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Ict for policy development
It is already widely
accepted that Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are an
important enabler of growth through the wealth creation, increased
productivity and the creation of opportunities.
In the information
society where progress and power depends on information and knowledge,
the role of ICT becomes even more critical.
Indeed by tackling
the barriers of cost, time and distance, ICTs contribute immensely by
providing efficiency gains and increased productivity.
ICT is certainly not an end in itself.
But after sinking massive resources into ICT many countries are still not benefiting. To many ICT is a "paper tiger" - it is not having the desired effect on poverty reduction and wealth creation.
contradictions are even deeper. The great paradox is that with the
amazing growth in computing and telecommunications - wireless
technologies, mobile telephony, web services - the digital divide is
still widening between the digital "haves" and the digital
"have-nots". "The digital are getting more digital, while the
analogue are getting more analogue". What a paradox. What an irony.
There is so much evidence of poverty globally in the midst of such
technology development and innovation. Poverty, lack of leadership and
commitment and the weird global structure result in unevenness in the
exploitation and deployment of technologies.
Closing these gaps - locally, nationally
and globally - requires creative pro-people policies that focus on
national priorities - on areas that will have the greatest
positive impact on development.
Most countries therefore develop national ICT policies in recognition of the enormous potential of ICT. To avoid being left behind, several nations develop such ICT policies addressing several core issues for keying into the benefits of an ICT-driven world. The aim is to be a creator, a producer and not a consumer or mere passenger. It is usually a proactive indication of the seriousness government attaches to the role of ICT in society. A national ICT policy can be seen as an attempt to develop a pro-people ICT road map of the country. Lack of a coherent and comprehensive policy often leads to redundancy, waste of resources, ineffective ICT diffusion and development and an inability to tap into global opportunities.
But an ICT policy is no guarantee
However, as many nations have found out, having an ICT policy is no guarantee that ICT will actually be an effective enabler. According to Ernest Hemingway "Never mistake motion for action." Practice is often different from theory.
How realistic are the
goals of the ICT policy? What are the priorities? Is deployment
effective? Is content relevant? Is leadership committed? How effectively
are resources being mobilized and deployed? Is the policy a government
"show" or were other stakeholders involved? How well integrated and
prioritized is the ICT policy within national development programs? (Click
Here to take part in a survey on Nigeria's ICT policy).
Let's look at what
typical ICT policies and strategies should address:
- Development of ICT
Public-Private-Partnership, telecom infrastructure, Internet
connectivity, pro-poor Internet access, ICT
networks, Computers and related equipment, etc.
It's not just about provision
of infrastructure but also quality, quantity and access issues. Access
to infrastructure should lead to access to relevant content and
services. Availability and reliability are important, but price is often
the most critical factor that affects access.
environment is critical for the Information Society. Such an environment
provides support for ICT empowerment while eliminating constraints.
and regulatory framework is required to ensure fair competition; to
attract investment; to develop ICT infrastructure, solutions and
applications; to provide tax and other incentives for ICT industry and
investors; to support transfer of technology; to meet the needs, priorities, aspirations of
various stakeholders; to provide
legal infrastructure for intellectual property protection, digital
contracting, privacy and data protection, cybercrime, etc.
How will government provide
leadership and direction? E-governance is for transparency in government operations, improving the quality of
government's service delivery, improving efficiency, accountability,
financial management, information management, reducing
delivery of public services in healthcare, education and environment. It
also affects the
enhancement of government ICT infrastructure, supporting an enabling
environment as mentioned earlier and providing leadership by making ICT
a national priority.
leadership can make the difference between failure and success. A
government that does not appreciate the strategic opportunity provided
by ICT cannot provide the required leadership.
- Development and growth of the ICT industry
How will the policy
facilitate the development of a local ICT industry that will reduce
import dependence and enhance export opportunities? How will the ICT
industry enable employment generation and wealth creation through the
production, manufacturing, development, delivery, and distribution of
ICT products and services?
Policies may encourage
application development providing innovative technological solutions
with relevant local content. How will the ICT industry (Hardware,
Software, Services) contribute to growth of all sectors? Such applications can significant impact
when implemented in national development priority sectors.
- ICT diffusion and
increased ICT literacy
Ignorance is a monster retarding the growth and use of ICT.
Policies will deal with ICT diffusion, and ICT literacy, and awareness
of the benefits
of ICT, the
creation of new economic and social opportunities for poverty
eradication, job creation and empowerment.
- Human resource development
is power. Knowledge creation and the ability to translate ICT skills and
knowledge to the benefit of society are critical. A country's future
is determined by the size and quality of its human capital. ICT skills
are required for empowerment to enhance value and create opportunity
through new technologies. Human capital must be developed through training,
research and capacity building. Organizations such as universities and
institutions of higher learning, research centers, polytechnics and
training centers are affected in this area.
The creative ability needed cannot
be developed with a mindset of "too much downloading and no
uploading". Fundamental ICT skills are needed especially for creative
problem solving and innovative solutions. Through research and development
innovations in technology are encouraged.
- E-business and
deals with policies that should facilitate various aspects of e-business
such as e-payments, e-banking, e-commerce, secure transactions and the
appropriate legislation. How will the rapid development of
business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B) and
business-to-government (B2G) e-business be promoted? The need for
promoting an e-business culture and development of human resources for
e-business are critical. E-business is particularly important for using
ICTs for the promotion and development of Small and Medium size
- Role of the private sector
The private sector plays a vital
role in the establishment of the knowledge economy. Policies should
address how public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives can be
effective. It is particularly important for PPP initiatives to provide,
support and use the information infrastructure, to encourage the deployment
and use of ICTs within the economy and society. The right environment
for the private sector should promote fair competition, opening
up new markets, global opportunities and the delivery of high quality products and services.
- Gender issues
is a need for policies to address the issue of equal access of women to
ICT. How can the specific developmental needs of women be met? How gender sensitive
are the policies?
- Impact analysis
on statistics, what is ICT doing for us? Is it making an impact? Where?
Here to take part in a survey on Nigeria's ICT policy). What are the
important indicators for assessment, decision-making, benchmarks or
reviews? Monitoring the use of ICT and measuring the impact of ICT is
necessary to evaluate the developmental impact of ICT programmes and
ICT policies don't exist in a
vacuum. It's really a question of identifying policies that state how
ICT will facilitate growth and the achievement of development
objectives. Are policies effectively promoting the deployment and use of
ICT to meet national goals and aspirations?
Since ICT development is
multidimensional, a multi-stakeholder approach is required for the
development of ICT policies and strategies - public institutions,
private sector, civil society, academia, ICT industry, consumers, the
public, SMEs must be involved.
A mufti-stakeholder approach ensures such strategies must grounded in
A mufti-stakeholder approach ensures such strategies must grounded in reality.
Furthermore a holistic approach that recognizes and resolves conflicts, overlaps, gaps is needed. This meets the obvious need for close coordination and coherence among ICT-related activities and initiatives
And finally, it is absolutely critical that ICT and the ICT policy is regarded as a priority and mainstreamed into national development programs (strategies, policies and implementation) - it should be based on precise goals and objectives that focus on priority needs and aspirations.
Jide Awe is the Publisher of Jidaw.com
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Sambo from Jos says:
We need real help with our ICT policy. But is the will there?
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