Digitization is the adoption of technology on a large scale by businesses, people and government. This is expected to pay off in a big way especially in emerging economies.
Specific benefits include a boost GDP and employment opportunities, which means that millions will stop living in poverty over the next decade. But as with any major change, it will need public as well as private effort for the economically weak to actually access technology.
Digitization as a developmental tool
Digitization is proving itself to be a tool for developing and maintaining several critical benefits. By creating digital markets and pushing technology, the possibility of economic and social benefits is high. Besides, digitization can also increase productivity, expand the job market and improve quality of life for the people. If policy makers would like to capitalize on these returns, it is time to come up with an appropriate strategy to develop the digital market where most of the information and products are traded.
The challenge of access
Considering that the digital divide in developing countries is as crucial as the gap between emerging economies from the developed nations, it is hardly surprising that these countries have the real challenge of making digital applications relevant, affordable, accessible to the poor segment of society. Ideally, the investment must focus on reliable network coverage, affordable devices, a sensible marketing strategy and relevance in terms of applications and information.
What about measuring ROI?
While it makes sense to invest in the digitization level of the poorest sector, measuring the digital ROI is not an easy task. Even though income levels are lowest at the bottom of the pyramid, ironically it has the greatest potential for yielding returns in terms of creating jobs and contributing to the growth of GDP.
Since the “poorest” people form a majority of the population in emerging economies, the strategy must be to increase the digitization at this level. This will also boost the ICT market, opening up new markets for other industries such as financial services, healthcare and education. In addition, digitization will also ensure that government services reach more citizens.
Leveraging digitization as a boon
Implementation will mean a paradigm shift in perception. An effective strategy for these challenging markets must seek to change both demand and supply metrics to close the digital divide in these emerging markets.
Naturally, it will need close coordination between all stakeholders. This can be successful only if policy makers support technology at the national level and also come up with a proper regulatory framework. Private ICT companies must also develop and promote the technology, pushing up the demand in their target markets and publicizing it. Standards that can be scaled must be developed by industry associations. At the same time, industry stakeholders and consumers must also become familiar with the new technology.