What ICT can do for development? ICT can’t do magic. There are many factors associated with development. In the countries where the number of people suffering from the poverty increases day by day, nothing matters even if the statistical data shows a decline in the percentage of poor.
India still houses more than 30 per cent of the world’s poor. Jobless growth is the greatest concern. It’s clear to all that curbing poverty and reducing unemployment are not very easy tasks for any country like India. Extreme poverty leading to starvation, deprivation and death might be under control, but relative poverty may continue.
At this stage, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) must be considered as the engines of innovation and employment. Integrating with large enterprises at one end and micro enterprises at the other end can positively address the issue of job-oriented growth in the underdeveloped regions in a more sustainable manner. So, re-shaping of the existing policy frameworks is required. The Town and Village Enterprises (TVEs) of China have aggressively moved from their domestic economy to the global arena. It resulted in reduction of rural poverty in China from about one-third of the rural population in 1978 to about 8 per cent in 1996. Manufacturing TVEs constituted largest generator of employment opportunities. It’s high time for South Asia to draw lessons from them.
If SMEs be a solution, ICT must play a big role as a service provider to support that initiative. In European countries, business-to-business electronic marketplaces (‘B2B e-Markets’) are an important means for purchasing activities of enterprises. They bring buyers and suppliers together and enable them to trade online. Take the example of Pakistan’s first B2B (business-to-business) and business information portal, ‘Industrial Information Network’ (IIN) www.iin.com.pk, launched last year. This portal is designed specifically to cater to the online trading and information needs of businesses from various industrial sectors in Pakistan.
In the developing countries, microfinance is being available to the community for employment promotion and income generation. i4d has already focused on role of ICT in microfinance sector in its May issue. Now let us see what we can do for the development of SMEs, holding the hand of ICT. The issues related to poverty and rural employment problem in all the developing countries must be addressed on SMEs development platform.
“If there is a will, there is a way”!!