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New technologies are being designed for data collection and analysis.
ICTs are now regarded as a key driver for long-term economic transformation (Juma and Yee-Cheong, 2005), serving as an "enabler of development of key sectors of the economy" (Dzidonu, 2010). In 2005, the European Commission estimated that ICTs in Europe accounted for 40% of labour productivity growth in the 1990s, and, further, that ICTs contributed directly and indirectly to improvements in public services, energy efficiency and in addressing social challenges (EC, 2005). Rapid reductions in the costs of ICT services alongside increasing efficiency and quality have encouraged wide investment in ICT over the past two decades (Okogun et al., 2012).
ICTs can improve people's lives
In the context of global development, ICTs are thought to potentially make important contributions to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (Dzidonu 2010): ICTs help contribute to economic growth and income by raising productivity as they become embedded within public and private information flow networks. Furthermore, through better information flows and communications, the use of ICTs can improve peoples' lives (Juma and Yee-Cheong, 2005). ICTs have been noted to have positively influenced "the environment, employment, poverty alleviation, attraction of foreign investment, and empowerment for the disabled" (Okogun et al., 2012). The United Nations ICT Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation (Juma and Yee-Cheong, 2005) emphasises that developmental benefits go far beyond better access to the technologies themselves. Broader gains stem from new opportunities and development solutions that open up with the deployment of ICTs.
Reduce inefficiencies and increase transparency
Concretely, ICTs can contribute to the MDGs "by improving communication and the exchange of knowledge and information", and "by strengthening and creating new social and economic networks" (Juma and Yee-Cheong, 2005) across personal, business and government users. ICTs also contribute to the MDGs by reducing transaction costs through new ways of treating and distributing information thereby leading to efficiency gains in different sectors (ibid). For instance, ICTs have the potential to improve service delivery in the public sector by reducing operational inefficiencies in government administration and by facilitating new communication channels between government and citizens (Dzidonu, 2010). In so doing, ICT-supported public service delivery has the potential to increase transparency of government services and to make them more responsive to citizens' concerns (Deloitte, 2012).
The use of ICTs is subject to other governance factors
However ICTs are not, in themselves, sufficient to improve the effectiveness of service delivery (ibid). While they can facilitate new ways of engagement through information and feed-back flows, the enabling role of ICTs is subject to other governance factors such as public administration reforms, basic infrastructure, the availability of human resources and skill sets at decentralised levels. Gaps between government policies, ICTs, the economy and service providers need to be bridged in order to harness the expanding potential of ICTs within the field of development, and particularly within the African context (Okogun et al., 2012).
Deloitte, 2012. eTransform Africa: Modernising Government through ICTs. Transformation Ready: the strategic application of ICTs in Africa.
Dzidonu, C., 2010. An Analysis of the Role of ICTs to Achieving the MDGs. A Background Paper. Accra: Accra Institute of Technology.
EC, 2005. i2010 - A European Information Society for growth and employment. Extended impact assessment. Brussels: European Commission.
Juma, C. & Yee-Cheong, L., 2005. Innovation: applying knowledge in development. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals. UN Millennium Project. Task Force on Science, Innovation and Technology. London: Earthscan.
Okogun, O.A., Awoyele, O.M. & Siyanbola, W.O., 2012. Economic Value of ICT Investment in Nigeria: Is it Commensurate? International Journal of Economics and Management Sciences, 1 (10), pp.22-30.