Let’s Go Hi-Tech

Published on 10th May 2005

India has a fascinating way of doing things through technology. From a wobbly economy about two decades ago, the sub-continent is now one of the strongest movers of the world economy.


We are not just talking about the nation’s success in software and outsourcing work. India has had an explosion of creative technology that delivers goods and services to its 700 million people, most of whom live in isolated villages, in the most innovative way that saves on costs and time. This has enabled even the poor to access certain services that would otherwise have been a preserve of the rich without the necessary technology.


This is a development that African companies should pick up more aggressively – not out of a sense of playing catch up, but as a move towards efficiency and expanding their reach to un-served markets. As we report elsewhere in this magazine, many banks on the continent, save for some multinationals, are decades behind in terms of the technology they use in serving their customers. This has expanded their expense bills, which have ferociously eaten into their revenues and reduced some to loss-making outfits that struggle not to make profits, but to avoid losses.


Technology has raised concern about laying off people from their jobs in a continent where unemployment rates are highest in the world. This is a very unfortunately consequent of automation that companies must be ready to face if they are to remain competitive and return dividends to their oft-starved shareholders.


 In India, for instance, entrepreneurs have developed handheld computers costing as little as $200 that enable villagers to conduct financials transactions or obtain crop information. If African banks and other companies adopted technologies like SMS and Internet banking, it would ease access to credit and improve the financial positions of start-ups, especially since small banks and microfinance institutions target the poor.


It’s sad that a simple and ubiquitous technology like Automatic Teller Machines (ATMS) is yet to reach some areas where the need for credit is high. Even though banks are gathering momentum on this front, more should be done to make sure the facilities are accessible to all and information on various products and services trickles to as many people as technology can allow. Internet use in Africa is on the increase and the continent is the fastest growth market for mobile telephone in the world. This show such technologies have read users.


By promoting the use of cutting age technology, banks cold not only stimulate economic development in the countryside, but also help find the key to turning the world’s poor into participants in the global economy.


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