Software Strategies in Developing Countries


Heeks, R. (1999). Software Strategies in Developing Countries. Development Informatics Working Paper Series, No.6/1999. Manchester: Institute for Development Policy and Management. Retrieved May 24, 2006 from

Work data:

Type of work: Working Paper


ICT Infrastructure | ICT4D


Production of software provides many potential benefits for developing countries (DC), including creation of jobs, skills and income. This paper reviews five different strategic approaches to software production that can be adopted:

  • Export of software services, the model followed by India - the most successful producer - is beset by various constraints, but does offer opportunities for a few countries.
  • Export of software packages has been far more limited.
  • Production of packages for the domestic market is difficult given the domination of imported packages.
  • Selling software services to the domestic market is the choice of most DC software enterprises, but it typically represents a survival strategy more than a development strategy.
  • Finally, some firms successfully 'straddle the intersections' between the other strategies, often by recognising synergies and growth routes between different market segments.

Given the many constraints that exist, the paper reviews the factors underlying successful software production in developing countries, which fall into three domains:

  • Enterprise tactics, such as the ability of successful firms to identify growth markets and to access necessary inputs.
  • National strategy, such as government assistance in providing the inputs of finance, skills, technology and knowledge that successful firms require.
  • National vision, that carries forward both government and enterprises.