Governments urged to leverage ICTs to promote Private Sector Development

More effective use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by government and other stakeholders to support micro and small enterprises (MSEs) will help accelerate job creation, the growth of business and women entrepreneurs, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The Information Economy Report 2011: ICTs as an Enabler for Private Sector Development launched at the College of Computing and Information Sciences, Makerere University on 19th October, 2011, reveals that the ICT dimension is frequently absent from Private Sector strategies, neither policymakers nor MSE owners in developing countries are harnessing these new possibilities to the fullest and inadequate programmes and policy attention has been given to the application of ICT tools to support women entrepreneurs.

It calls for governments and other institutions to apply ICTs to make Private Sector Development (PSD) interventions more effective in business environment reforms by providing business development, market information and financial services to MSEs.

To be successful, ICT-PSD solutions need to factor in both user needs (in terms of what information and other inputs are needed) and possible constraints (literacy rates, aversion to using new tools, scarce electricity and unaffordable user charges and prices). Involving the private sector in the design and provision of training and advisory services can help ensure that the services are truly demand-driven.

The report calls for the inclusion of ICT modules in business skills training programmes, better leveraging of ICTs in support women entrepreneurship, harnessing mobile money services to make financial markets more inclusive, using ICT tools to reduce the costs of business transactions and to help MSEs bring their goods and services to domestic and international markets. Other recommendations include the need to adopt regulatory frameworks to build confidence in the use of new technologies or new applications of a known technology and developing donor guidelines to ensure that the ICT potential is fully reflected in their PSD strategies.

According to the report, Uganda has embraced its ICT policy and the use of various ICT services to support MSEs and grassroots development. 
Speaking during the launch, Mr. Julius Peter Torach, from the National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U) said the recent launch of the National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure/National Electronic Government would aid the private sector development through the through provision of high speed Internet access to facilitate a number of IT enabled services such as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

“The National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure comes along with the deployment of  a shared network services such as video conferencing, unified messaging and collaboration services, internet calling (Voice over Internet Protocol – VoIP), which are being piloted in selected Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs),” he added.

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