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Global trends in ICT development

Published on 30th Mar, Edition 13, 2015

 

During the two decades of the current millennium, the world has been taken by some sweeping changes in the field of ICT. Not surprisingly, the year-on-year growth in ICT has been higher in the developing world in comparison to the developed world. With the change in the US economy from industrial to consumer, the flow of dollar has been from the West to the East. The outsourcing factor and subsequent Quantitative Easing have added to the intensity of this dollar flow. The East is now the hub of economic activities and a number of emerging economies from this region have become the center of attraction for the world economists and analysts.

Emerging economic trends have also made their mark in African and Latin American regions. After BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – we heard of MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) registering on the minds of analysts as the probable future economic giants. Another list of 10 countries has now hit the headlines. These economically potent countries are: Columbia, Indonesia, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. In addition to these forecasts, Pakistan is also tipped to become the 18th world economy by GDP, by 2050. No matter how these forecasts turn out in future, one thing is certain that no economy without proportionate development in ICT can dream of becoming an economic giant.

The World Economic Forum document titled The Global Competitiveness Report 2014-15 eulogizes the role of ICT in economic development in the following words: ‘In today’s globalized world, technology is increasingly essential for firms to compete and prosper. The technological readiness pillar measures the agility with which an economy adopts existing technologies to enhance the productivity of its industries, with specific emphasis on its capacity to fully leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) in daily activities and production processes for increased efficiency and enabling innovation for competitiveness. ICTs have evolved into the “general purpose technology” of our time, given their critical spillovers to other economic sectors and their role as industry-wide enabling infrastructure. Therefore ICT access and usage are key enablers of countries’ overall technological readiness.’

With the shifting of economic balance from the West to the East and to the African and Latin American regions, the year-on-year growth in ICT has been 8.7% in emerging economies vis-à-vis the world growth rate of 6.6%. This shows that majority of the developing economies have appreciated the role of ICT in their forward development thrust.

 

Country’s success, future

Unfortunately economies like Pakistan are yet to recognize this hard-faced reality. Pakistan’s overall negative growth in ICT during the last 5-6 years is proof. Our dream of becoming the 18th economy by 2050 is likely to remain elusive unless we start working on the theme of technological readiness.

There is need to fully leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) in daily activities and production processes for increased efficiency and enabling innovation for competitiveness.

KEY ICT INDICATORS FOR DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND THE WORLD (FIGURES IN MILLION)

2005

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014*

FIXED-TELEPHONE SUBSCRIPTIONS

Developed

570

553

540

526

515

511

Developing

673

676

661

652

643

636

World

1,243

1,229

1,201

1,178

1,158

1,147

MOBILE-CELLULAR SUBSCRIPTIONS

Developed

992

1,404

1,411

1,447

1,490

1,515

Developing

1213

3,887

4,453

4,785

5,171

5,400

World

2205

5,290

5,863

6,232

6,662

6,915

MOBILE-BROADBAND SUBSCRIPTIONS

Developed

NA

554

707

828

939

1,050

Developing

NA

253

475

726

991

1,265

World

NA

807

1,182

1,554

1,930

2,315

FIXED-BROADBAND SUBSCRIPTIONS

Developed

148

291

306

321

322

345

Developing

71

236

282

315

341

366

World

220

526

588

635

673

711

Source: ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database {Difference in total due to rounding-off}

ICTs have evolved into the “general purpose technology” of our time given their critical spillovers to other economic sectors and their role as industry-wide enabling infrastructure. Therefore ICT access and usage are key enablers of countries’ overall technological readiness. Whether the technology used has or has not been developed within national borders is irrelevant for its enhance the productivity of its industries, with specific emphasis on its ability to enhance productivity. The central point is that the firms operating in the country need to have access to advanced products and blueprints and the ability to absorb and use them. Among the main sources of foreign technology, FDI often plays a key role, especially for countries at a less advanced stage of technological development. It is important to note that, in this context, the level of technology available to firms in a country needs to be distinguished from the country’s ability to conduct blue-sky research and develop new technologies for innovation that expand the frontiers of knowledge.

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