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InfoDev Global Forum on Innovation and Enterpreneurship in Brazil

I am very pleased to share with you that the infoDev Global Forum on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Brazil last week was a great success.  There was over 1,000 participants from around the world with strong commitment of Brazilian officials.  The Governor of Santa Catarina was present throughout, during the press conference, the plenary sessions, the opening ceremony in addition to hosting a special dinner at his house for visiting delegations.  Several high level Brazilian officials, particularly from the Ministry of Science and Technology and related institutions, also participated in various parts of the Forum.  Makhtar Diop, the Bank Director for Brazil, was also kind to chair one of the plenary sessions.

I left the Forum with stronger belief and passion for the "grass-root" innovation agenda.  Just looking around and seeing the high percentage of women and youth among the audience was the best illustration that innovation and entrepreneurship is at the heart of "inclusive" development and the way to address the major challenges facing developing countries, most important among which are opportunity creation, inclusion and empowerment of the disfranchised segments of the society.  While this has always been the challenge, addressing it today is more feasible with the use of information technologies which can enable any member of the society to access global knowledge (that used to be a privilege) and become a player in local and global markets.

It was clear in the conference that innovation cannot materialize without government support, private capital and know-how.  Brazil has an annual budget of US$20 billion to support innovation through various instruments and institutions.  Risk capital and management know-how have also been identified as a pre-requisite for commercialization and scaling successful ventures.  However, a serious gap exists in most markets for funding very early stage companies in the range of $50,000 to a million dollar range.  This is about very small enterprises rather than SMEs, in the way we define them.  If we could create such risk capital instruments and combine with our advisory services and network, supported by policy work to help create the enabling environment and incentives, we could truly make a difference.

Delivering on this innovation agenda may not be straight forward, and will require pro-active engagements at the policy and investment levels, as well as partnerships among governments, the private sector, universities and civil society at large.  We are uniquely positioned as a development institution to take the lead on this issue by combining the various instruments of the World Bank Group, provided we are also prepared to be innovative ourselves in developing new business models to foster innovation and entrepreneurship as a means for addressing the needs of the "bottom of the pyramid" and creating opportunities for various segments of the society.  Combining policy, advisory services and investments is one evident advantage that we have, together with World Bank Group global reach and network.  CIT, being a joint GPG department and in charge of ICTs, the "emerging" enabling platform, has also the opportunity to act as a catalyst for developing some of these models and creating networks that would facilitate knowledge sharing among member developing countries.  I would like to invite you all to brainstorm about how we can engage in a more serious way in this area by combining our expertise and tools, in addition to leveraging infoDev's large incubators' network and experience that now includes about 270 incubators in 80 countries, which in turn have resulted in over 2,200 small companies and 20,000 jobs. 

Comments

Submitted by S Wells on
It seems that gov't help in other countries are being much more noticeable than here in the states. IP PBX

Submitted by Ahram on
It sounds like a great forum that you had in Brazil. I could really feel your ethusiasm for the topic of ICT and development issues and its power to bring change. Also, glad to know that your work has such a huge impact, more than 2,000 companies! I am looking forward to hearing about their invididual stories, please keep all the readers posted!

Submitted by Sanjay P. Sood on
I congratulate the organising team, speakers, moderators, delegates and all others including the Brazilian Officials for putting together a successful event (infoDev Global Forum on Innovation and Entrepreneurship) in Brazil. I went through the Rapporteur's report for Plenary 1 "strategies for transformation and growth." Very aptly Mohsen has pointed out that from a developing country's perspective if the participation of women is increasing it is a reflection of an upcoming social change. I agree, innovation in a developing country cannot materialise without the support from government, private capital and know-how. The more so, innovation leads to new processes, generation of newer information flows and formation of new networks. No doubts, ICT is one such powerful tool that can not only take care of new processes, information flows etc but can also touch /facilitate inclusion/empower the masses and bridge the divide between rural and urban populace / developed and developing countries. Owing to my association with eHealth, I have the following to add here: I hope you will agree with me that applications of eHealth and telemedicine are considered as innovation(s) in developing countries. Based on one of the research conducted by us for telemedicine transfer in sub-Saharan Africa we could list the factors those facilitate uptake of telemedicine (an innovation) in developing countries, these are: a) Telemedicine Implementation b) ICT infrastructure c) National ICT Policy d) Culture [Culture specific beliefs AND Technology culturation]. It is primarily the first factor i.e. "implementation" where the private sector needs to chip in. Hence, PPP and SMEs are the key factors and pathways for consistent innovation i.e. transformation and growth.

Submitted by Param Soni on
The use of ICT and telemedicine is a hot-topic not only in developing countries but even in the US. I am working on a few projects and there is just so much than can be done. As some one who has consulted and developed multiple healthcare solutions I feel once the interoperability requirements are addressed the solutions can be truly global.

Submitted by John Stark on
Dear Mr. Sood, You did an excellent job presenting some very excellent points. You are exactly correct. The private sector does need to "chip in" as the private sector has the most to gain from constributing to the establishment of ICT based industries. Established ICT industries will eventually deliver both a social and business impact that will create an overall increase the number of economic opportunities for the local members of the population while directly creating stimulus for growing the local region's GDP. Meanwhile, the societal benefits of ICT enabled health care services will enable the population to live a healthier and better quality of life further enhanced by the available economic opportunities.

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