View Thread > Development and the Internet > Entrepreneurship - Question 1 > Power and Competition through Innovation
Please refer to the BusyInternet case study.
From the standpoint of promoting economic and social development in Ghana, what are the most important aspects of what BusyInternet is doing, and how do they contribute to development?
An obvious answer with regard to the way the commercial activities of BusyInternet contribute to the economic and social development in Ghana would be to point to the harnessing of the “economic” and “social” capital and which in turn can be used to increase greater private and public sector financing. As the casestudy plainly points about the entrepreneurial drive is but only the first phase. It will however not be enough to say that increasing access through setting up a number of incubators will so to speak "do the trick". Such an approach however falls short of adopting a more coherent overview of the relationship between digital entrepreneurship and ICT on the one hand and the relationship between the new economy and increased social and economic welfare of the community on the other.
To understand how the entrepreneurial activities of BusyInternet contribute to the development as well highlights potential barriers which may inhibit maximisation of the potential of ICT the concept of a business ecosystem can be usefully employed. In short one borrows from the observations of the ecosystems in nature, an interlocking structure of “laws” and “roles” which permit nature to sustain itself as well continue to evolve and adapt. With this in mind the activities of BusyInternet need to be set against the background of both the value of ICT in Ghana and the role of the entrepreneur. Approached from this vantage point the question is not easily answered. Indeed, the analytical framework advocates a sustained examination which reveals an awareness of the complexity of the digital business ecosystem [the technological and social architecture] and the chronological steps of its emergence. James Moore draws parallels between the natural ecosystem of nature and the digital business environment. Just as nature is dependent on a set of complex interaction of genera, the evolution and sustainability of the digital business environment cannot subsist without its own ecosystem. This idea of spontaneity should not be taken too far, since it would seem to advocate a marginal role for the law. Jim’s paper underscores the critical role for the rule of law. One reason why “law’s” role would seem to be imperative is that the political or ruling hierarchy are sustained very much the economy/community’s traditional orientation towards its natural resources. The digital entrepreneur in such economies can be conceptualised as breaking the umbilical cord:
“Indeed, an appropriate legal framework is a prerequisite for digital business ecosystems in general as well as for the existence and success of digital entrepreneurs in particular; in other words: law matters...” One significance of this analytical framework is that our attention is drawn to the limitations of formulating policies which merely transplant the “success” ventures in the developed world into Ghana. Rather, the governance challenge will be to identify pre-existing economic ecosystem with a particular allocation of power among the members of a society.
In the light of the given facts it is not entirely possible to provide an empirical account of the way the 3 tasks: first, identify, second, structure and third, analyze (potential) legal conflicts connected with the emergence of a digital business ecosystem and related to digital entrepreneurship, will be manifest.
We do gain an impression that the communication and human infrastructures are at an infancy level [eg “Twenty-odd companies are lodged together at the BusyInternet incubator. The social mission of the incubator is to provide ICT services to various sectors of the Ghanaian economy, thus improving efficiency and effectiveness.”] That said the basic technological infrastructure represents an initial drive and recognition of the importance of ICT. Little information is however provided with regard to the way the political elite are prepared to create a linkage between this technology and the country’s natural revenue earners.
There will be some concern that the techno-literati are primarily "foreign educated" and one could surmise that they compromise the proverbial tip of the educated/skilled iceberg. Similarly, it is not clear from the brief account provided in the casestudy what the real needs of the Ghanaian economy are with regard to those sectors of the industry which constitute the bulk of the GDP and foreign investment.
The ‘partial response’ makes good references to the study materials. It emphasises the importance of a positive environment if individual initiatives are to be successful; the complexities of the digital business ecosystem; and the need for an appropriate legal framework. It raises the issue of traditional and current perceptions of the political or ruling hierarchy, in contrast to the ideas and needs of the small group of digital entrepreneur. Importantly it draws attention to moving forward according to Ghanaian needs, not simply transplanting policies and ventures that have succeeded in other cultures.
The question it raises at the end is an interesting one, regarding *real needs* of existing industries. It seems safe to say that effective communication systems are the life-blood of any successful modern business venture. It follows that any changes in infrastructure and legal practices that would benefit BusyInternet and its associated entrepreneurs, would also benefit other industries that wanted to compete effectively in the modern business world. It is easy for people from capitalist cultures to assume the ‘competition and efficiency’ are seen as positive values. However, that brings us back to the issue of perceptions and preferences of those who are in power.
I think this response raises an important point, that of the perception and preferences of those who are in power. In fact, this means that the rules and values shown as important for the succes of a business are not always shared by the community concerned. So, those values are imported, and denote what schollars call the political and economical modernity.
There is therefore an opposition between the needs of the business community and those of the political decision makers. The development of ICT hinders soveraignty and forces state to adapt itself to the new reality. But let us answer this question: what is more important for the stae? Less or more taxes? Private telcos or state monopolies?
These questions are worth answering otherwise we will develop theories which are not adapted to the reality in the field. The reluctance for African States to destroy their monopolies and to open the market can mean that this is a very pertinent issue. We must therefore revisit the concepts we have presented as being of a critical importance for the success of ICTs businesses in developping countries, not to radically transform them, but to adapt them to the local realities, because state still makes sense.
BusyInternet is in a position to create power. It can control communication access and innovation based on that access.
Another good question is how will the American Business ethics of the holding company react to the culture imperatives and ethics of Ghana? I suspect that this clash of visions will cause BusyInternet more problems in the long run, than many of us have contemplated.
Most important aspects of what Busy Internet is doing: networking, education, and teaching technology awareness and a set of strategies.
Contributions to development: training citizens and corporations; stimulating interest in technology; providing IT experts for critical interpretation and understanding of ICT. All contributions improve economic development because it enables individuals and businesses to develop or grow. Of course, BusyInternet is also making a substantial profit.
This response is somewhat vague to me. I assume that you are referring to the business incubator and other programs on the upper floors. But why is "networking, education, and teaching technology awareness and a set of strategies" important?
Keeping in mind that this is a private, for profit business, it is perhaps surprising that they are engaged in those activities. Does this reflect a normal business operation? I doubt that they are actually making a "substantial profit" ... it is not mentioned in the materials. And, mostly likely, the owners could make a greater profit catering to a richer clientele.
This seems to be an ideal win-win solution however we will know the strategy is working when similar solutions work outside the capital and improve connectivity and skills in rural towns as well.
http://www.isc.hbs.edu will provide most valuable insight to the title.
In addition, NEW Technologies, Innovative products to be developed may assist Countries with attracting Foreign Direct Investments and responsible Networks in operations are keystones for this critical mission.