As the world drives towards the fourth revolution, innovation, information and communication technologies (ICTs), have become indispensable to our daily lives.
In that regard, Zimbabwe cannot achieve its Vision 2030 without investing significant financial and human capital resources in innovation and ICT.
Government’s innovation “priority” programme dubbed: “Education 5.0” otherwise known as: “Government of Zimbabwe Innovation, Science and Technology Development 2019-2030 Priority Programme”, is a policy intervention in the right direction, provided it is implemented in spirit and intent.
Zimbabwe’s policy thrust, aimed at industrialisation of the economy and creating job opportunities for the youths, can only be realised through implementation of robust “innovation and ICT driven industrialisation”.
Our Government should ensure that science and technology development priority programmes, which focus on innovation driven industrialisation, are fully implemented.
Businesses, which are the engines and drivers of economic and social transformation, should take advantage of Government policies aimed at driving the innovation, science and technology agenda.
For any modern day business to stay agile, relevant, competitive and profitable, it has to rely and invest in innovation and ICT as major components of its business strategy.
Innovating on new technologies, inventions and automating our industry, apart from requiring significant financial and human capital investments, also requires the incorporation of powerful internal control mechanisms into computers (hardware), software and networks to manage operational ICT risks.
Innovation can change the face of Zimbabwe and bring about change in a relatively short period of time or in the most extraordinary difficult situation.
Innovation will allow us to leverage on our abundant natural and people resources by using them to our advantage in developing an inclusive economic system that benefits all Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwe’s abundant natural and mineral resources, which we boast of, can only change our economic situation drastically if we are innovative enough to make these resources work to our benefit.
The “Zimbabwe we want” can only be achieved if we think afresh and come up with innovative ideas, plans and models that disrupt inherited colonial economic models.
Innovation and ICT can no longer be considered as “technical issues” and out of bounds for board of directors as these areas impact on company performance.
Innovation and ICT are now regarded as an integral part of every company’s corporate strategy.
Corporate governance best practices now consider innovation and ICT as key components or facets of corporate governance which should be aligned to a company’s strategic objectives.
According to the IT Governance Institute: COBIT “IT governance provides the structure that links IT processes, IT resources, and information to enterprise strategies and objectives.
“IT governance integrates and institutionalises optimal ways of planning and organising, acquiring and implementing, delivering and supporting, and monitoring IT performance.
“IT governance is integral to the success of enterprise governance by assuring efficient and effective measurable improvements in related enterprise processes.
“IT governance enables the enterprise to take full advantage of its information, thereby maximising benefits, capitalising on opportunities and gaining competitive advantage.”
As can be seen from the above, ICT governance is broader and includes the following:
Business strategies and processes
Operational risks and internal control systems
Compliance issues (regulatory requirements and best practices)
ICT investments and expenditure
Training and human capital issues
All these issues are crystallised into an ICT Governance Framework.
ICT Governance is now considered as a bread and butter issue for businesses that seek to thrive.
The emerging trend is that ICT governance and corporate governance can no longer be separated. ICT governance now constitutes a key component of every company’s strategic plan and consequently it should become a standing agenda item at all board meetings.
Corporate governance codes
The Zimbabwean National Code on Corporate Governance addresses the importance of ICT governance.
The Code recognises ICT as an integral part of the business and its risk management process.
It stipulates that the board of every company should have an understanding of the company’s business, its processes and requirements.
This will enable it to give strategic guidance to management for ensuring that there is a robust ICT governance framework in place.
Directors should ensure that ICT governance is not isolated, but is part of overall corporate governance.
Directors should have an appreciation for and a basic understanding of ICT and the risks and opportunities associated with it for them to be effective in giving direction and guidance on ICT Governance.
Directors should also ensure that ICT governance is part of every board meeting agenda and that the board takes time to discuss ICT governance.
The Code further provides that “the board must ensure that an information security management system (ISMS) is developed, implemented and recorded in an appropriate and applicable information security framework”.
The challenge for businesses in Zimbabwe is to ensure that they align their policies and strategies with the Government’s innovation “priority” programme dubbed Education 5.0.
This will enhance efficiency and competitiveness of businesses and thus enable business to contribute meaningfully to attainment the country’s vision of creating an upper middle class economy by 2030.
By Allen Choruma