The role of the Private Sector in ICT Development
Media convergence was part of the Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo ICT Investment Forum that took place from October 18–19, 2022, in Lubumbashi, DRC, hosted and planned by the Ministry of Information, Communication, and Information Technology (MICIT). We are part of the event both before and during the conference. Having been a national event, it was important that the right stakeholders were aware of the platform, and thus, through our “Innovation and Tech Forum” initiative, we did a Twitter Space laying a foundation of knowledge of the Tanzania—DDRC ICT Forum on Business and Investment Opportunities.
I was also part of the panel discussion. Our panel discussion explored opportunities for collaboration between the two countries. The overall objective of the forum was to strengthen ties between the DRC and Tanzania in the field of ICT as an intentionally significant step by the government toward enhancing the digital economy in the country. I had the honor to attend as the Founder and CEO of Media Convergency with the assignment of giving a presentation on the “Role of the Private Sector in ICT." The following content (the article below) is part of the presentation I shared at the forum.
The private sector — Tanzania Context
The private sector is a vital contributor to national revenue and a key provider of jobs, playing a significant role in promoting economic and societal growth. It generates tax revenues, facilitates the flow of capital, and drives economic development by offering employment opportunities, supplying essential goods and services, and contributing to the country’s growth toward middle-income status by 2025. In addition to its economic contributions, the private sector also plays a critical role in promoting innovation, competition, and entrepreneurship. It drives technological advancements and helps create new products and services that meet the changing needs of consumers. Moreover, the private sector encourages fair competition and promotes efficiency, which ultimately leads to better-quality goods and services and lower prices for consumers.
The nature of the Private Sector in Tanzania
- Sole Proprietorship: A business structure in which a single individual owns and operates a company, and is personally responsible for its debts and obligations.
- Corporations: A type of business entity that is separate from its owners and has the legal authority to conduct business as an individual. Multinationals refer to corporations with operations in multiple countries.
- Small and Mid-sized Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs who own and operate businesses that are typically smaller in size and employ fewer people compared to larger corporations.
- Professional and Trade Association: A professional or trade organization that brings together individuals in a specific industry or profession, with the goal of advancing the interests of its members through advocacy, networking, and education.
- Trade Unions: Organizations that represent workers in a particular industry or trade, working to improve the wages, benefits, and working conditions of its members through collective bargaining and other advocacy efforts.
- Non-profits for Social Impact: Organizations that are structured to operate for the benefit of society, rather than for the financial gain of its owners or stakeholders. They often focus on promoting social causes and addressing community needs through charitable activities and advocacy.
Features of the Private Sector in Tanzania
- Structural Establishments: Since the Structural adjustments in the 90s, the Private Sector in Tanzania has created a long hold of contribution to the National Social Economic Development
- Strong Clusterization: We have a strategic variety of clusters in the Private sector to mention such as Health, Agriculture, Education, Mining, Trade, Telecoms, Banking, Media, etc.
- Development Pillar: They are part and Parcel of the National Development Frameworks and Agenda initiated and established by the Government of Tanzania and contributed immensely to the National GDP. Frameworks include, such as the Tanzania Development Vision 2025.
- Collaboration: They have the Strongest Association and Union bodies in the Nation contributing to Strategised vision and Goals within and across Nations.
- The second (2nd) Largest Employer: The total employment in the formal sector was 62,804 out of whom 34,988 (55.7 percent) were males and 27,816 (44.3 percent) were females. Out of total employment, 51.5 percent were engaged in the Government sector, 38.2 percent in the Private sector, and 10.3 percent in Parastatals.
ICT and Private Sector Development (How it needs to look like)
The private sector is a key player in the development of a country’s ICT sector, driving innovation, investment, and access to ICT services and products. It plays a critical role in advancing the ICT sector and contributing to the overall economic growth and development of the country. The World Bank study covering 56 developing countries found that “ICT is playing an important role in allowing businesses to grow faster and become more productive—tthis alone suggests that creating an appropriate environment to exploit ICT is important” (World Bank 2006:72). Developing-country enterprises using ICT had better performance compared with enterprises that did not use ICT, with notable improvements in enterprise growth, profitability, investment, and productivity (table II.1). In order to foster development in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, the private sector needs to possess certain attributes, including:
- Innovation: The private sector needs to continuously invest in research and development to drive innovation and create new technologies and products that meet the changing needs of consumers and businesses.
- Investment: The private sector needs to provide funding for ICT infrastructure, such as broadband networks and data centers, as well as for research and development.
- Partnership: The private sector should collaborate with the public sector, academic institutions, and other stakeholders to create a supportive environment for ICT development.
- Access: The private sector should work towards providing access to ICT services and products, such as internet access and digital devices, to a larger segment of the population.
- Talent development: The private sector should invest in building a talented and skilled workforce that can drive the development of the ICT sector.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): The private sector should also engage in CSR activities that promote the development of the ICT sector and contribute to the overall economic growth and development of the country.
These attributes help to create an environment that supports the development of the ICT sector, drives innovation and investment, and provides access to ICT services and products. They also help to build a talented and skilled workforce and promote responsible business practices, which ultimately contribute to the overall growth and development of the ICT sector and the country.
Positioning the Private Sector at the Epicenter of ICT
The following are key factors for positioning the private sector at the epicenter of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development, drawing from the Tanzanian context and applicable to most African and developing countries. By addressing these key factors below, the private sector can position itself at the epicenter of ICT development, driving innovation, investment, and access to ICT services and products. This ultimately contributes to the overall growth and development of the ICT sector and the country.
- Initiation & Integration: Private sector companies need to take the initiative to integrate ICT into their operations, processes, and products. This requires a proactive approach to using technology to improve efficiency, increase productivity, and drive innovation.
- Capacity & Expertise: The private sector must develop the capacity and expertise necessary to take advantage of ICT opportunities. This includes building a talented and skilled workforce, investing in research and development, and adopting best practices in technology implementation.
- Innovation & Technology: The private sector needs to continuously invest in innovation and technology to drive new and improved products, services, and processes. This requires a commitment to research and development, as well as a willingness to embrace new technologies and approaches.
- Policy Frameworks: The private sector needs to work with the public sector to create supportive policy frameworks that promote the development of the ICT sector. This includes policies that promote investment in ICT infrastructure and technology and provide a favorable environment for ICT businesses.
- Rapid Mindset Change: The private sector must adopt a rapid mindset change in terms of the way it uses ICT. This requires companies to be open to new ideas, embrace change, and continuously adapt to new technologies and approaches.
- ICT Incubation & Acceleration Centers and Hubs: There needs to be a comprehensive, effective, and drawn from context Incubation Modal for accelerating and amplifying ICT centralized solutions for a variety of Startups, Small enterprises businesses, and organizations in need of capacitation in emerging and applied Technologies. The Private Sector is in the best position to play this role as well to make sure that there are measurement parameters for ecosystem growth.
Addressing the Cross-Border Cutting Technological Solutions at the conference the following are the key attributes I shared as required.
- A friendly operating environment
- Funding and support from Investors and the Government
- Common vision through policies and guidelines imposed
- Innovation and Technology that can cut across
- A collaborative approach that is inclusive of all players
Additionally, the private sector provides a platform for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses, leading to the creation of new jobs and opportunities. This, in turn, contributes to the overall economic growth and prosperity of the country. Overall, the private sector is an indispensable component of Tanzania’s economy and a crucial player in the country’s development journey. Media Convergency is still very young comparatively, having just completed almost two years of operations, we have the dedication and vision to be part of the key players towards playing an active role in ICT in our Nation with holistic approaches that cut across sectors.