Transforming economies is well within the possibilities afforded by digital technologies. The ubiquity of digital devices and easy access to the internet are key factors in changing paradigms and driving advances in how individuals and organizations view various products and services. By collectively investing in digital infrastructure, individuals can take a more active role in contributing to their local economies, private businesses can focus on rapid innovation and expansion, and government agencies can offer and deliver improved services to their constituents.
Addressing the Digital Divide in the Developing World
With the future arriving at a rapid rate, however, there’s also a greater risk that many people will be left behind. The slow or poor adoption of digital technologies can hamper the growth of communities, industries, and even entire nations in the digital age. Bridging the digital divide, which is the gap between the people who have access to modern information and communications technologies and those who have not, remains to be a pressing issue for many developing nations.
Given the opportunities and challenges presented by the changing times, how can the developing world keep up with the ongoing digital transformation? Here are practical strategies that should offer results:
Develop a Roadmap for Change That Considers Local Context
There’s no one-size-fits-all program for introducing and ramping up digital innovation. There are significant differences between the needs of a highly industrialized city where cashless transactions are the norm and a location where most of the population remains unbanked, for example. Each community has a different starting point for adopting digital technologies, and it’s a must for stakeholders to acknowledge the specific circumstances of their area and plan around them. This way, they can come up with a program that will effectively address the needs of their community through the application of digital technologies. Because this approach aims to solve an issue that is inherent in the area, there’s a better chance that the locals will be more receptive to the use of digital technologies and that they’ll be more willing to promote its use and continued development among the members of their community.
Foster the Synergistic Development of a Digital Ecosystem
Digital technologies are interdependent and must evolve as a whole system. There must be a demand for products and services based on digital innovations, and there must be digital infrastructure to meet this demand and its projected growth over time. This will not be possible without the long-term commitment of stakeholders such as local community members, digital infrastructure developers, and government agencies.
At the height of the pandemic, many people became more aware of the benefits of using digital tools that they can use to access essential services and continue their daily activities and business dealings. Many schools started holding remote classes, and businesses of all sizes started opening online stores, for example. These situations have highlighted the lack of digital infrastructure in many areas, and it has made people more welcoming to the idea of constructing small cell sites in their locality. Small as this move may be, it helped individuals and infrastructure developers realize that both sides need to work together to meet the ever-changing digital demands of the community.
Support Digital Advances with Policies and Dedicated Institutions
Laws have traditionally been slow to accommodate technological advancements, and this remains to be the case in the digital age. To fully capture the productivity and economic gains presented by digital innovations, a developing nation must have a responsive government. In particular, a government must be quick to anticipate the opportunities and challenges that digital innovations present to their citizens and come up with laws that address these specific concerns. At the same time, it should also offer ample protection to groups and individuals that may not be able to immediately adjust to the technological advances presented by the times. With more forward-looking laws and principles in place and knowing full well that their rights are being looked after by technologically adept policymakers, the people of a developing nation can confidently shift to the use of digital technologies and apply these new innovations in their day-to-day activities.
Making a Springboard for Digital Transformation Out of a Post-Pandemic World
The COVID-19 pandemic has successfully highlighted the benefits of using digital technologies and sped up the rate of their adoption in many places around the world. But to experience the benefits of digital innovation, it’s a must for developing countries to set a solid foundation for the sustainable development and continuous adoption of such technologies. This is especially true for places that are located far from centers of governance, industry, and commercial activity. Only by ensuring equitable access to digital innovations can this technology play a transformative role in the development of economically challenged nations and communities. The post-pandemic period is the best time to start working on this exact goal and offer better, smarter economic opportunities to people in developing countries.