Grassroots proof of success
There has been a significant increase in the use of broadband/ICT to build sustainable communities. This is often taking place at a grassroots level, driven by desperation, and is already producing a wide range of sustainable, efficient and effective social and economic outcomes. So at a grassroots level there is plenty of proof that ICTs are seen as a critical and strategic tool by those using these tools to deliver better and cheaper outcomes.
A serious problem, however, is that this much-needed level of strategic thinking about these issues has, in many cases, not yet reached the higher (bureaucratic) echelons and therefore ICT tools are, at a management level, not being used in a strategic way. In some cases this is due to lack of understanding of how ICTs can be used, in other cases this is due to the fact that appropriate use of ICTs would result in significant process simplification, and such process simplification might alter existing power structures and/or result in staff reductions or redeployments which might be difficult to implement. This lack of strategic implementation of ICTs is hampering large scale implementation and a more coordinated approach. At that level strategies and policies need to be developed that will see ICT integrated throughout the organisation – a fully-interconnected environment, both within the organisation and linked into the wider society/economy. Collaboration cooperation and interoperability with others within and outside the sectors involved need be established in order to share ICT resources so as to maximise the benefits and minimise (share) the costs
If we look at the hundreds, if not thousands, of projects where ICTs are successfully used at a grassroots level as a transformational tool we see that shared and integrated ICTs allow these communities, countries, NGOs, and agencies to deliver more and better results at a lower cost.
Lack of strategic leadership
This must be a huge incentive for anybody involved in such projects to embrace ICTs. However those in charge of these projects need to undergo a cultural change in strategic thinking, and this is the crux of the problem. The people involved in generating policy and strategy are often far removed from the coalface – and they are also often conservative by nature and reluctant to change their often decades-old structures and systems. They fail to use ICT as a tool for transformation; instead they use it as an ad hoc, add-on tool. ICTs are often used to automate existing processes, whereas they should be used in the context of process re-engineering: obliterate, don't automate.
As well as this, costs will be incurred in setting up these systems, with benefits flowing later. Thoughtful financial management and planning, and most likely outside assistance, is required to make the transition happen.
One only has to look at how the new digital media companies operate to see the enormous advantages of this new approach (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and many others). Highly personalised services based on data gathering and data analytics, all fully automated, lowering costs by up to 80% compared with similar services delivered in the 'old way'. Ultimately all organisations and sectors, private and public, will need to transform themselves in order to maximise the social and economic benefits that such a different approach can deliver through better services and lower costs.
Death by pilots
Before management will consider any changes there is often a call for examples and proof, which is often used as an excuse – to show that something is actually being done. Management is prepared to approve tests and pilots, but when these pilots prove to be successful the organisation fails to scale them up. We call this 'death by pilots'.
There are now also enough examples of companies, and indeed whole sectors, in the private sector who failed to transform themselves (publishing, entertainment, photography, music, retail, etc). The same applies to other sectors (education, health and other sectors). It is patently obvious that the growth in costs of healthcare and education are completely unsustainable in both developed and developing economies. There is a more than urgent need to use digital productivity to make the operations of these sectorssustainable, and this can only be done with the assistance of ICTs.
If we fail to significantly improve integration of ICT into the SDGs, those SDGs will fail, in the same way that the businesses and business sectors that are not using digital productivity to make their operations and activities more sustainable are failing.
Thisdocument is a contribution to the strategic discussions that are currently taking place regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which have been accepted by the membership states of the United Nations to be implemented in 2015.These goals are currently under development to be presented at the General Assembly of the UN in September this year.
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