Policy Leader Says Technology is the Solution for the Developing World


Wednesday 14 September 2016 – The IFIP World IT Forum (WITFOR) 2016 has been told that adopting technology is the key to solving the development challenges of productivity and innovation. In his keynote address at WITFOR 2016 in Costa Rica, Dr Robert Atkinson, founder and president of international think tank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), said Latin America and other developing nations must digitize as many processes as possible.

The leading ICT conference for the developing world, WITFOR 2016 has the theme of “ICT for Promoting Human Development and Protecting the Environment”.  It is an initiative of IFIP, the global association for the ICT profession, and brings together senior policy-makers, academics, ICT experts, vendors and representatives from various NGOs and GOs to discuss ICT strategies to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In considering the topic, “ICT and Innovation: What Firms in Developing Countries Can Do to Compete in the Global Economy?”, Dr Atkinson said productivity must come from new tools, particularly ICT tools, and using technology is more important than producing it.

“Firms in developing nations must adopt more ICT and digital business practices are essential for driving productivity and growth,” he said.

Dr Atkinson offered three strategies for companies wanting to enable growth:

  • Put enterprise first: the Cloud is much more plug and play and requires less ICT skills;
  • Enable scale: larger firms are more productive than smaller firms and use more ICT.
  • Embrace disruption.

He also highlighted a clear role for governments in developing policies that encourage and enable development:

  1. Put ICT-led productivity growth first. Nations need innovation in all industries;
  2. Do not raise ICT costs;
  3. Do not burden ICT-enabled business models – keep necessary service available and affordable;
  4. Make government a force for digital innovation.

Dr Atkinson also refuted claims that technology and automation will have a negative impact on the number of available jobs, saying that new technologies will translate to more positions and new job opportunities.

Other Highlights

  • ITU Deputy Secretary Malcolm Johnson emphasised the role of national broadband networks in enabling growth and opening up access to a broad range of services and delivering benefits for the world’s citizens.
  • Valentina Dagiene discussed the importance of competitions and contests to help engage in technology-related topics, saying they provided a valuable source inspiration and innovation.
  • Dr Erick Mata explored strategies for using technologies to help meet the global challenges of biodiversity conservation. He also presented global databases that store biodiversity information, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).
  • A panel of leading educators considered what education will look like in 2030. They suggested that, because of the access students have to technologies and the overwhelming volume of information available, the role of teachers is changing. Rather than being the source of knowledge, teachers will become more of a guide, helping students to navigate the information highway more effectively and to create their own knowledge.

WITFOR 2016 concludes on Wednesday 14 September.


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About IFIP
IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing, is the global professional federation of societies and associations for people working in Information and Communications Technologies and Sciences. Established under the auspices of UNESCO in 1960 and recognised by the United Nations, IFIP represents ICT professional associations from more than 50 countries and regions with a total membership of over half a million. It also brings together more than 3,500 scientists from industry and academia, organising them into over 100 Working Groups and 13 Technical Committees to conduct research, develop standards and promote information sharing. Based in Austria, IFIP organises and supports over 100 conferences each year, fostering the distribution of research and knowledge to academics and industry practitioners alike.