Bank of Namibia held its 22nd Annual Symposium on the 4 November 2021 under Digital Transformation for Sustainable Economic Development, a well-articulated overview about the future of economic development, and the regulatory and policy environment.
The digitalisation of the economy in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) offers windows of development opportunities.
4IR, a digital-driven revolution, has brought with it many opportunities, but developing countries continue to lag due to various challenges.
The future of governments, businesses and society in the 4IR, driven by information and communication technologies, will depend on the ability to embrace digital technologies.
The 4IR assures momentous social and economic opportunities for Namibia and does not downplay the possible challenges that come with it.
This then demands Namibia to respond appropriately and efficiently in supporting the total digital transformation of the economy through technological integration.
The existence of a new form of technology presents an opportunity for economic growth and industrial development. The 4IR can enhance Namibia economic development.
Namibia’s economy in the 4IR will focus on the opportunities for economic growth, industrial transformation and leveraging the social and economic advantages of the digital-driven 4IR.
To understand how the successful implementation of digital economic development can help our country to realise complete industrialisation and transformation, leaders need to understand the socio-technical perspective theory to the 4IR as well as the socio-economic, socio-political and socio-historic background.
For Namibia to successfully transform the economy through digitalisation in the 4IR, policymakers are required to understand the social aspect of the various economies.
The need to reasonably understand the impacts of the digital-driven revolution can be done by assessing the consequences of digitalising the economy and transformation on skills, jobs, work systems and broader society.
Policy innovation is a key enabler of smart or digital innovation.
The Policy facilitates digital transformation by enabling government to develop social, economic as well as industrial and labour market policies that are responsive and can better prepare businesses, society and governments to leverage the opportunities and address the challenges of digital transformation.
Policy and legislation play an important role in governing the complex digital, connected and smart environment.
The 4IR has also brought with it innovations and changes that have given rise to new challenges such as security, trust, liability and personal data privacy issues – which call for stricter regulation.
Despite increased fears that technology will replace humans, the 4th Industrial Revolution brings new opportunities that require human intelligence and skills to realise the vision of the NDP’s and HPP2 of a digitally inclusive society by 2030 by promoting digital transformation of government, digital access and digital inclusion.
The expansion of digital technology has the potential to empower the poor by providing them with access to knowledge, work opportunities and services that improve their quality of living.
As we examine how the 4IR will transform the global economy, it is important to consider how we measure its success.
We currently rely on GDP as an indicator of economic growth.
GDP calculates a country’s production of physical goods, and policymakers use it to inform decision-making.
Furthermore, by providing opportunities to strengthen public financial management, digitalisation can facilitate better planning, execution, and monitoring of government budgets.
Access to more accurate and timely information via digital platforms supports improved policy analysis, forecasting, and budget formulation.
Digitalised processes can reduce delays, streamline procedures, and reduce the potential for human error and improve budget execution, amongst other things.
The current poor state of broadband penetration in Namibia is a threat to government’s vision of an inclusive and digitally connected country.
Security and privacy concerns constrain government in advancing digital transformation due to an increase in cybercrimes.
Legal and policy frameworks are some of the measures that are used in the prevention and combating of cybercrime through criminalisation, procedural powers, jurisdiction, international, cooperation, and internet service provider responsibility and liability.
However, with all the indications and the very fear that technology is closing into the job space with the emergence of the 4IR and automation of blue-collar jobs, it is feared that many low-skill repetitive jobs will go into extinction, and the current nature of work will be transmuted.
The changes and transformations, projected to necessitate a society response, may prompt the government to set a policy course with a mechanism to some degree, with the motivations that can drive the private sector.
The 4IR came with its momentous social and economic opportunities, as well as the challenges that require government to respond suitably and efficiently.
The Namibian government must be ready to put policies in place for innovation to flourish.
The various policies must try out on the socio-economic and political aspects of the economy to be geared towards a common goal and be willing to double down on the successes as well as kill those experiments that bear no good results.
Government may be able to manage the effect of digitalisation of the economy through technological advancement and adaptation, while focusing mainly on traditional pathways for development, unambiguously on the manufacturing sector.
Therefore, it is vital that the policymakers ensure these laws be promulgated within a reasonable time.