Friday 16 April 2021
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The role of Information, communication and Technology in a developmental state

As a democrat and leftist-socialist, embracing concepts such as the democratic revolution and development state is inevitable.
A developmental state refers to a state which plays a crucial role in directing the economic affairs of the country. Therefore, not leaving the economic direction in the hands of the capitalists and free market system. This article explains the critical role information communication technology (ICT) will play in enabling an efficient and effective developmental state.

The concept of a developmental state can be traced as far as Chalmers Johnson’s accounts when he described Japan’s economic intervention policies, which enabled the state to join the private sector by proving guidance.
As developmental states, Japan and South Korean governments for example controlled interest rates and bank loans and used that money to finance their industrialisation.
Furthermore, they created state controlled financial institutions to boost local investments. Another great example is Singapore, whereby the government applied extensive controls on prices of goods.
Moreover, the Singapore government provided land, invested in the development of its human resource capacity and adequately funded research & development with special focus on technological R&D. State intervention is what made Singapore the power house economy it’s today.
Despite the success of state intervention in countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, proponents of free markets and capital attribute the successes of developmental states in East Asia to private ownership.
Governments in these successful developmental states played a crucial role by putting policies and targets in place to ensure that the interests of the private sector are in with national developmental goals.
Developing nations like Namibia, can learn a thing or two from the success of state intervention in the east, emulate these models to improve the living conditions of their people. Thus, eradicate poverty.
Neo-liberal policies have always advocated for minimum government interventions in the economy, where private sector and individuals dominate.

This is a very narrow view of development because private sector, entrepreneurs and innovators cannot thrive if government doesn’t create an enabling environment and adequate infrastructure to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to invent and be creative.
Furthermore, the right of citizens will be infringed if the state doesn’t take the dominant role to ensure access education, health care, and security. Although our government calls itself a developmental state, it has failed to exert control on issues such as land, poverty, financial institutions and wealth distribution.
Government has also failed to adequately equip schools with facilities to ensure that every Namibian child has a conducive environment to learn in and ensuring that there are the needed facilities to ensure social and economic development.
Yes, the government has created the food bank, which aims to hand out food parcels to assist the hungry. Although this a good initiative, we need radical measures where government take ownership of the means of production and strategic sectors to ensure a balance between economic growth and social development.

Our government needs to use state resources and state influence to eradicate poverty not by giving handouts but through the creation of new economic sectors and industries. 26 years after gaining political independence, mining continue to be one of the biggest contributors to our gross domestic product (GDP).
This rises major concerns such as what becomes of our economy when the minerals are no more? Yes, this perhaps is not a concern for many as it will not impact their livelihood today but it will negatively impact the future generations.
Thus, we need to act now, invest in ICT, R&D and tech start-ups, who will create the jobs and opportunities that will help the state transform the living conditions of our citizens. The tedious bureaucratic process together with complicated export procedures makes it hard for many to do business with Namibia.

The lengthy process to get through the bureaucratic process in order to get approval to export goods allows other countries to look for other alternatives to get the goods cheaper and timely. If we are to aspire to become the logistic hub in Southern Africa, we should ensure that export goods only take a few days before they leave the harbour.
ICT present a unique opportunity to leverage on its power to automate and fast track the process of exporting our goods to markets outside Namibia.
We can learn from other countries on the continent for example Mauritius and Kenya, who are using the ICT to timely export their goods and services.
Kenya has also leverage on the power of ICT to boost its agricultural exports, today the country generates millions in USD from exporting flowers to countries in Europe. This are just a few of the practical examples that shows how a developmental state user ICT to develop their socio-economic sectors.

Other example can be found in the east, where countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore have experienced huge economic success through an ICT driven developmental state.
Therefore, if Namibia is wants to rely on ICT to drive the developmental state, we need to become ambitious and make ICT a priority to job creation and poverty reduction. This can be done by creating long-lasting partnership between private sector and universities.
And also creating local innovation centres in all regions.
Today, we just do not need technology and innovation to add value to the economic development our countries but enhance quality of life for our citizens and bridge the gap between the haves and the haves not. Subsequently ensure that all citizens have access to information, which will aid them in improving their decision making.

In order for our economy to thrive, we need an efficient and effective developmental state, which takes a leading role in not only defining a national agenda but mobilising society and direct state resources to emancipate and enable its citizens to participate in the economy.
ICT can play a crucial role in realise such a state, thus we need to embrace ICT and leverage on it through creativity and inventions that will ensure that the Namibian house becomes an inclusive house.
Through solutions that will create jobs, keep citizens informed, and ensure an accountable and transparent Namibia house.

*Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc. Computer Science

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