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Stimulating Innovation in South and West Asia

Stimulating Innovation in South and West Asia

Over the last fifty years, the innovation boom and progress that South and West Asia has made has been nothing short of remarkable.  Once upon a time, South Korea was poorer than some of the poorest countries in South America and Africa.  Now, it’s richer than Spain or New Zealand, with a per capita income of almost $23,000.  Its economy has experienced unprecedented growth with an average of seven percent annually and in 1996, it joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and became the first Asian country to host a G-20 summit.


Even with this success in innovation and strides in economic advances, there is more to be done.  A dynamic part of the world, South and West Asia is experiencing a period of transition as it becomes strongly integrated into global networks.  Governments play a central role in innovation by providing a framework for innovation including regulations, taxation, and policies on trade and infrastructure.  Research and development and a government that supports R&D cannot be overlooked as economies hope to stimulate innovation.  Public sector support and openness to innovation is critical if innovation is to be stimulated in these countries, and succeed.


Innovation remains crucial for long-term development and prosperity.  Information and Communications Technology is clearly becoming the first choice for enabling innovation in a variety of areas.  In developing economies in South and West Asia, ICT is the basis for establishing new infrastructures.  Digital communication technology, Internet access, telecommuting technologies, and video conferencing are important to pioneering new innovations. Some would say without these technologies, innovation is nearly impossible.  New digital platforms across a variety of areas are needed to encourage innovation and enable learning and real-time collaboration.


A comprehensive and clear policy on innovation is needed if South and West Asia is to get serious about innovation.  Strategies that focus on short-term objectives are needed in areas such as:  research and development, the commercialization of knowledge, and workforce and training development.  A focus on immigration restrictions and employment sponsored Visa’s will make collaboration between countries more accessible.  Trained staff should be able to move easily from one country to another especially in the case of specialty professions such as engineering.

In Indonesia, poverty continues to be a problem, even while innovation increases.  With a vast wealth of natural resources available for export and good trade relationships with global economies, why does Indonesia’s GDP continue to be low?  In part, a lack of telecommunications infrastructure is playing a major role in this lack of growth as well as the relatively high importation of high-technology products.  Significant improvements to ITC infrastructure and an overhaul of government policies will be needed if Indonesia hopes to stimulation innovations and catch up with competitors.


In fact, any country experiencing a lack of increase in its GDP or lack of innovation will want to take a cue from Indonesia.  Policy reforms, infrastructure development, and an attitude that welcomes investors and innovations; are all areas that countries in South and West Asian must focus on if they hope to join the ranks of their competitors.