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Harvard Professor Calestous Juma said that based on the fundamental interactions between technological learning and the way societies and economies evolve, it was important that technological innovation and the application of information and communications technologies be placed at the centre of matters relating to governance. He was speaking on Friday (Feb. 17) at a panel discussion hosted by the Cabinet Office on the topic: going for growth and development through ICT.
Professor Juma who is the Director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, said ICT can be a major component of the growth engine of an economy and has a direct influence on efforts to upgrade quality of life through better information flow and communications.
“Economic development can generally be viewed as the continuous transformation of knowledge into goods and services. It can be deduced from this that information is the currency of economic transformation. It is in this context that ICT acquire its significance,” Professor Juma stated.
He however cautioned against a heavy focus on ICT in a narrow sectoral or technical way, suggesting instead that it should be viewed as a generic platform that underlie all economic activities and transactions rather than a sector in competition with other economic initiatives. He said as a result of the limited approach to ICT, there was a tendency to focus on computers and telecommunications and less on core issues such as infrastructure and human capabilities.
“The way forward will involve focusing primarily on specific sectors and then exploring their information and communications needs. For example, advances in ICT can play an important role in revolutionizing agriculture,” he declared.
Turning to education and the impact of ICT, Mr. Juma said that in order to build science, technology and innovation capabilities more resources should be devoted to assisting young people in particular women receive higher education. He said universities can help contribute to development by undertaking entrepreneurial activities that aim to improve economic and social performance. He said this would among other things require adjustments in curricula, changes in schemes of services and the creation of a wider institutional framework that includes other parts of the development process.
Among the strategic considerations identified by the Harvard Professor for Jamaica to fuel growth and development through the use of ICT were the redefinition of the ICT infrastructure as a foundation for technological innovation and economic renewal. He said also that there should be greater emphasis on building capabilities through institutions of higher learning with specific emphasis on ICT-related scientific, technological and engineering services.
Professor Juma further urged the creation of links between the knowledge generation and enterprise development, improvement of the policy environment and enhancement of technology governance as well as the forging of international partnerships that could help with the provision of financing for research and development.
Other presenters on the panel were Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology Hon. Phillip Paulwell and Chief Executive Officer of e-Services Group Mr. Patrick Casserly.