ICT-friendly environment: a pillar of competitiveness

Among the elements driving productivity increase and long term competitiveness, innovation and new technologies occupy a central place. Innovating in their processes and products is critical for developed economies to maintain their competitive edge, as they approach the technological frontier. At the same time, absorbing and fully leveraging new technologies can help developing and middle income countries to build more efficient and productive economies, reduce poverty and leapfrog to higher stages of development. In particular, information and communication technologies (ICT) has proven to be a crucial enabler of development and social and economic modernisation, also providing individuals across geographies with unprecedented opportunities in terms of access to information, markets, services and social interactions. ICT has emerged as the general purpose technology of our times, enhancing efficiency and productivity across sectors and establishing itself as an industry-wide enabling infrastructure. Increasingly ICT has moved to the core of national competitiveness strategies both in developing and developed economies as awareness of its unique transformational and growth-enhancing power has spread.

Many governments across the world are prioritising ICT as a target sector and a key infrastructure to enable efficiency gains across the industry and to provide better services to their citizens. The examples of competitiveness success stories thanks to ICT abound: from resource-poor Singapore and South Korea turned into high tech powerhouses to India’s progress into a world- class software and IT-enabled business process outsourcing exporter, passing by Estonia’s leap from planned economy to a competitive market and highly networked one. What the experience of these and many more countries have shown is that if the leadership and vision from the top are critical for ICT diffusion and leveraging, these have to be matched by a corresponding engagement of the civil society and accompanied by partnerships with the private sector for better results. An ICT-friendly and conducive environment, including appropriate infrastructure, human resources, regulations and financing, needs also to be put in place. In particular, human capital development has to progress hand in hand with investments in technology. An important requisite for innovation to flourish is the presence of a top notch educational system, producing a large enough pool of scientists and engineers and working closely with the industry in research and development. ICT readiness

The World Economic Forum’s competitiveness work features prominently innovation and ICT. Besides our Global Information Technology Report series gauging the extent to which countries benefit from latest ICT advances for increased growth and development, we include innovation and ICT readiness among the 12 pillars of competitiveness underpinning our Global Competitiveness Index. We strongly believe in the importance of establishing the preconditions for innovation to flourish in view of creating more competitive and stronger economies in the long run. As mentioned, this is a joint responsibility of the society as a whole and requires a joint consistent vision and effort of the government, the business sector and the individuals.

By Klaus

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