Economic Growth and Its Contemporary Avenue
March 27, 2009

On March 26, 2009, President Barack Obama conducted an internet-era town hall meeting. He did this without leaving the White House. According to the President, this precedent-setting online meeting is an important step in creating a broader avenue for sharing information about his administration. About 67,000 people are reported to have watched the webcast, close to 93,000 people submitted over 104,000 questions before the meeting, and voted more than 3.5 million times over which questions to ask, according to media reports. That must be a remarkable achievement in the flow of information for all those who are interested to understand better how their government's policies affect them as well as for a responsible government that understands the need for transparency.

Philip Emeagwali, a Nigerian-American computer scientist, is acknowledged by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, to have invented a formula that enabled computers to make 3.1 billion calculations per second. The efforts of so many scientists in developing information technology have helped humanity beyond its wildest imaginations just a few decades ago. The benefit that has been gained from it by countless number of people around the world is invaluable.

In its latest annual Global Information Technology Report for 2008-2009, the World Economic Forum ranked Ethiopia at 129th out of 134 countries around the world that are included in the ranking. We cannot underestimate the enormous potential of information technology as one of the formidable avenues for economic development. It is widely reported that, in the last few years, Ethiopia has been registering significant economic growth although there are ample arguments that this economic growth is localized and individualized. Despite the arguments, any significant economic growth anywhere in the country and by any group of individuals should be better than the lack of it. The penetration of information technology in Ethiopia seems to be what is lacking acutely at a crucial juncture in the country's historic quest to come out of under development.

The momentum of the penetration of information technology to reachable corners of Ethiopia goes beyond laying out the infrastructure for it. It is widely acknowledged that the human mind has an enormous potential to learn. One of the benefits of information technology is the rate at which knowledge is transferred among and skills gained by the beneficiaries. The inability to provide adequate mechanism to feed the human mind with the information and knowledge that is already out there amounts to starving this important tool for the human consciousness. It is only the conscious mind that will realize that it has more power than ever imagined.

In a recently published article by a tourist who visited Ethiopia, Finfinne (Addis Ababa) is the second only to New York as a host of offices of diplomatic and international organizations. So, to the extent that it may be called the gateway to Africa and the origin of humanity, it goes without saying that it would be befitting for Finfinne to live up to the expectations of the citizens of the country, its residents, and guests in various ways, including the provision of information technology services. It is understandable that the country is trying to come out from a mediocre level of development caused by various factors that occurred over the ages. Yet, to be ranked at 129th out of 134 ranked countries of the world may well show the disproportionate attention the political leaders of the country have given to the information technology, or their lack of knowledge about its enormous benefits, than the lack of human capital or other resources. What is almost for sure is that registering economic growth while lagging far behind in the provision one of the most important economic avenues of our time risks losing the sustainability of this economic development.

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