It’s not possible to give people what they want from ICTs (connectivity, quality, low price) without investment. So we are always happy when investment in telecom increases, especially in countries where the sector has been starved of investment for long like Myanmar. But we have to keep in mind that what the sector produces is not internationally tradeable (except for roaming services). The consumption occurs within the country. It contributes to the advancement of all other sectors, and thus indirectly to growing the entire economy including exports.
We have this interest in cellar dwellers. Cuba has been in the bottom 10 of mobile and Internet for long. But entrepreneurs are still exporting services from that country. The NYT story does not spell out how they receive payments. There must be a workaround for that too.
In our work on agricultural supply chains, we looked at how small holders could participate in export value chains because these were the most difficult cases and also where the money was. At least at the beginning of the adoption process, the greatest demand for ICT based innovation is likely to come from these supply chains. Air freight services are a necessary condition for most high-value agricultural exports. In this article on what the full liberalization of Sri Lanka’s Mattala Airport, I discuss the complementarity. For the most part, air freight services are produced jointly along with air passenger services.
Not bad for a young industry. But I do hope the results of the survey will be disclosed quickly and with breakdowns of export and domestic earnings and employment. Last time it had to be extracted in dribs and drabs. “Sri Lanka has launched an ICT value survey to find the national hi-tech exports it achieved in 2013/14.” the minister said in a statement.