Tag Archives: business

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).

From Small Local Business to Internet Success Story

Earlier today, an article was posted on SBWire about January’s Small Business of Month named by ITNow Magazine. It is a flower company based on San Jose, Costa Rica called For del Este, but has received this award and others like it based on its website and e-commerce success in CostaRicaFlores.com. The small business owner, Lorena Delgado, noticed that there was a declining market for this local business for a multiplicity of infrastructural and economic reasons. To revamp her business, she contacted a web marketing an development firm called MiWeb, whose CEO “proposed a service for Flor del Este that included developing an online presence, marketing the e-commerce website and providing digital analytics.” From this, Flor del Este has seen 80 straight months of continued growth and has won a few awards for this successful ICT venture.

It is interesting to me that a small local business with an owner who lacks”tech-savvy” skills simply made a promotion and e-commerce website that completely changed the business, for his instance for the better. Clearly, she has access to contacts, a computer, the Internet, and other necessary IT components for this project, but is still in a country where many others around her might not have that luxury. I question how the audience shifts after this Internet venture took hold of the company, and if that change expanded profit margins in addition to providing growth. Local business like Flor del Este often cater to their local audiences. But CostaRicaFlores.com had the capacity to change that and create a new economic culture of the business.

To us, especially here in the United States, creating a website is a staple not only for business, large and small, but for essentially an venture people wish to promote. The Internet is less to a tool we utilize and more of a necessity for most business and entrepreneurial ventures. Yet, in other countries and for other business, like Flor del Este, creating a website and using cyber space for advertising and commerce is not automatic. As opposed to starting the business off with this ICT phenomenon embedded in the initial infrastructure of the business, such technologies are added and then integrated into the business. This is a very clear example of the digital divide we have been discussing: the difference between initial access and delayed access to technology, in this case between the formation of a website.

Referenced Article: http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/how-a-local-business-goes-global-costaricaflorescom-named-small-business-of-the-month-after-national-it-award-win-446257.htm

How Much does the Digital Divide Affect Global Economics?

In two words: a lot. And it will only get worse until the Divide is bridged.  This article from Time Magazine explores the relationship between economic growth and cheap and reliable access to the internet. The bottom line is that when economies, be they rural or national, have limited and unreliable access to the internet, they are missing out on an entire economic sector at a high cost. In the past two decades we have witnessed the rise of the digital economy, whose commerce now accounts for up to 10% of some nation’s entire economies (like the U.K)- much to the chagrin of nations where access to that economic sector is limited by poor infrastructure, government instilled firewalls, or other forms of red tape.

Here I see a clear example of a paradox of the developing world: the digital economy could provide numerous benefits to developing nations (such as internet based jobs, world-wide communication, online education, and readily available information and advice on health/hygiene) and yet those same nations who could benefit so much are those with the least access to such an economy. This leaves developed nations with free speech and excellent infrastructure to dominate the digital commerce market, stymying growth and employment elsewhere.

We can take this concept and apply it to say, Brazil. Brazil in this sense represents both the developing and the developed world. In its metropolitan cities of Rio de Janeiro, São paulo, and Brasilia, the internet is widely used for commerce, media and net-based employment (like banking, translation services, etc.). However drive two hours into the rural interior and suddenly cell phone service becomes inexistent, let alone internet, leaving the towns and small cities of the interior at the dark bottom of the Divide while large cities are consistently seeing growing facets of their economies becoming reliant on the internet.  So what’s the solution? It depends. If you live in a nation with the infrastructure and capabilities to have a strong internet based economy but are experiencing digital oppression by government policies (like China) the solution becomes political- making sure that governments are aware of the reasons why limiting internet usage is bad for economic growth. For the rest of the developing world its about bridging the Divide and creating a fair playing field where access to the benefits of internet commerce is available to all.

Malawi National Bank Introduces New Communications Platform

Malawi’s National Bank, the largest bank by assets in the country has recently revealed its plan to use newly integrated communications technologies to urge consumers to begin to use debit cards when paying for goods. The use of debit cards or “plastic money” was initiated in 2006, but they have yet to really catch on among Malawi’s citizens. The bank believes that the way the current financial culture is going debit cards are the future of economic transactions, and is advising that Malawians “keep up with the changing times.”

These new communications technologies will be used to facilitate the back and forth between the bank and its patrons.  The bank wishes to use these improved technologies to aid costumers and its various stakeholders with a wider range of services which it hails as user friendly. The first step in this plan, which has already taken place, was the redesigning of the bank’s website. Along with embedding various social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, the new website makes use of real online banking and mobile banking services.

“This will help our customers save time and money, and find banking with us easy,” said the bank’s Chief Marketing Officer, Wilkins Mijiga. He also outlined that the new [communications] platform would not only see the bank creating sustainable value and wealth for its stakeholders but it will also bring the bank closer to them.

The bank envisions Malawi as a paperless transaction country, and aims to achieve this goal going forward.

Link to the Malawi National Bank Website: Here

Lessons From ICT4D

I feel that the most salient lessons to be learned in ICT4D is that failure can be a learning curve and that not every society is ready or able to use ICTs in conjunction with a program’s goal. For example when implementing an app for farmers to find where to get the best market prices we, in the US, would think that’s a great idea but when its take not the field it doesn’t work. That is because those farmers have cell phones but not smart phones so they have no way to access the app. Failure is a great way to learn how to do things better the next time and I think that the unit we did on assessing the success of a project was very helpful in making the failure of a project a way to help others attempting to introduce ICT4D project. I also found the research that I did for my sector project to be very salient.

In terms of specific things that I have learned I have found the importance of research and the role of security are two things that I will specifically take away. First, on the topic of research, I learned that there are often large upfront costs related to implementing ICT4D projects. Because of these costs we spoke a lot about the importance of implementing in depth research in order to assess a community’s needs. The research aspect is also incredibly important in terms of providing the correct technologies. For example when looking to start a text message campaign in order to educate new and expecting mothers it is important to assess the literacy levels and then address how to reach those women who are illiterate. The second thing that I specifically learned was the importance security. From my research on the business and industry sector I learned about the importance of cyber security and that it’s essential to attracting foreign investment as well as facilitate international networks and transactions.

This class was very informative and I think that the lessons I spoke of above as well as the theoretical concepts of capacity building and the idea of the first mile are specific ideas that I will be able to implement ICT4D. I will be able to use these and assess other countries’ needs and look at how their national policies about ICTs can be better implemented or changed to better meet the needs of the country.

Profile: Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is an independent business that is know for its “unparalleled coverage of major and emerging markets” (eiu.com). They are the world leader in global business intelligence; they provide researching findings and market information on over 200 countries to business leaders, companies, governments, and universities around the world so that they can assess international market opportunities and risks, and make decisions with confidence. The EIU focuses on 6 key industries in their fieldwork and research: 1) Retail, 2) Energy, 3) Telecoms, 4) Financial services, 5) Healthcare, and 6) Automotive companies. (Check out a special EIU report with predictions and discussions of these industries for 2013!). Over 1.5 million people and corporations scattered throughout Europe, North America, Asia, South/ Centeral America, Africa, and the Middle East rely on the research and guidance of the EIU.

The EIU is comprised of “one of the largest and most experienced teams of country analysts in the world” (eiu.com). More specifically, they have 300 full-time professionals stationed in 39 offices around the world that specialize in economics, politics, risk, industry, and management. Many of their country analysts work in-country, so they can provide “an understanding of local nuances…about individual countries and industries that you cannot find elsewhere” (eiu.com). Most of their professionals live or have lived in the region they cover, so they know the culture, and in many cases the local language. An interesting fact about the EIU is that their expert team of 350 individuals speak a combined 25 different languages.

Their wide range of true global expertise allows the EIU to provide public ‘Global Forecasting Services’ on their website which includes world trade rates, exchange rates, information on hot commodities like oil, global news reports, and comprehensive charts and graphs.

In addition, with the help of outside partners, the EIU is able to provide data services for the public. Our reading “EIU Digital Economy Rankings” and other reports like “EIU Technology Indicators & Forecasts” are examples of the types of valuable reports that the EIU publishes. It’s great that much of their expertise and research is available to students and the general public.

In collaboration with their sister organization ‘The Economist’, the EIU assists in putting together over 100 events per year around the world on current issues and events relevant to their field of work. Examples of these events are: “the World Forests Summit” in Stockholm on “achieving sustainable forest management on a global scale”, the “Ghana Investment Summit” in Accra, and “Technology Frontiers Moscow.”

The EIU’s activities are widespread and their contribution to the today’s global society is invaluable. Visit their website to learn more!

Software as a Service and ICT4D

In class this week, we discussed important emerging ICT’s, one of which is Software as a Service (SaaS).  SaaS describes software and associated data that are hosted on the cloud and accessible to users through a network, usually a web browser – examples include Google Docs and Kickstarter.

In his blog post on ZD Net, titled “More that software, as a service,” Phil Wainewright explains why he doesn’t like the term “Software as a Service”: he believes that it inadequately describes the real purpose of cloud services. He says, “No one (except for a few code-crazed developers) actually wants software, either as a product or as a service. It’s a means to an end. What people actually want are answers, results and outcomes. Therefore, what they want delivered from the cloud is rarely software on its own, but software in combination with other non-software components that add up to a useful outcome.” What the cloud does best, Wainewright later claims, is granting users “access to a pooled, specialist resource that would be hugely more costly to implement separately for each individual business.”  Wainewright’s point is that positive business outcomes are the ultimate benefits of these technologies, not the technology in itself. When SaaS providers simply offer software and leave users to manipulate it themselves in order to experience positive outcomes, they are failing to utilize the real competitive advantage of the cloud.

A parallel can be drawn between Wainewright’s argument about the goals of SaaS technologies and some of the issues we’ve discussed about ICT4D projects. Wainewright says, “Instead of thinking about software when designing a service, cloud providers would do better to think first about the business outcomes they aim to deliver… True innovators see software as just one part of the means to an end.” As with ICT projects in the developing world, Wainewright believes that it’s essential to use technology, SaaS in this case, to achieve a  specific end; what’s important is not the introduction of the technology, but the improvement that can be achieved through using that technology. Technology is one piece of the puzzle; it should be used in conjunction with other efforts to achieve a certain goal, whether for positive business outcomes in Europe or increased development in developing countries.