National authorities, along with their development entities, should be more involved in linking information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure to the private sector, according to the Information Economy Report 2011 prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
ICT services can significantly enhance internal management and production systems both in large and small scale enterprises, but according to the report, governments need to ensure that ICT solutions are available and affordable, and that the relevant regulations are in place.
According to UNCTAD, mobile money systems are one of the new ICT tools that can greatly enhance economic development, but they still require a broad regulatory framework, on both a domestic and international level. Systems that enable real-time micro payments can be especially useful for SMEs, but governments still have to tackle issues such as crime and security protection, and the technology has to be made accessible to a wider range of users.
Kenya is an example of one place where micro-payments are already gaining favour. “[In Kenya] we see the emergence of new mobile solutions for small micro-finance enterprises and the first micro-finance institution to rely entirely on mobile transfers for disbursements and collections,” says Torbjörn Fredriksson, coordinator of the report and chief of the UNCTAD’s ICT analysis section.
Developing countries can benefit, both as ICT providers and users. There are examples of this happening already, but according to UNCTAD figures from the end of 2010, there were still about 50 countries without the access to broadband mobile services.