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Ict for policy development

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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. 

Globally the 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).

Policy Objectives

Let's look at what typical ICT policies and strategies should address:

- Development of ICT infrastructure

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.

- Enabling environment

An enabling environment is critical for the Information Society. Such an environment provides support for ICT empowerment while eliminating constraints.

Legal, institutional 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.

- e-government

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 bureaucracy, and 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.

Often 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

Knowledge 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 E-commerce

This 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 Enterprises (SMEs).

- 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

There 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

Based on statistics, what is ICT doing for us? Is it making an impact? Where? (Click 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 projects.

Success?

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 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

Jide Awe is the Publisher of Jidaw.com

(Click Here to take part in a survey on Nigeria's ICT policy).

For more coverage and information related to this topic, Visit Nigeria's Information Technology and Telecommunications Center on the Web:

http://www.jidaw.com/digitalnigeria.html

 

 

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Comments

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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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