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Digitalisation implications on macro-economic stability: Moving from cliché to government action- (3)

The benefits and the vast opportunities that are offered by digitalisation on the economy were shared in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. In this Part 3, we look at the blind spots that the government has to check and be aware of, strategies to mitigate pitfalls  and highlight the current opportunities that can be leveraged on to fully put digitalisation on the agenda for an inclusive economy that is hinged on sustainable macro-economic stability.

The blind spots and slippery slops of digitalisation

  1. Creation of Monopolies

The dividends of the digital economy are unevenly shared globally amongst arelatively small number of countries including the US (35%), China (13%), Japan (8%) and European Union states (25%) are reaping the benefits of the global digital economy even from transactions conducted in Zimbabwe  Likewise, a handful of firms – Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft alongside Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei, Tencent, WeChat and ZTE – have achieved dominant market positions and account for 90% of all revenue and profits. At the national level in our backyard, Ecocash is a near monopoly with more than 85% customer market share and 95% mobile money value share of mobile money services posing a “control” risk to the economy due to lack of strong regulatory framework to foster competition.

  1. Employment and Skills

The everchanging systems of labour and production now require that job seekers cultivate skills and capabilities necessary for created jobs. Some estimates put global job losses to automation and robotics at between 2 million and 2 billion by 2050. Labour unions cite great uncertainty, with concerns on wages and working conditions. As such, a huge premium rests on near-term ability of business to upskill workers, reengineer work processes and shape the next generation of talent for the machine age.

  1. Trust Issues

The Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in tech-based sector is declining since 2015. There are valid concerns on data privacy and security in Zimbabwe as well. Ethical questions about the way organizations use digital tech threaten to erode trust in these institutions with a known cases of mobile networks service providers sending unsolicited personalised adverts to their customer base.

  1. 4. Negative Externalities

The digital economy is generating serious negative externalities, including ratcheting-up climate change by big tech firmslike TSMC and Intel overtaking automakers as polluters due to increased complexity of manufacturing computer chips. In order to meet voracious demand for hardware, they are ramping-up extraction of rare earth minerals and other precious metals like cobalt mainly in Africa. One study determined the annual carbon emissions of creating crypto-currencies at between 22 and 29 million tons of carbon dioxide contributing to global warming. Technology redundancy and planned obsolescence are contributing to mountains of waste.

  1. Excessive energy consumption

Worryingly, ICT equipment in general is expected to consume 20% of global energy demand by 2030 with hardware and chip manufacturing currently consuming more than 100 MW of power equivalent to 80 000 households . The shift to cloud is scaling up energy consumption and carbon emissions, including from coal-fired power plants. Today, Bitcoin mining alone uses over 7 GW, the equivalent of seven nuclear power plants.

While Zimbabwe is currently a recipient and taker of these negatives, in putting itself on the pedestal and move towards digitalisation it is important to brace and begin to position and implement key strategies to make it a key player in the fourth industrial revolution and be one of the providers of leadership at the African level. Businesses and government have to be digitally enabled through adopting the five principles of comprehensiveness, transformation, inclusion, homegrown solutions and multi-sectoral collaboration as published by the 2021 World Bank digital economy country diagnostic report.  The following a key quick issues that have to be addressed to give a spurt to the growth and development revolution;

  1. Fix labour-skills mismatch

Digital Revolution replace low-skilled with higher-skilled workers. Investment in educational currilum from the primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational levels is key including capacitation and stimulation of tech hubs nationally. The need to consider and fund reskilling programs to ensure technology supplements instead of replacing labour is also a major step that has to be take to address the ensuing mismatch. Over and above this initiative there must also be deliberate efforts to close the gender and rural-urban divide to tech access such that it does not exercebate inequalities.

  1. Develop physical & digital infrastructure

Digitalisation requires enablers to kick start and be maintained. The current lack of electricity & low internet penetration and devices (mainly handheld) are hindrances that must be addressed. Accelerating physical connectivity of fiber optic network and VSAT as well as interoperability of virtual platforms is critical as this takes upgrade technology and reaching and lowering unit costs for for accessibility by many if not all. InterOperable digital infrastructure will reduce redundant investments especially within government departments. Capacitation of local industries to manufacture or at least assemble infrastructure must be prioritised.

  1. Enhance agile governance

The need to Reinforce state and institutional capacity within strong regulatory framework to drive and support innovation & create an enabling competetive business environment cannot be over emphasised. Thestarting point should be the ongoing development of the ICT policy to comprehensively leverage on the benefits on digitalisation and mitigate the dangers associated with the processes of embracing the fourth industrial revolution. The government must continue to promote tech progressive laws to stimulate growth of the ICT sector as well as stimulate and broaden access to technology in all sectors and communities


  1. Foster coordination culture

Government and key players continue to operate in silos with non existent collaborative strategies to move towards harmonised technological objectives. Private players continue to achieve unscalable heights for private benefit at the expense of nationally beneficial government initiatives. Forums and platforms must be created for possible infrastructure sharing,  rollout of government e-commerce programme as well as progressive tech implementation like migration towards 5G connectivity. There could also be considerations in the government tech departments to have secondments of private player staff  just like in other sectors of the economy like health and development where private players second technical staff to public institutions to strengthen and improve existing systems.

  1. Increase financial support by central government

The allocation of resources for ICT infrastructure improvement cannot go unmentioned. Technology continues to stimulate economic growth the world over with some of the biggest revenue generating companies the world like Meta, AWS and Alibaba having their models hinged around technology investment. The allocation of resources for ICT from the national fiscus must be meaningful as Zimbabwe is already lagging behind technologically. A paltry ZWL $8 billion ($89 million) in 2021 to target rollout of optic fibre network, digital television services and online public services by citizens is insignificant we are to build a digital economy and move with the inevitable trends to be competitive globally.

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