feedback effect as demand for additional and faster access will entice additional investments in ICT infrastructure. The increase in both infrastructure and SMEs can lead, through spillover effects, to an increased demand for skilled labor and knowledge workers. This increased demand for labor can then trigger additional investments in human capital. Such a combination of effects illustrates the connection between the different components that characterize the dynamic. To the extent that these interconnections are foreseen and addressed through complementary interventions, multiplier and feedback effects are realized and the emergence of bottlenecks is avoided.
While the above example just looks at the generic case of a change in the conditions under which infrastructure is provided, the initiating effect could have started from any of the components of the dynamica change in IT policy, legislation favorable to enterprise creation, or a demand stimulus for increased deployment of ICT. In South Africa, the government requirement that all public procurement be done with electronic tenders led to a series of dynamic interactions between policy, enterprise and human capability development. Similar results have been achieved through infrastructure roll-out policies centered on development goals. Estonias Tiger Leap Program has demonstrated how ICT deployed to improve education can have positive impacts in other sectors.
The complementarity between components of the development dynamic has substantial policy implications for national strategies focused on ICT as an enabler of development goals. Each of the five components has specific sub-components that allow policy makers and stakeholders to adopt and adapt them to reflect local priorities and conditions. This provides for a flexible policy tool that can be used in different contexts without tying countries to specific development paths.
© 2001 Accenture, Markle Foundation, United Nations Development Programme.
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