Daily Archives: 28 February 2014

ICT Production & Industry in Zimbabwe

Figure 1: Zimbabwe ICT Goods Imports

Figure 1: Zimbabwe ICT Goods Imports

What percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) does the ICT Industry take up in Zimbabwe?  The World Bank provides us with the percentage of total goods imports that ICT goods imports take up.  These include: “telecommunications, audio and video, computer and related equipment; electronic components; and other information and communication technology goods. Software is excluded”.  Zimbabwe’s ICT goods intake decreased from 4.2 percent in 2004 to about 3.6 percent in 2010 (see figure 1).

Figure 2: Zimbabwe ICT Goods Exports

Hoping this was due to an increase in exports, I was let down to find that despite a slight increase from 0.1 percent in 2004 to 0.6 percent in 2008, the country bottomed out in terms of ICT goods exports in 2010 (see figure 2).  This is about on par with the rest of its neighboring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In Zimbabwe’s ICT Strategic Plan, there is an evident focus on production and industry.  For example, three of the country’s overarching goals are to: create new competitive business opportunities for the growth of the ICT industry, accelerate technology commercialization in support of small and medium enterprises, and establish ICT technoparks and incubation hubs.  Due to the strong neo-liberal values still in place since the country’s colonial time period under British rule as Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe’s economic landscape is highly tuned towards stimulating and sustaining economic growth.  Therefore, the goals for ICT production trend towards promoting ICT commercialization, technology transfer, and collaborating with international organizations and companies.  This does not mean that regional projects are not promoted, but the local ICT in Zimbabwe are named “initiatives” in national policy, as many are still only at a preliminary stage.

Figure 3: Foreign Direct Investment in Zimbabwe

Figure 3: Foreign Direct Investment in Zimbabwe

The proof of the neoliberal views of Zimbabwe’s government and foreign policy initiatives are seen in the amount of foreign economic involvement in the country.  Foreign direct investment in Zimbabwe as a percentage of GDP has gone from 1.7 percent in 2009 to 4.1 percent in 2012, according to the World Bank Development Indicators.  Besides Mozambique, which has an unhealthy upward trend in new investment flows, Zimbabwe is one of the highest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of international lasting management interest in its economy (see figure 3).


Author Profile: Anita Kelles-Viitanen

Anita Kelles-ViitanenAnita Kelles-Viitanen is the Secretary General of the Advisory Board for Relations with Developing Countries in the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.  Our class read an article by her for our 1.10 class on Poverty Reduction.  This article, named “The Role of ICT in Poverty Reduction” shows Kelles-Viitanen’s long background as a supporter for ICT4D.  She is a former manager of Social Development at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose new mission is to reduce poverty.  According to this article written by Kelles-Viitanen on Project Syndicate, ADB changed its objective from “economic growth: to “poverty reduction” in the late 1990’s; this may be the reason Kelles-Viitanen left.  As with many NGOs participating in micro-finance, who discard NGO status to become true banks when the costly to operate program incurs high transaction costs.  Although ADB still seems to be considered an NGO, their current motto of “an Asia and Pacific region free of poverty” seems mere invention. Kelles-Viitanen is an accomplished writer, and you can find many of her books on amazon, many on international development in Asia.   In my Google search of her, I found two more articles written for the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IFAD) Innovation Mainstreaming Initiative (and the Government of Finland).  One, titled “Custodians of culture and biodiversity: indigenous peoples take charge of their challenges and opportunities”, I talk about here, the other you can find here for further reading.  From the executive study, I deduce that Kelles-Viitanen is a strong believer in climate change, and approves of the mitigation approach versus adaptation.  For this article, Kelles-Viitanen went through 1095 proposals submitted for funding, proposed by the indigenous peoples and their organizations (from NGOs, CBOs, business organizations and companies, exporters’ associations, ministry departments, state institutions, municipalities, trade unions, university departments/academic institutions, church associations, and co-operatives to consultancy organizations).  These organizations, from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America, suggested solutions to solve indigenous poverty.  On the cover of this article is a Chinese painting, taken from her collections, showing she not only has the dedication to read through copious proposals, but that she also truly is a “custodian of culture and biodiversity”.


Social Media Use in Developing Countries

Our class discussion this week made me nostalgic for the simple, old technology we grew up with. It seemed like we grew up in a time when technology was developing at lightning speed. It made me wonder if technology around the world is moving as fast. This article from LiveScience.com talks about social media use in developing countries versus the US. The data shows that while the US has the highest population percentage that uses the internet, 17 developing countries outrank the U.S. in the proportion of internet users who log on to social sites. In both the U.S. and Brazil, 73% of Internet users regularly access social networking sites. Egypt, Russia, the Philippines, Tunisia, Indonesia, Jordan, Venezuela, Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, Mexico, Chile, Malaysia, Kenya, Argentina, El Salvador and Senegal all report social media use greater than 73% of Internet users. I thought this was very interesting because it seems like our society is obsessed with social media but apparently we aren’t the only ones.

The article also mentions that cellphone use is increasingly widespread outside of the US. Unlike us, however, most cellphone users don’t have smart phones. In China, for example, 95% of people have a cell phone but only 37% of those have a smart phone. In Pakistan, 53% of people have cellphones and only 3% use smartphones. Nearly every person I know in the US has an iPhone, so its interesting to see that not every society is obsessed with having the newest technology out there.


Pakistan’s ICT Industry: Is it progressing?

Over the past decade, Pakistan’s ICT sector has experienced a “prolific boom” as an increase in ICT infrastructure and affordability has led to better accessibility. Currently Pakistan’s technology export rate (which includes aerospace, computers, pharmaceuticals and scientific instrument products) has increased from 1% in 2007 to 1.8%, where it has remained relatively constant for the past three years. In comparison, the United States’ technology export rate is 18.1% of its manufactured exports. Additionally, Pakistan’s ICT expenditure accounts for 4.4% of its total GDP.

While ICT production does not seem to be as high as other more developed nations, Pakistan is making an effort to increase its production in order to use ICT at an enabler for development in other sectors, such as health, education, etc. Additionally, Pakistan is looking to decrease its urban/rural digital divide by investing 700 million dollars towards infrastructure and networking. In order to accomplish this Pakistan will need to upgrade their local software and applications, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for the Pakistanis, which will positively impact Pakistan’s economy. Additionally, companies such as Telecommunication Company Limited, which is investing in one of the largest international submarine cables to help Pakistan meet future telecommunication needs, are increasing investments in order to create better quality and faster ICT products.  

It is clear from Pakistan’s 2012 IT Policy draft that an increase in ICT production would positively affect the education, health, agriculture and empowerment sectors, which would in turn have a positive impact on the economy. Creating jobs, decreasing child and maternal mortality, increasing agriculture productivity and increasing knowledge and training will not only help Pakistan’s social environment, but also increase their GDP, their exports and increase foreign direct investment. It seems that ICT production may be the key to Pakistan’s transformation from an underdeveloped country to a global competitor.


Country ICT Industry Performance: Indonesia

The development of ICT in Indonesia includes  not only the telecommunications network but also the availability of internet facilities for the use of the Internet. This is a not the case with most countries, which have the capabilities to use technologies to provide widespread access, whereas Indonesia has separated islands that draw boundaries in average infrastructure. In general, it can be understood that the ICT development in Indonesia is less encouraging and significant compared to its surrounding countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. There are two main objectives Indonesia must meet for ICT development, including the development of skilled human resources to produce the ICT products and the skilled citizens who will use it. These type of users include not just large and small businesses but also people who use the Internet for educational and even entertainment purposes. This type of education can be understood as ICT literacy, something which Indonesia is severely lacking. This could be and is in some areas being combated through the use of computer-assisted learning in the school systems. The problem however is that most of the school systems that have these resources are private, thus creating an even greater disparity to the differences in ICT levels among economic classes.

Looking at the statistics on the GDP for Indonesia, their percentage of GDP in the information communications technology sector as of 2012, according to information found on http://www.gfmag.com/gdp-data-country-reports/254-indonesia-gdp-country-report.html#axzz2vgMeGGTN, says that out of the total population, 18% of people are active internet users. It seems as though the country is not including information about the amount of users who utilize Internet cafes as a source for Internet usage. For most of the population of Indonesia, they do not have in the infrastructure to adequately serve the amount of people that would or could use the Internet. The economic landscape of the country is one that requires more focus than is being afforded to the population. There are many problems that have been encountered in passing legislation to build the proper infrastructure to create more fiber optic lines and power lines. World Data indicators still show that Indonesia is far behind other countries.


Is Radio Tuned in to Our Needs?

There are estimates that say between 80-90% of family households in Africa have access to a functional radio. Radio, in many aspects, has been an amazing tool for development in many countries, particularly for those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In an area where large percentages of the population are illiterate, radio is often the main way in which people receive current information. The information given through radio broadcasts can include weather reports, news reports, or other pertinent information. Electricity in many of these rural areas is also often very limited or nonexistent, giving battery-powered radios another major benefit.  But there are some important aspects to radio use that can’t be ignored.

Radio, in its common and traditional form, is a one-way flow of information from broadcaster to listener. As a consequence, this doesn’t necessarily foster any engagement or communication between the two parties. Imagine having a conversation with a friend where you weren’t able to ask them questions but could only passively listen to them.  While you might gain some valuable knowledge, this kind of communication has its limitations. With the rise of other technologies such as mobile phones and internet, is radio on its way out? There are many other types of ICT that allow for two-way exchanges, but could they fully replace radio? Have you heard of any initiative that attempt to somehow combine the two? Radio has so many benefits including its affordability and its prevalence and availability in these rural areas. I’d be curious to know what other people think about radio’s future role in the ICT4D world.


Online Communities to Supplement Radio for Farming

Farm Radio International is doing productive work to exchange practical and real-time information to serve the interests of small-scale farmers to ensure food security. After researching FRI further, I learned of an initiative that has taken off under them, called Barza. Barza makes relevant and important resources like radio scripts, audio clips and advice from peers available to rural radio broadcasters through an online platform. The initiative aims to increase the extent to which rural radio helps African small-scale farmers meet their food security, farming and livelihood goals.

The word Barza is actually French and describes a place where people meet under a tree to exchange ideas, which is exactly what this initiative seeks to provide.  Tools are available for the producers of farm-focused radio programming, and resources are available for farmers who potentially missed the program, or who would like supplemental information. There are interactive modules (see below) on the site that help broadcasters to produce efficient programming that would be of use to agricultural workers, listener surveys to see if the programming is effective and useful, and sample scripts to guide discussions.  Listeners are able to view or download transcripts, so that they can have the facts presented in the program in a concise and centralized place.

Screen shot 2014-02-28 at 12.53.12 PM

A screenshot of one of training modules used to help producers create interesting and useful content for their listeners

There are some obvious strengths and weaknesses to this tool. First, these tools allow the producers to create content that is helpful to the constituents who listen to the programs.  They are also able to receive feedback to help improve the announcements and information they relay on the program in order to better serve the needs of the community members listening.  Also, it is beneficial for the listeners to have this online platform to be able to further discuss content, and exchange ideas.  On the other hand, after reviewing some of the modules on my own, I found that this would be very difficult with a low bandwidth.  With the goal to communicate real time information, and the lack of access that many in rural areas face, I am not sure how successful this would be.  Also, after looking at the message boards, I have found that there is not a lot of participation.  Barza needs to do a better job working with radio stations to make sure that their tools are being communicated and marketed in an appealing way! Also, they should do further market research to make sure that the partnering radio stations that they have have loyal listenership bases.  This great tool cannot serve the need to ensure food security if the right groups of people are not participating in the online community.