There is an instinct in man that propels change. The change can either be positive or negative. However, there is no one that wants to be a loser; rather everyone wants to be a winner. Therefore, the inherent virtue of man is for a positive change for the better and this is expected to result in what is referred to as economic growth and development.
The Economic growth and development of any nation is the determinant of the living standard of the people and the prosperity of the nation as a whole. That is why nations that have mastered the determinant variables have transformed their nations and extended influence and affluence to other nations and peoples.
In economic terms, growth refers simply to increase in output capacity of existing infrastructure and means of production. It is generally associated with developed economies whereby the concern is increase over existing capacities. Conversely, development refers to the construction, deployment and installation of the structures that would enable growth and positive change in the demographic indices of the nation. It goes to imply that development determines the degree of growth of any economy. That explains why for nations like Nigeria, the concern is for accelerated development of structures germane to national development.
It is a known fact that the mastery of the industrial revolution propelled the development of United States, Canada and Western Europe over the past century. At the advent of the Information revolution, the capacity and the capability of the nations above soared with the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). ICTs thus improved decision making, learning, production, and propelled new industries thereby creating unprecedented growth of those economies.
In the past two decades, we have also seen how effective harness of the information revolution with ICTs has transformed new economies of the Asian Tigers namely South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. They are by and large in the 50 biggest economies bracket. How did they do it? How did they use ICT to develop? How can Nigeria engage the subject and also develop? Is there a connection between ICT, Leadership and national development?
Answering the questions posed above requires the following definition as a foundation and that is, what really is Information and Communication Technology (ICT) or Information Technology (IT) for short. ICT consists of three words namely information, communication and Technology and the word communication in IT is silent, nevertheless it is implied. Let us start with Technology. Technology is simply the application of science ie knowledge; and it is also known as applied sciences. Information is processed data. Thus Information Technology is the use of modern technologies consisting of processors, circuits and switches (computers) for transferring, storing and retrieving of data (digitally) over electricity or electromagnetic waves at close to the speed of light from one location to the other.
You can see that communication is assumed in this definition. So, the speed and accuracy attributes of IT indicates that it is able to provide quick information, knowledge, know-how and possibly wisdom to whosoever can harness it for mass literacy (e-learning), health care (e-Health/telemedicine), governance (e-government), commerce (e-commerce), business (e-business), payment (e-payment), procurement (e-procurement) etc. The proper harness of the above pedestals implies the development of a robust service sector. The service sector engendered by IT has the potential of tripling the GDP of any nation and increasing the living standard of the people because as Francis Bacon said Knowledge is Power.
ICT in South Korea
South Korea’s (SK) IT industry grew rapidly since the 1990s due to enhanced production; and IT plays a steadily and increasing important role for South Korea’s economic growth, due to its fast expanding IT exports. In 2004, the South Korean government launched the “IT839 Strategy” that aims to “promote an effective industrial development model that creates future growth engine through the strong collaboration among IT services, infrastructures and manufacturing”. The prominence of IT in the South Korean economy boasted the GDP (PPP) from US$772.8b in 2000 to US$1,359b in 2008 effectively making SK a highly industrialized nation and the 13th largest economy in the world. Percentage of services (engendered by IT) in the economy is 60%.
ICT in Taiwan
Taiwan adopted an IT-led development strategy to develop. Over a period of 30 years, Taiwan developed its national IT capabilities and national IT investment on economic growth, based on heavy investment in a robust national information infrastructure that supports IT adoption and application. From a GDP (PPP) of US$357b in 2000, its GDP through IT has doubled to US$700b in less than a decade (2008). Percentage of services (engendered by IT) in the economy is 71.1%.
ICT in HongKong – the Digital 21 Strategy
Since 1998, the Digital 21 Strategy sets out the Government’s vision of developing Hong Kong into a leading digital city using IT. With in-dept application in the Government, businesses and the general public, the strengths of Hong Kong as one of the worlds’ most competitive economies is thus sustained.GDP (PPP) therefore moved from US$98b in 2000 to US$308b in 2008. Percentage of services (engendered by IT) in the economy is 92%.
ICT in Singapore
Through its e-City Programme and very strong government backing, Singapore transformed itself with IT to the nation city with the highest per capital in South East Asia of US$52,000. Percentage of services (engendered by IT) in the economy is 67%.
Underlining the above success stories are the following factors namely; 1. outstanding political leadership, 2. clear institutional framework for program implementation, 3. effective coordination of various ICT projects, 4. effective and appropriate legislation to protect Intellectual Properties and promote digital access and 5. direct support of the local IT industry.
By direct inference of the development curve of the above Asian Tigers, it can easily be deduced that given the immediate application and sustained implementation of the above factors in the Nigerian economy, our current GDP (PPP) of US$ 338.1b with a Per capital of US$2,300 and 31.1% of services can attain a GDP (PPP) of US$1,189b in about 11years more than US$189b above Federal Government target of US$1trillion for the vision 20 2020. The above can be attained given that our economy grows at an average of 13.4% with 71.8% optimal service economy, stable and transparent economy and peaceful Niger Delta. With ICT and focused leadership Nigeria will by 20 2020 be among the leagues of the 1st 20 biggest economy. It is doable and achievable as our Leaders rethink and the default paradigm shifts.