Expanding ICT SMEs and Ecosystem Collaboration for Digital Competitiveness and Economic Inclusion

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[Read more session reports from WSIS Forum 2017]

This session, organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), addressed two points:

  • Mechanisms of co-creation with small innovative firms, and integration of digital ecosystems to different segments of the economy, such as agriculture, manufacturing, services, etc.
  • Building programmes that foster open innovation ecosystems, embrace open innovation and networked approaches to sourcing ideas, and capturing value in both the public and private sector.

Mr Drasko Draskovic (ITU) kick-started the discussion by emphasising that it is vital to create interdependent relationships between the public sector, the private sector, the financial sector, academia, entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurial support networks. This, he said, would result in improved efficiency ratios in the field of innovation.

A second speaker from the ITU echoed Drasko’s sentiments, highlighting that it is fundamental to have the private sector, humanitarian sector, and academia work collaboratively for the benefit of the global population. He pointed out that this would dramatically improve efficient resource utilisation, good practices, and replicable and sustainable solutions.

Mr Tomas Lamanauskas (Group Director Public Policy, VEON) presented VEON, a global provider of telecommunication services that allows consumers to stay connected for free, no matter the status of their data plan. Lamanauskas mentioned that VEON was opening up its platforms to support 80% local content, and 20% global content. He noted that this would be key for empowering vertical industries such as local governments, experts, third party content providers, and technology partners.

Mr Kofi Asante (Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications) gave a presentation on the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), a Ghana government fund established in 2004 with the mission of providing financial resources for the establishment of universal service and access for all communities in Ghana.

Asante highlighted that some of the critical success factors of the fund are improved ICT access for the citizenry, a well-crafted policy and regulatory framework, digital skillsets, and ICT-related entrepreneurship. Despite these milestones, he underlined that weak policies, inadequate funding, limited expertise, and the commercialisation of local innovations were some of the gaps that still pose a threat to Ghana’s open innovation ecosystem.

In her presentation, Ms Udita Chaturvedi (Digital Empowerment Foundation India) discussed Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs), a community-driven, bottom-up platform that seeks to provide digital access through digital connectivity, and to supply communities in India with digital information services. Chaturvedi reiterated that the CIRC platform was vital for supporting access, capacity building and skills, citizen participation in governance processes, awareness of rights, and last but not least, e-commerce and economic inclusion.

The open discussions allowed participants to pose questions to the panellists. One question from the floor asked whether the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications mentioned by Asante was reserved only for innovation. In his answer, Asante highlighted that innovation was only one aspect that the fund intended to impact, and that there were other activities that it was mandated to fund.

 

by Bonface Witaba

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