Wednesday, 12 November 2014 07:32

BEDCO’s ICT-led Business enterprise project, a catalyst to enterprise development Featured

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MASERU – The advent of Information, Communication & Technology (ICTs) has dramatically changed the traditional communication landscape to an extent that everyday life is hugely dependent on ICTs. Business enterprise is not spared from these developments as success of businesses is hugely affected by advances in ICTs. ICTs play a catalytic role in enterprise development.


This is a fact that cannot be avoided as it is those enterprises that are ICT-compliant that succeed in business while those that are not face the wrath of the speed with which information flows and lag behind as a consequence.


The advances in ICTs have realised the decoupling of space and time as swift flows of information globally have reduced the number of hours that one takes to send messages across the world. Within a wink of an eye, information uploaded in the world-wide-web, the internet has reached millions of people (consumers in the business language). This has inadvertently rendered the physical boundaries between countries irrelevant and the cyberspace has become totally flooded.


The worldwide interconnectedness that has come with the use of internet and the resultant facebook, twitter and u-tube have added value to the global interactions and interconnectedness that are suitable for business. These, coupled with high mobility levels across the globe, made interactions even more pronounced as people no longer see the traditional physical boundaries as an impediment.

Communication in the cyberspace
Traditional forms of communication such as letters, telephone and facsimile transmission to mention just a few, have long been surpassed by the introduction of internet-related channels such as the emails, social media such as facebook, twitter, Whats-up and u-tube.

These trends of changes have meant that business could no longer be conducted using the traditional forms mentioned above. As societies move towards being paperless, the hard-copy material on newspapers and newsletter are gradually becoming irrelevant as the move is towards electronic versions. Therefore, measures taken include convergence of hard-copy with electronic to capture all kinds of audiences with various knowledge and information acquisition tastes.


It therefore follows logically to assert that advertising on the newspapers, newsletters and other paper-oriented channels is gradually losing face, hence necessitating adaptation to the ICT-oriented ways of doing business. By the time that a newspaper prepares to go to bed with a couple of adverts, the same advert that is run on the hard-copy newspaper is already flying in the electronic newspapers, which is not by the way, constrained by exorbitant costs involved in printing, distribution and also collection of sales as well as returns.


Electronic advertising, which is where the focus is now has taken a new dimension and has drastically changed the communication landscape, especially for business. However, challenges of internet literacy and affordability still remain at the hind-sight and may impede these technological advances.

Conversely, societies adapt quickly to these advances and make use of the latest ICTs. In the last ten years, it was phenomenal for a granny to hold a cellphone, let alone use it. But a decade later, what is critical is not having a cellphone, but how to enrol for facebook, Whats-up, twitter and u-tube.

The young Turks have rejuvenated the communication sphere and have acted as middle-people in the transformation of societies, including the ones with grannies and the apathetic members of societies. Ten-to-fifteen year-olds now teach their grandparents how to use cellphones and contribute to the value chain in the ICT development sector.


ICT-led Business in addressing the 'Youth Bulge"

A great chunk of every society's population is thrust in youth, which constitutes roughly more than or close to half of a country's population. With youth now vying for entry into business, but being thwarted in the main, by the challenge to identify grand business opportunities and having access to finance, simple-and-easy-to-use means of doing business have become more pronounced than ever before.


Youth form the productive sector of society and have a variety of needs and expectations. The so-called 'Youth bulge' can be defeated by exposing to more business opportunities by identifying niches that address youth problems. Therefore, to capture this sector of society demands that there must be adherence and adaptation to the latest forms of communication, which are ICT-based.


The Youth Bulge is defined as a large population of adolescents entering the labour market and betting strained at the seams of any country's economy and polity, which was designed for smaller populations. This has adverse implications for creating unemployment and alienation unless new opportunities are created quickly enough. A youth bulge is associated with high levels of unemployment and as a result, heightened risk of violence and political instability.


ICT-led business enterprise can act as an answer to the many challenges that can be brought about by the youth bulge as it has the potential to afford youth employment.

Youth must be moved away from seeking jobs in government that is to be employed as service providers working for somebody else, but must be moulded towards being entrepreneurs in their own right. This has the multiplier effect of creating a future economically-independent and self-reliant society.


It is challenging to start a business the traditional way, with demands for a physical office space, staff and also having to keep books of accounts for accountability to stakeholders and shareholders.


New methods, most appropriate for youth are having a laptop equipped with all software, gadgets such as a smartphone, blackberry and other ancillary such as external drives, USBs and a wide array of web-based pads and many others suffice to start a well-run office. This saves the costs of paying expensive rent, paying staff salaries and also paying other overhead expenses such as electricity and water.


Governments are no longer capable of absorbing young people in the civil service. Consequently, it follows that youth's mindset must be on embarking on business so that they are turned into creators of jobs, not job-seekers.


Governments move towards e-government

Most governments are part of the mantra of e-government (Lesotho went to Rwanda and saw how fast the country has advanced in the arena of ICTs and its entrenchment of e-government).


For Lesotho to keep up with this grand initiative of e-government, it must start first ensuring openness of its systems. The advent of face-book, witter, u-tube and others have ravaged the information, communication and technology space and have rendered non-compliant enterprises unsuccessful.


Triggered by these advances, the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) has seized the grand opportunity to use ICTs as catalysts for business success, hence the ICT-led business enterprise project.


The project is intended to play a catalytic role in the business sphere of business by encouraging micro, small and medium enterprises to adopt ICTs in their daily business operations.


Most businesses do not have websites, which could turn out important tools for showcasing the businesses' products and services. With the ICT-led business project, BEDCO intends to create a space for businesses to utilise its dynamic and user-friendly website as a platform for businesses to market their products to end-users.


The first step of the project will be to educate MSMEs on various technologies and the business opportunities that they can tap into when they are business-compliant.