Nagy Hanna, e-Leadership Institute Knowledge sharing for policy and advocacy : Nagy Hanna, University of Maryland

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The e-Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland is an initiative to link ICT-development practitioners to a network of academic institutions. The aim is to encourage universities and ICT multinationals to invest in e-Leadership education and to nurture communities of practice of such leaders among developing countries and with advanced knowledge economies, and promote comparative research.

Nagy Hanna is an innovator and strategic thinker who has served in several capacities with the World Bank for nearly three decades. He has written and lectured extensively around the world.

In this interview Nagy Hanna shares his vision of future of ICT for Development and the importance of networking for knowledge sharing which aims to address policy makers and practitioners.

You were formerly associated with the World Bank. How does the WB support ICT enabled development in developing countries?
As the World Bank is engaged in almost all economic sectors, it has the opportunity to see the role of information and communication processes in development and to capture the opportunities to apply ICT to enable development and transform institutions. I had almost 30 years experience with the World Bank in diverse roles, most of it concerning private sector development, public sector reform, education and innovation systems, and corporate and national development strategies.  So, I come from the demand side of ICT leadership.  In my studies of ICT in Bank lending I discovered how pervasive are ICT applications in various sectors. The challenge for the Bank however has been how to scale up such applications from ad hoc components in projects into more comprehensive and coherent assistance across sectors, or what I call ICT enabled development, or e-Development for short. In general, we have not helped our client countries in integrating ICT into their overall development strategies.  The focus has been on telecommunication policies and reforms, and here we probably did a very good job in supporting the transformation of this industry in developing countries.  But holistic e-Development is crosscutting and integral to overall development, and thus calls for overcoming sectoral silos and for bridging the gap between ICT specialists and development practitioners in all other sectors. Here, the Bank faces the same organisational rigidities as in many governments in developing countries.  There are few exceptions, however, such as e-Sri Lanka, which the Bank is currently funding, and with which I have been associated.

How do you see ICT as the enabling infrastructure for knowledge sharing and empowerment?
Information and communication technology plays three fundamental roles: first, as an infrastructure for accessing information and sharing knowledge at any time from anywhere and at low cost; second, as a disruptive and transformative technology that is reshaping and revolutionising all types of processes and sectors of modern and traditional economies, private and public; and third, as an infrastructure for connecting people and enabling stakeholders to communicate and organise as well as access timely and relevant information and thus empower them to have voice, build capacity, learn and act.

To what extent have developing countries like India been able to operationalise the knowledge economy and information society framework and integrate them into their development strategies?
First, I consider ‘information society’ and ‘knowledge economy’ as visions of what is possible or enabled by ICT.  Other equally relevant terms may be competitive economy, innovation economy, learning society, connected economy, etc.  The challenge has been how to operationalise these visions. Many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have focused on Research and Development (R&D) or national innovation systems as the primary tool to realise this vision. But for most developing countries, the emphasis should be on ICT and education and the links between them and the rest of the economy as the key entry points to operationalise these visions.

Excellent idea.  It fits well with my own aim to nurture such networks through academic institutions. We should not only include ICT specialists. We need to engage development policy, business and community leaders in understanding the roles of information, communication and knowledge in development and how to harness the ICT revolution to resolve long-standing and new challenges of development.

Second, I think India should build on its great strengths as a laboratory of development, with so much diverse ICT pilots in different local contexts, and an advanced ICT industry.  Yet India suffers greatly from pervasive information poverty and digital and other divides.  The challenge for India is to learn effectively and fast from its own home grown successes, as well as from other developed and developing countries.  India needs to build the necessary e-Leadership, e-Institutions and the enabling environment to scale up its successes and to diffuse ICT as needed for an information society.  India cannot afford to have ICT reinforce current structural rigidities and economic and social divides.  The presence of a powerful ICT industry can be a great asset.  But this asset is not a substitute for the information society.  Rather, it should be leveraged for holistic and equitable development.

According to Prof Christopher Freeman (Emeritus Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex) ICT is a ‘new techno-economic-paradigm’. Please elaborate this concept for our readers.
Chris was one of the pioneers in coining this term, as he wanted to highlight the interdependence of a number of technologies that come as a wave or paradigm and help shape whole industries and economies. Information and communication technologies very much qualify as such a paradigm shift, moving all kinds of industries from energy-intensive, material-intensive and labor-intensive activities to information and knowledge intensive ones.  Like it or not, countries must adjust to these powerful paradigms, as they did with electricity, railroads, etc. But, those who take advantage of such paradigm shifts can leapfrog and reposition themselves for the new competitive global economy.

In the context the MDG target of reducing poverty, how can ICTs increase the competitiveness of developing countries in an increasingly globalised world?
ICTs increase competitiveness by increasing productivity of existing industries and services, by differentiating products and services, enhancing their quality and customisation, by enabling enterprise to access information about markets almost in real time and to response as quickly.  ICTs are also enabling developing countries to participate in the outsourcing revolution and new kinds of promising and dynamic services and industries that are fast globalising.  But ICTs can also improve competitiveness by enabling governments to reduce transaction costs in its dealing with the private sector and particularly with small and medium enterprises, thus making them more competitive.  ICTs can be used as tools for public sector reform and improved governance and transparency, and this also can contribute to improved business environment and overall competitiveness of the whole economy.

ICTs provide a promising opportunity for a holistic long-term vision of development. Comment.
That is because ICTs can empower individuals and communities to interact and access knowledge locally and globally, thus empower them to learn, build capacity, drive and integrate development activities at the local level, and adapt over time.   To me, this is another definition of holistic and sustainable development.

Please elaborate the concept of e-Leadership and how it fits into the overall development agenda.
Developing countries are investing substantial sums in ICTs, and in many countries like China and India, the growth rate of such investment outpaces developed countries.  By some estimates, it adds up to a trillion dollars annually for developing countries.  The current and increasing danger is the failure of such investments in transforming our economies and institutions.  e-Leadership is the key to link ICT investments to other complementary reforms in policies and institutions and investments in human resources.   e-Leaders are needed as agents of ICT-enabled change and transformation in public sector, private enterprise, and civil society.  They are needed to link the know-how of ICT to the needs and strategies of various development sectors.   e-Leaders, including Chief Information Officers and ICT-literate policy makers, are key to orchestrate the various elements of information infrastructure, human resources, technological capabilities of the ICT industry, e-Policies, and ICT applications across sectors.  As advanced enterprises have learned, new CIO leaders must be able to be part of the top executive team to help integrate ICT as enabler of business strategies.  The same must happen in the public sector, and among development strategists and policy makers.

Please tell us about your present research interests at the Smith’s School of Business, University of Maryland.
Recently I have affiliated with several academic institutions, including the University of Maryland.  I hope to build on my large network that I developed through founding and chairing the e-Development Thematic Group while at the World Bank, and to link such ICT-development practitioners to a network of academic institutions.  My hope is to encourage universities and ICT multinationals to invest in e-Leadership education and to nurture communities of practice of such leaders among developing countries and with advanced knowledge economies. Comparative research is so far lacking in this area. In particular, I am interested in developing frameworks to integrate national ICT strategies with development strategies, monitoring and evaluation systems of national ICT strategies, e-Leadership development systems, innovation funds to promote the use of ICT for rural and human development, processes to learn from innovative grass roots applications to solve poverty problems, and mechanisms to scale up successes.  I am hoping to network with more researchers to advance this broad agenda.

What is the role of print and online media to prevent the ‘reinvention of the wheel’ in ICT4D?
Print and media play key roles in raising awareness of policy makers about local successes, about building coalitions for reforms necessary for ICT-enabled development, learning from other countries.  I know your i4d magazine is playing such a role among ICT practitioners. By emphasising the links of ICT to developing issues and discussing more and more ICT form a development driven perspective, I hope your magazine will also be read by mainstream policy makers and development practitioners.

What are your views on i4d’s initiative to foster a growing network of community of practitioners for ICT4D?
Excellent idea.  It fits well with my own aim to nurture such networks through academic institutions. We should not only include ICT specialists. We need to engage development policy, business and community leaders in understanding the roles of information, communication and knowledge in development and how to harness the ICT revolution to resolve long-standing and new challenges of development.

How do you foresee i4d’s future in the information society?
i4d’s future is bright as it continues to response to this dynamic field and to help operationalise the information society vision.

Do you foresee a multilingual i4d to localise the knowledge?
I believe this is likely to evolve, but I would not push for this at this early stage, and until we reach more practitioners, policy makers and e-Leaders with the best content possible.

Brief biography of Nagy Hanna
Nagy Hanna is an internationally recognised development strategist with extensive experience in advising developing countries and aid agencies on designing and implementing of strategies to leverage information and communication technology in support of national, sectoral and corporate strategies.   He led the World Bank’s practice in applying ICT for development, as the Bank’s first senior advisor on e-Development, and the chair of the worldwide community of practice on e-Development with over 4000 members. Hanna is an innovator, communicator, change agent, executive coach, and global thought leader. He has been responsible for developing national ICT strategies, strategic management processes, capacity building programmes, evaluation and learning systems, and new lending and advisory services for the World Bank and client countries. He has lectured and published extensively on  e-Development, strategic planning, change management, executive education and institutional development.

After retiring from the World Bank, he currently serves as the Co-Director and Senior Fellow at the e-Leadership Academy of University of Maryland in USA, as well as being a Senior International Development Strategy Consultant for the National e-Strategy and Corporate Strategy in the United States of America.

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