Realizing the Dream of a Knowledge Economy
2011 has been a significant year for the technology sector globally. Information technology is touching more people in more ways than ever before.
Developed markets will be considering a 2012 in which business innovation, competitiveness, and service differentiation are built on ubiquitous broadband, cloud computing, smarter mobile computing, and an increasing plethora of Internet-connected devices. By contrast, securing the technology future for developing markets demands that attention be placed on more fundamental issues.
Here are five key tech issues for the emerging markets in 2012.
The build-out of critical Internet infrastructure is critical to economic diversification and sustainable development. Initiatives to improve routing of domestic Internet traffic and provide new, more optimal routes for regional Internet traffic must be accelerated through the build-out of Internet exchange points (IXPs). One top of the exchange points must come expanded terrestrial and mobile broadband networks.
Implications: Internet service providers (ISPs), governments, and businesses must work together for a faster roll-out of national and regional infrastructure. This is the key to unleashing ICT-based innovations and spurring the market for digital content and mobile service delivery.
The agenda for infrastructure development must be guided by informed government policy. This is particularly crucial in smaller economies where market size does not present sufficient incentive for private sector investment. Incentive regulation to improve the current weak frameworks for stimulating growth and protecting consumer interest in the ICT sector will be demanded by the private sector. At the same time, governments will increasingly recognize that national benefits of ICT-enabled growth are too important to leave to the private sector to set the implementation agenda. More stakeholders will call for ICT adoption to be set within a wider context of national development.
Implications: Regulators have to adapt more quickly to technology changes. They must take the lead in ensuring that market forces align to social development objectives. Done well, this can translate to increased business innovation, improved delivery of government services, and greater consumer choice.
Cybercrime will increasingly challenge resource-constrained businesses and governments. Businesses, especially those with large, high-value networks, like financial services providers and energy companies, will require greater support cover not just nationally but regionally. A coordinated approach is critical to guiding national action and ensuring consistency and compatibility of action among nations. If regional governments are to secure their information and communications systems, identifying and investing in a central point of coordination for cybersecurity must be a top priority.
Implications: Governments must put aside petty internal and intra-regional differences and cooperate fully to ensure that cybercrime does not disrupt already fragile local economies and markets.
Mobile Phones, Mobile Apps, Mobile Services
Growth in mobile computing uptake and the availability of mobile apps that address local needs will continue. It will be driven by consumer-focused apps, but eventually business apps will catch on. As smartphones proliferate and mobile providers upgrade their networks to provide customers with faster mobile broadband access, software developers will have greater incentive to build apps. The improved user experience resulting from faster mobile data plans means that consumers will also have greater interest and incentive to use mobile apps and services.
Implications: The education sector must evolve to supply the human resources needed to support, not only the creation of digital content, but the development of new, digitally driven innovation and enterprises. This will create opportunity in the private and NGO sectors for training and capacity building beyond the traditional approaches.
As governments increasingly recognize the potential of open data, they will move to make their datasets publicly accessible. Progressive administrations will seize the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability. Of course, they will also benefit by shortening the timeframe of new service roll-out and shifting the burden to innovators and entrepreneurs.
Implications: A huge opportunity has opened for entrepreneurs, researchers, and society. More public awareness is needed to stimulate innovation, collaboration and, most important, more efficient, personalized services for citizens.
Onward to 2012
There is wide recognition of the value of building knowledge-based economies and of investing in technology-driven systems. These are fundamental to economic and national development. There is also no denying that the technology revolution is exposing antiquated infrastructure and institutional processes; testing the philosophy and approach to education; highlighting the imperative for new approaches to human resource development; and creating new, strategic challenges for business, education, and political leaders alike.
Advances in technology have exacerbated the vulnerability of states to externally developed and controlled intellectual capital. The central role of information and communications technology in modern society amplifies the debate on priority and significance of deliberately cultivating and securing indigenous intellectual capital.
From all indications, 2012 will be a continuation of the positive trends and innovations that gained momentum in 2011. The most forward-thinking, innovative organizations will continue to adopt and deploy technologies to improve efficiencies and better engage customers and citizens.
In 2012, these developments in emerging markets will require strong, ethical leadership to ensure that investment in technology is matched by commitment to equitable social development.
By Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist at Packet Clearing House. Follow Wooding on Twitter: @bevilwooding and Facebook: facebook.com/bevilwooding or email
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