Virtual Economies or Real Ones?

It would be a gross understatement to say that the emergence of information technology has had a profound impact on how we live, learn, connect and play. Digital technologies have impacted nearly all aspects of our lives, enriching many smart entrepreneurs and spawning the growth of large technology businesses.

The developing world has been a keen participant in this process, both as a consumer of technology as well as a supplier of technology and manpower; the universal technology phenomenon owes nearly as much to the Silicon Valley as it does to India in making these technologies ubiquitous. On the consumption side of things, the developing world has been an avid and hungry recipient of technology, modifying and customizing it in many instances to its own needs.

As the technology-economy has grown, so has the desire of many developing world countries to participate more fully in this process. Countries like Taiwan and Vietnam have staked a part of the technology manufacturing process, India continues to grow its outsourcing business, and countries like The Philippines and Vietnam have been making inroads into outsourced client service as well as video animation industries, to name a few.

Across the emerging world, policy makers continue to look at digital opportunities and craft strategies to build out a ‘digital economy’ in their countries. Kenya – with its Silicon Savannah – has ambitions to build technology as a key component of its economy, Mauritius identified ICT as the fifth pillars of its economic transformation plan as it looks to lessen its dependence on the textile and sugar industries, and Ghana listed Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES) as a key, targeted growth area as part of its development plans.

The desire – and the financial allure – to contribute to the global technology industry is understood and appreciated, but from a policy-maker’s perspective, is there more to be gained by targeting technology to drive efficiency and productivity gains in the major economic sectors of my developing country, rather than by creating a new technology sector. If agriculture accounts for 43% of the workforce and 28% of the economic output of my country, can I focus on driving innovation, productivity and efficiency in that sector, thus contributing to the livelihood of a much greater number of people. In a world of limitless opportunities, and limited resources, where should I focus?

At Innovonomics, we are privileged to have been given opportunities to explore such questions, in partnership with, and on behalf of, a number of entities. We are excited by the work, and are thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to shaping the thinking about how technology can be engaged more emphatically for wide-scale change and economic reimagination. Join us as we ask these critical questions, and help us find the answers – together. Our collective future depends on it.