The need of the hour: Adoption of a comprehensive ‘Digital Economic Model’
By Our Tech Correspondent
Despite being a country with over 35% of the total 31.87 million Mobile subscribers having Mobile Broadband and with over 1.68 million Fixed Broadband subscribers (as per the statistics in March 2020), a comprehensive ‘Digital Economic Policy’ is a must for Sri Lanka’s future direction, economic analysts from Sri Lanka outlines.
Over the years, Sri Lanka has advanced to a country that has hit a higher number of mobile subscribers than the total population due to tech savvy nature of community, however the decision makers have not created necessary platforms or digital tools to take Sri Lanka forward in the times of ‘Digitalization’ according to Sri Lankan experts in the ICT Industry.
Almost over a year and a half ago in late March 2019, then Sri Lanka’s Digital Infrastructure and ICT Ministry revealed to public that Sri Lanka signed up with McKenzie’s for a national digital transformation strategy and they have done a paper and that time government was hoping to roll it out in the middle of 2019. The strategy was developed by popular global consulting firm McKenzie and Company, and the initiative is spearheaded by the then Ministries of Digital Infrastructure, Telecommunication and Development Strategies and International Trade. That time according to McKinsey, the proposed Digital Economy Strategy for Sri Lanka could uplift the country’s GDP by 1-3% in 2019. The strategy was originally expected to be ready by April 2018, but was pushed back for various reasons given the need to consult and coordinate with different Ministries and State agencies and we have never seen the strategy becoming a reality. However analysts outline that over the last 6 months amidst the outbreak of COVID19, most of state institutions and private sector have adopted several measures to transform some functions of their operations to digitalisation, which is a commendable effort.
Global research outlines that the strength of the global economic recovery remains a big uncertainty. The Economist newspaper for example suggests that we will have to live in the ‘90% economy’ for a long time to come. Many governments around the world will be required to make difficult decisions about the magnitude and length of their support as the consumer of last resort. One certainty we do have though is that this could be an ideal opportunity for governments to lead a charge to renew and upgrade our national infrastructures. And there is a plethora of evidence that suggests that investment in digital infrastructure and the digital economy would provide the best fiscal multipliers and returns on investment for the long term.
In the meantime world’s leading ICT provider, Huawei announced recently the release of a global digital economy policy study titled “Think digital. Think archetype. Your digital economy model.” The report provides a novel approach to digital transformation and provides detailed policy guidance applicable to all countries. Accordingly, Huawei and Arthur D. Little have collaborated on this research report based on a shared conviction that improving digital infrastructure should be central to national ICT policy and that it will help power national economic recoveries and enhance resilience. Huawei operates in over 170 countries around the world and in most of those for many years. Companies such as Huawei deeply recognizes that each country is unique as are the challenges faced by its government’s leaders.
In order to maximise digital returns however, governments will also need to have the very best policy and regulatory environments in place. The richer the soil can be made, the more verdant the resulting ecosystem. Meanwhile, according to Huawei, the research recognises that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to ICT policymaking may not be suitable. Lockdowns around the world are beginning to ease, students are returning to schools and business activity in some sectors is bouncing back. A seed that survives the storm will sprout and blossom. A return to normality beckons.