It’s high time we articulate a proper path for the future of this country and decide where we want to be competitively. Government needs to figure out ways it can deliver innovation-led economic growth that is both sustainable and equitable.
But first and foremost we have to abandon this old idea that the government should be just as a mere facilitator, administrator, and regulator and not as a market shaper and innovator.
In fact, in countries were economic growth is largely due to innovation, the Governments have historically served not as a meddler in the private sector but as a key partner of it, willing to take the risks that businesses won’t. Without State-based Innovation we would not have the internet, GPS, Siri, touchscreen, Google’s algorithm. These were all funded through Government programs which proves that Government has always played a significant role in the process of innovation.
Across the entire innovation chain, from basic research to commercialization, governments have stepped up with needed investment that the private sector has been either too scared or simply unwilling to provide. This spending has proved transformative, birthing entirely new markets and sectors, including the Internet, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and clean energy. In order for the government to start thinking about innovation, it will require rethinking its traditional role in the economy.
Change is taking place on a global scale and there is no going backwards. The rate of technological change is accelerating at an exponential pace. Government needs to envision a direction for technological change and invest in that direction by realizing that economic growth is not just a rate but a direction.
- It means abandoning the shortsighted way public spending is usually evaluated.
- It means ending the practice of enmity between the private sector and public sector.
- It also involves finding ways for the Government and taxpayers to reap some of the rewards and benefits of public investment, instead of just the risks.
Policymakers have to move past the myths about Government’s role in the Innovation process. This involves overcoming old structures and modes of thinking and embracing new technologies, processes and ideas.
We need to begin questioning the status quo and discuss possible ways forward. The only path to a prosperous, productive and inclusive future is to modernize, and more importantly, to innovate. Technological innovation should be considered a key source of economic growth.
The use and adoption of new technologies, open data, and the emergence of new business models will enable Government to explore new opportunities that open doors to the public value of Government. Innovation is a collective process and innovation in government is about opening up new ways to positively influence the everyday lives of people, and new approaches to encourage them to become partners in shaping the future of government together.
In order for this to be sustainable, it must also be based on securing the public’s trust and building faith in the government’s ability to be competitive and trustworthy stewards of their resources.
We desperately need an innovation strategy that is focused on creating and enabling an environment in which innovation can be achieved through the right regulatory framework, providing comprehensive enabling services, enhancing the technology infrastructure and ensuring the availability of investments and small business incentives.
This will require thoughtful policies to support innovation, including strategic investments to spur emerging technologies with the potential to form the basis for the industries, companies, and jobs of the future. We need mission-driven policies. Through well-defined missions –focused on solving important societal challenges related to climate change and environmental quality, demographic changes, health and wellbeing, mobility issues etc. – the government has the opportunity to determine the direction of growth by making investments throughout the innovation chain and creating potential for greater spill-overs across multiple sectors, including low-tech sectors.
In other words, mission setting can catalyze a wave of public and private investments that tackle key societal and technological challenges and redirect the process of economic growth, so that we solve concrete problems while also better aligning the economic agenda with the innovation agenda.
A mission-driven approach is critical for Zimbabwean competitiveness. Missions can be a powerful way of bringing people together around ambitious common goals. Missions are primarily a way to orchestrate the rich diversity of talent and expertise that today lie mostly fragmented or dormant across Zimbabwe.
It is important to establish a national culture that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship through partnerships between the public, private and media sectors.
This should also be enabled by mission-oriented policy agenda to drive the effectiveness of innovation policy. Finding solutions to our local challenges which include access to proper health care, clean water and energy as well as unemployment requires mission-driven organisations to collaborate in fundamentally new ways — across government, business and civil service. Together, they can help reshape markets to produce the kind of growth that delivers both value and benefit to the public.
Innovation by nature is a collaborative effort and requires different people acting together to archive one goal. Building a National innovation system will require the use of new tools and new forms of collaboration between private, public and civil institutions.
My name is Njabulo and I’m the founder of Ant Analytica -a Data and cloud engineering startup focussed on transforming industries and solving problems by leveraging the power of Data and AI. I’m also working as Manager of Innovatihub which empowers startups to build scalable ventures in collaboration with corporates, cities, nonprofits and universities to accelerate tech innovation in Zimbabwe. What I’ve been mostly preoccupied with are the problems that this country faces and the continent at large and trying to figure out we l can help solve them using data as an oracle and technology as a weapon.
l enjoy watching documentaries, listening to podcasts and acapella music and as of late l have found myself watching a lot of Jordan Peterson lectures and Ty Gibson sermons.