DIGITAL technologies have been transforming the global economy. Yet many countries have yet to experience the full developmental benefits of digital technologies, such as inclusive and sustainable growth, improved governance, and responsive service delivery.
Given the magnitude of change in competitive advantage that digital technologies can confer on adopters, the risk of slow or poor adoption of these innovations can be dire for industries, governments, individuals, and nations. For Namibia, the rise of digital platforms and e-commerce will reshape the retail sector and in turn has deep implications for the industrialisation processes, which have been at the heart of Namibia’s developmental agenda.
In this regard, Namibia needs to develop policy responses that address the rise of digitisation in ways that ensure policy space to harness potential benefits and ameliorate negative consequences.There are a number of domains that Namibia needs to take into consideration in forging a policy response to the rise of digitalisation.First Namibia needs to secure the policy space in multi-lateral, regional and bi-lateral fora and processes to develop responses to digitisation that are tailored to domestic conditions and policy considerations.
Second, as data becomes the “primary resource” of an increasingly digitalised economy, Namibia needs to secure a degree of national sovereignty with respect to issues of data ownership, privacy, cyber security, structural transformation and economic inclusion objectives.
Third, national taxation systems need to adapt to the rise of e-commerce and digital platforms. This requires ensuring an appropriate taxation regime in relation to e-commerce and other digital and their suppliers and to address issues of transfer pricing and profit shifting to low taxation jurisdictions.
Fourth, policy must address issues of market dominance, competition and market access. The EU has for instance begun to put in place competition policy responses to the impact of network effects that attract users to the largest and fastest growing platforms which result in “winner-takes-most” outcomes.
Fifth, Namibia needs to develop digital industrial capabilities including ensuring high speed and cheap broadband, building linkages between digital platforms and domestically produced goods and services. The country further need to provide the industrial financing instruments to do so and the adaptation of technology and skills curricula and institutions to new digital realities.
The manner in which the rise of the fourth industrial revolution and digitisation are conveyed, are often in hyperbolic terms which tend to assume either unbridled opportunities to “leapfrog” into a brave new world or a disastrous collapse in employment.
Rather than assuming either of these extreme outcomes, Namibia needs to actively engage in understanding and developing appropriate policy responses to the implications of expedited technological change.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015