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Diana Battaggia UNIDO ITPO Italy

ICT COme mOTOre DI CresCITa NeI PaesI IN VIa DI sVIlUPPO (ICT aS a MaIn drIvEr for dEvElopMEnT)

sommario Con questo articolo la Direttrice dell’UNIDO ITPO Italy, D.ssa Diana Battaggia, ha voluto evidenziare come UNIDO, l’Organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite per lo Sviluppo Industriale, riservi grande attenzione alle tematiche legate all’ICT nei Paesi in Via di Sviluppo. La convinzione, infatti, è che le Tecnologie dell’Informazione e della Comunicazione rappresentino un acceleratore dello sviluppo economico, soprattutto nei paesi caratterizzati da un’economia in transizione. In questo contesto, vengono illustrati i progetti più importanti attivati o supportati da UNIDO a beneficio dei Paesi in Via di Sviluppo.

1. Introduction 1.1 UNIDO’s strategy: “building e-competence” Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the driving force of industrial development in virtually all countries. They shape the economic globalization process and play a leading role in creating employment, income and value added services as well as being the seedbed for developing and testing entrepreneurial talent. The challenge for emerging economies is to combine SMEs’ employment potential with increasing productivity and competitiveness. This can be achieved through an environment that facilitates growth, including easy access to business information and ICT. When used by small businesses, ICT can: • spur innovation and entrepreneurship; la Comunicazione 2012

a bstract In this paper, Ms. Diana Battaggia, Head of UNIDO ITPO Italy, summarizes United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s (UNIDO) involvement in ICT issues in developing countries. Information Technology could be an economic development booster, most of all in transition economy countries. This paper mentions some of the most important ICT projects, benefitting developing countries.

• increase productivity and efficiency of business operations; • provide relevant business development services; • facilitate linkages to local, regional and international markets; • enable access to new technologies and sources of finance. In most developing countries, however, SMEs are challenged by inadequate ICT access. In fact, ICT penetration is low, expensive and ICT services are not provided in an integrated manner. Barriers to SMEs include: • lack of affordable access to ICT due to high costs of quality hardware software and broadband Internet; • lack of ICT knowledge, basic ICT literacy and computing skills; • lack of tailor made ICT solutions that meet local needs.


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2. Core ICT Programmes 2.1 Business Information Centres (BICs) In many developing countries relevant business information is difficult to obtain. It is often outdated, very expensive, only available from isolated institutions and not tailor-made for the information needs of rural entrepreneurs. The main objective of the UnIdo Business Information Centres (BICs) programme is to use ICT and relevant business information for the development of local entrepreneurial skills. Through the programme, we aim to promote local private sector competitiveness by increasing productivity, industrial innovation capacities, and employment generation. The BICs are usually set-up as a joint venture between public and private sector institutions and provide a central access point for SMEs, offering a wide range of services, such as: • entrepreneurial advisory services; • access to relevant business information and reliable Internet technology; • basic and advanced ICT training; • assistance in establishing linkages to local, regional and international markets. 2.2 renewable energy Business Information Centers (reBICs) Energy supply is a basic requirement for sustainable development, yet most of the rural populations in developing countries have no access to grid electricity. Most of these areas are sparsely populated making it extremely uneconomical for the expansion of electricity grid energy thus decentralized (off-grid) technologies most suitable. The United nations Industrial development organization (UnIdo) in partnership with the Government of Kenya, identified the need to harness and enhance the use of these off-the-grid renewable energy technologies to produce power for use in domestic lighting and productive income generating applications. In order to achieve this goal, Community power Centres (CpCs) have been built. a CpC, or “Energy Kiosk”, is a common utility, a decentralized electrical energy service centre powered by renewable energy technologies. The CpC can utilize a single source of renewable Energy (rE) system (Stand-alone) or a combination


of sources (Hybrid) to produce electricity from locally available rE resources like water, organic wastes, plant oil, solar and wind etc. This electricity is then used in productive activities that add value to the community’s lives, produce and economic activities. CpS is designed to be a financially sustainable enterprise. Based on a business plan, the CpC is designed to generate enough income to cover its costs and make a profit. This is the only way the CpC model can be viable and replicable throughout the country and beyond. The CpC earns its money from supplying Energy services or selling energy. These include productive activities like the ones run at the Industrial Center, and the other services like ICT, community recreation, recharging of lEd lamps and phones etc. Building on the UnIdo’s methodology for the establishment of “renewable Energy Systems for off-grid productive activities”, UnIdo is implementing a pilot rEBIC in Uganda with the objective to stimulate local economic development in rural areas through value addition of local products. The energy produced using locally available renewable energy resources will be used to run agro-processing machineries and other small artisanal activities based on local resources to create value addition and thus gradually improve the local economy through improved employment and income generation opportunities 2.3 mobile Phone solutions for smes Mobile phones have an especially dramatic impact in developing countries, substituting for scarce fixed connections, reducing transaction costs, increasing mobility, broadening trade networks, and facilitating searches for employment. according to industry estimates, there are more than 500 million mobile phone subscribers in africa now, up from 246 million in 2008. now, the number of mobile phones first exceeded that of fixed telephones. The four biggest mobile phone markets in africa are nigeria, South africa, Kenya, and Ghana. UnIdo is utilising mobile telephony to extend the reach of Business Information Centres out into the surrounding community, enabling: • women entrepreneurs to build a business as ‘village phone operators’; • farmers to make good choices based on market conditions; • rural poor to receive banking services they

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ICT COme mOTOre DI CresCITa NeI PaesI IN VIa DI sVIlUPPO. ICT aS a MaIn drIvEr for dEvElopMEnT

otherwise couldn’t access; • stimulation of locally designed mobile based solutions 2.4 The refurbished Computer Programme a key factor that determines the extent to which SMEs are able to take full advantage of ICT is affordability. The reality today is that the price of new computers puts them beyond the reach of most small businesses in developing countries. UnIdo and Microsoft recently expanded their strategic partnership to develop a sustainable business model for refurbishment centres in developing economies to address the needs of SMEs for affordable quality hardware. The refurbishment centres complement UnIdo’s Business Information Centre (BIC) programme by: • creating an affordable supply of hardware for the BICs; • providing an additional income source for the centres by enabling them to sell computers to SMEs; • increasing the outreach of affordable quality hardware to rural areas. Microsoft provides access to its Gold partner refurbishment programme which is currently under development, to include: • special pricing on software for refurbished pCs; • criteria on quality of partners including mandating of warranties for pCs; • marketing support and end-of-life return; • linkages to potential suppliers of secondary pCs. 2.5 electronic Waste (e-Waste) Today, the amount of e-waste is rapidly growing in developing countries as they join the global information society. at present, electronic appliances are rarely disposed of in an adequate manner and there is little regulation in place, creating hazards for local populations, as well as for the environment. While the environmental services industry has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, it is largely absent in developing countries. This is both a missed business opportunity and a threat since the electronic waste contained in used computers consists of high-value components such as copper and

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gold, but also highly toxic substances such as lead, mercury and arsenic. once electronic appliances reach the end of their lifetime, they need to be properly dismantled and recycled. The e-waste initiative aims at addressing the full lifecycle of ICT equipment by properly dismantling and recycling it once the equipment has become obsolete. an e-waste dismantling facility will be piloted in Uganda and Tanzania. The objective of UnIdo’s programme is to foster the development of an environmentally sound e-waste recycling industry in developing countries. With the active support of UnIdo’s 35 national Cleaner production Centres, we focus on: • promoting an environmental service industry in developing countries; • preparing national e-waste assessment reports; • establishing partnerships with national and international institutions from the public and private sector; • facilitating the establishment of local and regional e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities. The refurbished computer and e-waste model is being piloted in Uganda and Tanzania and best practices will be replicated across the region. The ultimate goal is to provide SMEs with access to affordable quality hardware in africa, and to build a “green” recycling industry in the countries. 2.6 local software initiative The vast majority of software and hardware industries are located in the developed world. developing countries often suffer from a lack of local expertise and find it hard to participate in global markets of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) hardware and software. Moreover, local digital or electronic content is often very limited but crucial to unleash local skills and assets. UnIdo promotes the development of local software business and cooperates with the public and private sectors to set-up local software development centres demonstrating and developing software solutions that are sector specific and target local business needs. In September 2007, UnIdo, the Government of Uganda and Microsoft launched an initiative to promote the development of the local software industry in Uganda and to enhance the role that local softwa-


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re developers and ICT graduates can play in the economies of developing countries. The first centre established in Uganda will act as an incubator for innovations and solutions in ICT. It will offer technology training through: • developer workshops; • a support centre; • a proof of concept lab. The centre will also encourage industry skills transfer through best practice seminars conducted by local and international industry players. 2.7 Business registration reform in Viet Nam The project aims to provide policy and technical advice towards the achievement of nationwide business registration reform. as a result, enterprises will be able to register for business, tax code, statistics and seals through a single-point, using a consolidated form and obtain a unique enterprise Id. national capacities will be developed to simplify the legal framework, processes and procedures and to set up and operate the computerized national Business registry System (nBrS). The primary beneficiaries of the project will be the enterprises and those who plan to start businesses. registering an enterprise, obtaining a tax code, a statistics code and applying for a seal permit will be greatly simplified as a result of the project. Singlepoint registration will be carried out by use of a consolidated application form as well as by electronic means. Enterprises will have to submit information merely to one cooperating institution, with subsequent completion of business registration, registration with the GdT and the obtaining of taxpayer code, registration of the seal engraving permit and notification of GSo on enterprise registration without additional effort. furthermore, registered business information will have the legal validity of original files and business register information will be regarded as the definite and final verification of the legal status of an enterprise. as a result of having in place the consolidated database of the national Business registration System (nBrS), enterprises will be able obtain information about their business partners with great ease and at least cost in their localities. 2.8 Technology Parks and Platech Since the key role of the business incubator and


technology business incubator programme in boosting the entrepreneurial development in developing Countries, UnIdo created several research and technology parks. These parks are active in many sectors, including ICT like in South-africa, Senegal, Zimbabwe e rwanda as far as Sub-Saharan africa is concerned; lebanon, Jordan, algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt regarding north africa; Iran, Turkey, oman, Bahrain, abu dhabi and dubai in Middle-East. UnIdo further developed “platech”, in combination with Technology parks. This online platform aims at providing distance services in order to support on-site technical assistance, such as: specialized expertise, methodologies, tools, and networking services based on on-line counseling and e-learning. 2.9 subcontracting exchanges (sPX)



More than twenty years ago, UnIdo created the Subcontracting and partnership Exchange (SpX) system to help local enterprises in successfully meeting the challenges of globalization and to take advantage of emerging opportunities that evolve from industrial subcontracting, outsourcing, and supply chain opportunities. This original network provided an information portal for matchmaking suppliers and buyers, and was effective in dealing with short-term buying contracts on the basis of ‘requests for quotations’. Subsequently, UnIdo devised a new proactive SpX programme, which include also a benchmarking tool. 3. ICT supported Programmes 3.1 entrepreneurship Curriculum Programme Many young people in developing countries lack access to modern education on business development and the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This makes it hard for the growing numbers of youth to successfully compete in the job-market and to contribute one day to their countries’ economic development. The Entrepreneurship Curriculum programme (ECp), with delivering entrepreneurship curricula to secondary and vocational schools, aims at stimulating entrepreneurial talents among young people by enhancing their ability to identify economic opportula Comunicazione 2012

ICT COme mOTOre DI CresCITa NeI PaesI IN VIa DI sVIlUPPO. ICT aS a MaIn drIvEr for dEvElopMEnT

nities and by developing other commercial skills such as creativity, innovativeness, planning and leadership, which will aid them in their professional life. In order to start familiarizing youth with the entrepreneurial potential of ICT, UnIdo is currently developing, in partnership with Hewlett-packard, tailored ICT training modules within its ECp. 3.2 afrIPanet The majority of sub-Saharan economies are striving to attract higher levels of foreign direct investments (fdI). The potential of fdI is perceived as being able to supplement domestic savings, attract skills, knowhow and technology to facilitate market access. However, fdI in africa is limited and the sparse flows that are present are directed towards the exploitation of natural resources. The africa Investment promotion agency network (afrIpanet), established in 2001 is a platform for the development and implementation of UnIdo’s investment related activities in SubSaharan region. The network is comprised of Investment promotion agencies (Ipas) from countries of the region with ongoing UnIdo integrated programmes (Ips), plus the UnIdo Investment and Technology promotion offices (ITpos) and an advisory panel composed of chief executives of companies with operations in the region, academic researchers studying the dynamics of fdI in africa and international experts. The purpose afrIpanet platform is to provide national and regional intermediary organizations in the public and private sector with timely and accurate information on the needs, performance, impact and future plans of different investor categories in africa. Currently there are 15 member countries of the network, but this is to be extended to 31 countries in the current biennium. In March 2007, UnIdo and Microsoft launched the prototype of a web-based technology solution, which is a key component of the monitoring platform and is designed to further enhance communication between Governments in africa and potential investors. 3.3 Government Business Portal Tools and services established to help SMEs are of little use if the target enterprises do not know how to access them. Entrepreneurs often face

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bureaucratic complexity and difficulty accessing important business information, which would help them to interact with the market more effectively. UnIdo is building bridges between Governments and businesses by developing portals that offer integrated access to information on regulatory mandates, support institutions and generic business advice, especially useful for business start ups. on-line provision of government information and services can increase the efficiency and coverage of public service delivery to small firms, it can act as a model and set standards for ICT adoption by small firms. UnIdo, with its longstanding experience in SME development, is assisting governments and SME support institutions to take-up these opportunities and to address them in an integrated manner. 3.4 egyptian Traceability Centre for agroIndustrial exports (eTraCe) one of UnIdo’s key activities is to build trade capacity by strengthening capacities in quality, standardization and conformity assessment, both at institutional and enterprise level, in order to foster the ability of developing countries to enter global food value chains. In fact, products from these countries are often unsuitable for export. UnIdo, in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Italian development Cooperation and the private sector, launched ETraCE programme to help Egyptian farmers, food producers and packers along the food value chain to meet European and international food quality, safety and traceability standards, ensuring that products are safe and do not encounter barriers to trade. Using specialized softwares, the Centre provides financial and technical assistance by applying traceability systems, upgrading their technology and management systems to control the use of chemicals, and in acquiring certification for their exports, thus contributing to domestic food security and facilitating access to global markets. Taken into account ETraCE's successes, the Italian development Cooperation has agreed to support a new project that will extend the Centre’s activities and provide assistance in establishing similar structures in other developing countries


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4. Conclusions Technology per se doesn’t solve social problems, but using ICT can help speed economic and social development. By improving access to information and by facilitating communication, technology can help improving the efficient functioning of markets. and greater efficiency can play a role in helping


reach Millennium development Goals, such as the elimination of extreme poverty, combating serious disease, and achieving universal primary education and gender equality. The work outlined in this paper give an overview of what is being achieved through ICT and, hopefully, represents a point of departure for further thought and innovation.

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Articolo a firma della Direttrice Battaggia pubblicato sulla rivista dell'ISCOM e relativo all'importanza dell'ICT per UNIDO.