At the School of Continuing Education of Beijing Language and Culture University, any visitor or student can only buy food with a swipe card or his or her smartphone.
Any person with the card only has to swipe the card or smartphone, which carries his or her wallet anyway, across a machine at the university’s canteen and quickly, payment is effected. The student or the visitor does not need to carry physical cash.
At the Beijing International Airport, different hotels and tourism attraction centres, as well as industries and transportation centres in China and other developed countries, many activities are automated, with little or no human interface.
The situation at the Beijing Language University is an example of how information and communications technology (ICT) is being used to change the economy of China.
The Far East Asian country is not alone. In almost all developed countries, ICT has become a game-changer and enabler for industrial growth and has substantially altered the ways in which people live, work, play and interact with one another.
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Gradually, the developed countries are gravitating towards the establishment of cashless societies, while developing countries are moving at a snail’s pace to catch the drift.
Seeds for the Future programme
The advent of ICT has brought in its wake the need for many technical staff, engineers and information technology (IT) professionals to manage and sustain this transformation. Currently, there is some mismatch between the supply and demand of talents and if the trend is not addressed, the situation can slow or negatively affect social transformation.
It is for this reason that 10 students each from Ghana and Peru have been offered the opportunity by Huawei Technologies, a Chinese information and communication giant, to benefit from a two-week intensive programme dubbed: “Seeds for the Future.”
Apart from enhancing their knowledge and sharpening their skills, the programme seeks to help the students to bridge the gap between what they have learnt in school and what is prevailing in the ICT industry.
The rationale is to help prepare them to drive the development of their respective countries in future through ICT.
Under the programme, the students have been trained in some basic Chinese language and have also been exposed to some aspects of Chinese culture in Beijing.
Additionally, they were flown from Beijing to Shenzhen, about 2,161 kilometres away from the Chinese capital to the major industrial city of the Guangdong Province, adjacent to Hong Kong, where they are being given hands-on training in ICT at the headquarters of Huawei Technologies.
Apart from boosting its own university, Huawei also prides itself as the largest ICT firm in China and the third largest in the world.
It has about 140,000 employees and its services and products have been deployed in about 140 countries. Out of the number of employees, about 50,000 are engaged in research and development.
After some academic exercises, the company is opening its ICT laboratories to the students to learn the latest and emerging ICT. They are also being taught how they can use second and third generation mobile phone technologies to create networks to fast-track economic activities.
In the 21st century, any country that lags behind in ICT now is likely to remain on the fringes of world development for a long time to come. Hopefully, the beneficiary students will be able to affect lives in their small and big ways now and in future, particularly at the time that it has been shown that there is correlation between ICT and development.
For instance, the World Bank’s World Development Report shows that ICT has a positive effect on a country’s economy.
According to the report, a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration is associated with a 1.4 per cent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) growth in emerging markets.
According to the World Bank statistics, every 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration will lead to a two to three per cent increase in employment rate.
In 2016, China's digital economy created 2.8 million jobs, accounting for 21 per cent of the total new jobs. Japanese government's 2015 White Paper on Information and Communications indicates that if small businesses can fully adopt ICT technologies such as cloud services, they will be able to create about 200,000 jobs.
Similarly, research even shows that a 90 per cent correlation can be seen between investments in ICT and the success of a country in meeting several key United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the light of the enormous benefits of ICT, it is important for Ghana, for example, to succeed in its efforts to formalise and digitise keys sectors of its economy.
In view of the lack of continuity associated with changes in government, it is prudent for a national consensus to be built around many national initiatives which are ICT driven, such as digital addressing system, national identification cards and paperless ports so that irrespective of which government is in power, such programmes do not suffer unnecessarily.
This is an imperative otherwise resources being used by the state, local and foreign companies, such as Huawei Technologies, as well as individuals to train the youth and promote the use of ICT may not yield substantial results in future.