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Developing countries must expand local software development

Antti Piispanen, Counsellor of the Embassy of Finland launched the UNCTAD report. (Photograph by Hilma Hashange)

Antti Piispanen, Counsellor of the Embassy of Finland launched the UNCTAD report. (Photograph by Hilma Hashange)

The latest United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report recommends that developing countries must expand the creation of software that meets local needs and capabilities as a means of increasing income and addressing broader economic and social development goals.
The Information Economy Report 2012, subtitled The Software Industry and Developing Countries was launched on 28 November 2012 in Windhoek by Antti Piispanen, Councillor of the Embassy of Finland. The report urges governments to adopt policies that can help build domestic software capabilities and notes that developing such software locally increases the chances that it will fit the context, culture, and language where it is used.
Although many developing countries are featured in the report, Piispanen noted that Namibia was not part of the report as very few or no statistics on software use in the country was obtainable. He however applauded the country’s bandwidth capability saying that it was  in abundance. Piispanen said that with the establishment of the National Statistics Agency, national statistics on information technology will be made available for future reports.
The report states that developing countries spend little on software with 2011 statistics showing both Africa and the Middle East at 1% while northern America constitutes 46% of the total software usage. Widespread mobile phone use and improved broadband connectivity are expanding the possibilities for developing countries to participate in software development and production. “Local demand for software is expanding. For instance in Namibia, the mobile penetration went up from 22 to 105 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants between 2005 and 2011,’’ Piispanen highlighted.
Enhanced access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and related services, including least-developed countries, is widening the potential for ICT-induced development gains in areas such as health, education, governance, and business creation and expansion, the report says. However in order to ensure that improved ICT access brings about the desired benefits, the software used in various devices and services has to be adapted to the needs and capabilities of users.
The report also emphasised areas for policy intervention such as capacity building which will  help developing nations to tap into the software industry, stating that well-adapted software can, for example, help firms to manage their resources better, to obtain information more efficiently and to operate their business at lower cost.

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