Monday, 11 June 2012

ICT FOR DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA


India is one of the fastest emerging economies in the world. Developments in last couple of decades have not only influenced institutional, technological and demographic change but also induced innovations and promoted entrepreneurship. This has led to improvement in macroeconomic performance of the country. However, favorable macroeconomic performance could not contribute towards significant reduction of poverty among the larger section of Indian population. The rate of poverty decline has not been higher in the post-reform period (period since 1991 onwards).

The improvements in some other non-economic dimensions of social development have been even less favorable. The most pronounced example is an exceptionally high and persistent level of child malnutrition (46% in 2005–6) (Chatterjee, P., 2007: Child malnutrition rises in India despite economic boom. The Lancet, 369, No. 9571, pp. 1417–1418). Probably, this is just the beginning; a much more challenging future awaits India. This has been summarized as under:-

"In 2011, looking back at the first decade of the 21st century – 2000-2010 - we strongly believe that this decade indeed can be called – India’s Decade of Development..... Going forward however, India will face enormous challenges in the areas of rural development, urban sustainability, national infrastructure, and human capital and population" 

To shape a better future for Indian citizens, both government and non-government agencies are trying to analyze characteristics of link between on-going endogenous changes (induced by changing socio-economic environment) in the society and their development outcomes. The link between the two would be a critical input for understanding the dynamics of national transformation for an all inclusive development.

The ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is being seen as the key enabler in national transformation. Sheer volume and diversity in demography poses a big challenge in assimilation of new technologies (like ICT) in India. Further, rapid innovations and inventions across the globe in the field of ICT are consistently changing the technological landscape. Therefore, quick design and fast implementation of ICT solutions is necessary to keep in pace with changing technology and to take maximum advantage on investments. Therefore, possible ways and means in which this technology may be useful for development needs to be assessed comprehensively.

However, ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) should not be viewed as magic solutions to endemic and deep-seated problems of inequity and disadvantage in India. Rather, ICTs should be seen as an integral part of development policies and projects aimed at bettering the lives of all Indians, including the poor and disadvantaged (Geoff Walsham, ICTS FOR THE BROADER DEVELOPMENT OF INDIA: AN ANALYSIS OF THE LITERATURE, 2010).

This work is an attempt to identify the important development paths (dimensions), which may be critical for transforming India towards better standards of living for its citizens. This would be followed with illustrations on existing scenario for each of the dimension, so that a broad understanding on the way ahead could be understood. In the end, how ICTs are can make difference in development (across all the dimensions) is discussed.


(Picture-1: ICT Key Enabler in Development Spectrum across National Transformation; Left to Right – Each Column represents a Dimension, thus Dimension – 1 to 4 are shown in picture;  Source: Author)


Picture-1 attempts to summarize critical areas of development for national transformation in one table. In the picture, it has been assumed that a synchronized effort (from various actors and stakeholders) directed towards improving national environment for industrial development, socio-economic conditions and sensible governance would eventually lead to improved standards of living. The extreme left column (Dimension-1) in the picture shows that quick Technology Transfer, promotion of Research and Development (RnD) and continuous Industrial Innovations would lead the nation towards excellence in industrial use of technology. For industrial sector, this would result in enhanced capabilities to meet demanding volumes in traditional businesses and would also be helpful in capturing a bigger share in lucrative knowledge based businesses dealing with newer technologies. This would eventually increase industrial productivity of the nation. The column next to this (Dimension-2) emphasizes that building an infrastructure and developing an institutional support for knowledge management, skill development, banking facilities and entrepreneurship incubator facilities would support entrepreneurship at all levels and generate employment opportunities. It is a widely accepted fact that under liberal business environment and democratic governance, entrepreneurship is the key driver of the economy. The following column (Dimension-3) shows that efforts to meet Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set by the United Nations and efforts for better socio-economic, healthcare and legal support system for the society would lead to better prospects for human development. Extreme right column (Dimension-4) shows that e-Government would result in better service delivery to citizens, which intern would enable citizen empowerment and improved governance.
Considering the fact that India has stable governments with good law and order, cordial industrial relations and adequate legislation, while coming up with the Development Spectrum (Picture-1), it has been assumed that governments (functioning in India) are able to facilitate a reasonably fair distribution of public money across different sections of society through various welfare schemes and supportive policies. It is also assumed that no situation of crisis (like war, market collapse, environmental disaster) requiring urgent and dedicated government attention arises in the coming decades.
In general, ICT enhances the core capabilities of accessibility, speed, accuracy and volume in execution of development plan and therefore, it helps in productive use of available resources. Let us try to investigate the existing scenario in the above mentioned dimensions, so that, it may be possible to speculate on key strategies for future developments.    

Dimension - 1


A brief illustration on scenario for the dimension is given in following post in this blog:-
 A GLIMPSE OF INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
 (link - http://santoshbehar.blogspot.in/2012/06/glimpse-of-industrial-technology.html)

Dimension - 2


A brief illustration on scenario for the dimension is given in following post in this blog:-
 A GLIMPSE OF INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN INDIA
 (link - http://santoshbehar.blogspot.in/2012/06/glimpse-of-innovation-and.html)

 Dimension - 3


A brief illustration on scenario for the dimension is given in following post in this blog:-
 A GLIMPSE OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
 (link - http://santoshbehar.blogspot.in/2012/06/glimpse-of-social-development-in-india.html)

Dimension - 4


A brief illustration on scenario for the dimension is given in following post in this blog:-
 A GLIMPSE OF E-GOVERNANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA
 (link - http://santoshbehar.blogspot.in/2012/06/glimpse-of-e-governance-for-development.html)

ICT for Development (across the Dimensions of Development)


Following points illustrate that ICT can accelerate and synergize efforts across above mentioned four dimensions:-
1.    There exists a positive relationship between ICT investment and the increase in productivity and competitiveness according to several research studies that have come up with the following conclusions: (a) the relationship between ICT and growth is obvious in developed economies that have already reached a threshold in its distribution and use; (b) there is a time gap from the start of investment and the resulting increases in productivity and growth due to the process of assimilation and adaptation of ICT; and (c) education, human capital and the economic environment are keys to exploiting the potential offered by ICT. More importantly, the conclusions of research studies point to one essential aspect: access to information can transform production processes, increase the learning ability of the population, and improve the living conditions of the poor. (Reference - Aiding development, accelerating innovation through ICT, published on January 20, 2012, e-Gov)
2.    Use of ICT enabled processes across different sectors in industry, government and society may be helpful in collecting adequate and authentic data (socio-economic, environmental and industrial data). Institutional leaderships enriched with such representative data would be in much better position to use analytics for understanding ground realities, availability of resources, policy making and general administration.
3.    Innovation, technology transfer, and the use of ICT are essential skills for making companies more productive and more competitive (through process improvement), and therefore are decisive factors in strengthening the economy. It is important to take initiatives to promote and support innovation, transfer, and implementation of ICT for purposes of production, competitiveness, and sustainable economic growth, while according priority to SMEs, micro-firms, and rural producers, as well as to sectors showing a high potential for economic development and job creation such as the ICT sector, which is helped by its inherent technological advantages in competing in a global market.
4.    Two of the most powerful forces in the world today are the spread of ICT and the global effort to achieve more widespread social and economic development," states a paper prepared by the Digital Opportunity Initiative (DOI), a public-private partnership between Accenture, the Markle Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme.
"It has long been suggested by some that these forces are in opposition: the development agenda aims to help developing countries make great strides forward and to close the gap between rich and poor countries, while ICT, according to this line of thought, reinforces the advantages of the developed countries and perpetuates the disadvantages of those that are less developed."
DOI, however, believes ICT can be a powerful enabler of development. ICT initiatives targeting specific development goals have proved successful and can be regionally or nationally scaled, "contributing to the critical mass and the threshold levels needed to ignite a virtuous cycle of development". It continues: "In such circumstances, the increasing use and pervasive impact of ICT can substantially enhance the ability of developing countries to address the full range of development goals."
The DOI identifies the three characteristics of ICT as a development enabler:
1. Adoption of a holistic and multi-dimensional approach.
2. Co-ordinated actions, strong partnerships and local implementation.
3. Global, national and local linkages.
The World Economic Forum also acknowledges the role information and communications technologies (ICT) are playing as a "critical enabler to sustainable socio-economic growth and also a vital ingredient for effective regional co-ordination in the creation of larger markets".
Of course, ICT is also an important factor in globalisation - a process, some argue, that places developing economies at a further disadvantage to developed economies. It warns that for ICT infrastructure to continue its rapid growth curve, governments should also give attention to a number of complementary businesses and processes need to be in place. ('The role of ICT in human development Part Three', by Herman Manson, published in www.mediatoolbox.co.za)
5.    Probably following views could be imporant for practically implementing ICT for Development in India:-

“We have seen in our work in Pondicherry and elsewhere in southern India that the poor are able to take to new technologies like fish to water, if they are enabled to do so through practical training.” M. S. Swaminathan


     “Combating poverty through the use of digital technologies is not simply about hooking the poor to computer networks. The user of the technology or the beneficiary of the service has to be at the core of the design and implementation process.” Clotilde Fonseca
   
     “The process of integrating new technologies into development processes through education, empowerment, capacity building and productivity is not necessarily ‘faster and cheaper’. It requires significant investments that must be sustained over time. This is one of the great challenges for governments, communities and international agencies.” Clotilde Fonseca
 REFERENCES:

http://www.gersterconsulting.ch/docs/ict4d_book_part_7_ict_for_poverty_reduction.pdf



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