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Zimbabwe can learn from India’s ICT success

By Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi

Zimbabwe information and communication technology (ICT) sector should learn from what the Indian ICT sector has done and follow suite. In India the information and communication technology (ICT) is the most thriving sector.

Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi
Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi

Over the past two decades, India’s ICT sector has grown at a rapid rate compared to world standards and has become their specialized area of economic interest. Employment in this sector generally requires highly skilled, educated, English-speaking workers. The majority of India’s population live in rural areas, with little to no access to education and they were given the opportunity to participating in India’s booming growth and Zimbabwe should learn this success.

The fact that virtually most mobile customers in the coming years will be in the rural areas, means that the ICT platform is reaching population with low levels of income and literacy. As a result, ICT is becoming the largest distribution platform of providing public and private services to millions of people in both urban and rural areas. Market information, financial services, education, agricultural services and health services had largely been unavailable in those areas in the past due to lack of connectivity of any kind.

Unlike many other sectors of the Zimbabwean economy, the ICT industry has remained remarkably resilient in the face of the macro-economic instability.  At this time when our economy growth is slow and continuous volatility in Zimbabwe our government should be looking for policies that will stimulate growth and create new jobs. ICT is not only one of the fastest growing industries, directly creating thousands of jobs but it is also an important enabler of innovation and development.

Zimbabwe has been ranked among the top five African countries with the fastest growth in telecommunication, infrastructure and mobile money innovations. The engine behind the rapid growth has been mobile telephones which has caused a mobile revolution in the country. Zimbabwe has 40,000 english-speaking ICT graduates a year, who should be groomed to be innovators and will grow the Zimbabwean ICT sector to the level of the Indians.

“With its large talent pool of English-speaking IT professionals, India is well positioned to fully leverage ICT to leapfrog to higher stages of development, reduce poverty and regional income disparities,” WEF Senior Economist and editor of the study Irene Mia said.

The Indian ICT and ICT-enabled services-business process outsourcing industry has been one of the major driver to India’s economic growth in terms of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) increase, foreign exchange earnings and employment creation. India is now the world’s largest sourcing destination for the ICT industry, accounting for approximately 67 per cent of the US$130 billion market.

According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation, https://www.ibef.org/industry/information-technology-india.aspx The ICT sector employs about 10 million workers with the potential to increase this workforce due to the international appetite of the Indian ICT products and services. More importantly, the ICT sector has led the economic transformation of the Asian country and altered the perception of India in the global economy. India’s ICT services are 3-4 times cheaper than the US and continues to be the mainstay of its Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in the global sourcing market.

It is clear from the reported financial results of ICT companies and mobile service providers that the Zimbabwe ICT sector has the potentials to take the country’s economy back to recovery. But what has always been the problem is the political will and policies to drive these potentials to fruition.

Regarded as the fastest growing sector of the Zimbabwean economy, the ICT industry has recorded over $400 million investment, This is evidenced by the  high  growth  registered  by  Zimbabwe’s  ICT  indicators  with active mobile  penetration reaching 90% and Internet penetration reaching 45% as at 31 December 2014, according to available statistics Honourable S.C. Mandiwanzira, Minister  of  information  communication  technology,  postal  and courier services

However, India is also gaining prominence in terms of intellectual capital with several global ICT firms setting up their innovation centres in India. The IT industry has also created significant demand in the Indian education sector, especially for engineering and computer science.  Besides directly impacting the country’s economic growth, the sector is also having a multiplier effect across industries, wherein it indirectly contributes to the national economy and to better living conditions in a variety of ways.

India displays competitive strengths in areas related to human resources, preparation and willingness to use ICT by citizens, businesses and the government. In particular, ICT has increasingly been prioritised in the government development agenda as a key enabler of economic diversification and more universal service provision.

For Zimbabwe to get to the Indian level they have to strengthen Africa’s collaboration across regions through the use of ICT tools for good and thorough collaborative, shared experience that would facilitate infrastructural development in Africa and at the same time, bridge the digital divide across Africa.

Considering the present cash crunch faced being faced by Zimbabwe, it is imperative that the ICT industry stands in a strategic position to provide a lifeline for the economy. If supported and managed properly this is an area that will provide additional jobs and other value addition to stimulate growth in our economy. Once again can the accept that ICT is a tool that will drive technology development in Zimbabwe and Africa.