Using Information Communication Technology (ICT) to Enhance Socio-Economic Development - Implications for Capacity Development in Africa

A hallmark of the new globalization, the adoption of ICT — computers, mobile phones and broadband connectivity — is now a key determinant of international competitiveness, prosperity and living standards. Earlier apprehension has given way to optimism that developing countries can harness ICT to leapfrog expensive investment in 20th century telephony, power and transport infrastructure. This paper surveys the cumulative international experience on leveraging ICT for economic growth and poverty reduction through creating new businesses and expanding opportunities for the poor. Recent trends in ICT development are located within the intellectual development discourse that centers on the nexus between knowledge accumulation and human capabilities, capacity development, Schumpeterian creative destruction, and pro-poor innovation. The mobile phone is profiled as an exceptional leapfrogging technology, and its rapid adoption over the recent years in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world is chronicled with a keen eye on the development impact of ICT more generally and mobile telecoms in particular. We distill key considerations for the formulation and implementation of the requisite policy and regulatory frameworks to unleash the transformational impact of ICT for African development. The paper concludes by advocating a new generation of capacity development projects and programs that leverage the full interactivity of the mobile phone and mobile internet to get around the traditional infrastructural bottlenecks to African development and reach a wider and growing audience especially the poor, particularly in the new and resurgent areas of African development endeavor, notably agricultural and rural development, public health and epidemiology, public service delivery, financial sector development, and elections and human rights monitoring, to name but a few.