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Strengthening National ICT Policy in Africa: Governance, Equity and Institutional Issues Programme

Program Duration: 2002 – 2005
Program Director: Dr. Osita Ogbu, Former Executive Director, ATPS
Project Coordinator: Prof. Melvin Ayogu, Dean, School of Commerce
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ATPS carried out a program on Strengthening National ICT Policy in Africa: Governance, Equity and Institutional Issues from 2002 – 2005. The program was launched at a pre-study workshop held from 8 to 10 July 2002 in Nairobi, Kenya. The participating countries included Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These countries were selected to reflect regional representation, various stages of Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy formulation, per capita income levels, Internet density and public access as well as the different stages of the public reform process.

This project was motivated by the need to explain the significant gap between the evidently widespread appreciation and acceptance of the social benefits of information technology [IT] in Africa, and the observed pace of dissemination of information communication technology [ICT].  In comparison to its huge expected benefits, the painfully slow dissemination of ICT was found to be undoubtedly troubling and hence warranted serious inquiry. It was also argued that this appreciable gap between the huge expected social benefits and the pace of dissemination was rooted in the lack of enabling policy environment, inconsistency in some countries and complete absence in others.

The ICT program was intended to offer choices to policy makers in the various countries on how to improve policy/legislative and regulatory environment to ensure consistency of policies and to improve ICT access, equity in access and the governance of the sector for better social benefits.

Building Capacity

Many of the countries struggling to establish ICT policies are concerned about capacity to implement those policies as intended. Apparently, there is now a growing appreciation within the policymaking circles that policies are not self-implementing and that concern about implementation has to translate into concrete measures for carrying out the directives. Nigeria has taken the step further in establishing the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency; similarly in Mozambique and Rwanda and in the works in Kenya. South Africa already has one such policy-specific organ on broadcasting, created by the regulator. For broadcasting complaints, cases deemed worthy after investigation, can be escalated by referral to an independent standing committee. This committee established by the Agency under its enabling Act is to ensure compliance and enforcement of the regulations and license conditions in broadcasting. A judge of the Supreme Court in South Africa or such highstanding judicial officer chairs it.

In general, many issues such as what will these policy-specific agencies coordinate, implement, and their relationship with legacy regulators are yet to be fully clarified and understood. Nonetheless, we take a positive attitude to these developments by viewing them as a strong signal that governments are ready to heed suggestions on good governance. One of the factors consistently highlighted across countries is institutional memory. Building and sustaining institutional memory is crucial to ease the incapacitating effects of high turnover of functionaries within the ministries and agencies. Next is the challenge of multi-task, multi-principal agency; having too many goals and too many masters to serve at the same time under severely limited resources. Budgetary allocations are frequently inadequate relative to allocated tasks. The concomitant workload pressure when combined with general inexperience in the agencies, lead to challenges on procedural issues often by way of political interference or judicial review.

A key lesson?

If government is the dominant interest group, then strengthening national ICT policies within the region requires finding ways to make ICT policy a political capital. One of such important steps is to neutralize governments' per se partisanship in ICT regulation. This partisanship is intrinsic in their controlling ownership stakes in business enterprises in the ICT sector. Having a large financial interest in ICT business by governments makes an effective national ICT policy a political liability. Therefore, while admitting that it may not solve all of the problems in the IT sector, privatization of incumbent national carriers in conjunction with capable enforcement apparatus will advance investment in infrastructure and protect the competitive process. Here, Uganda has blazed the trail in privatizing its legacy provider of public switched telephone network (national carrier), and in opening the fixed telephony market to competition by allowing a second national carrier.

Program activities

Regional Studies on Strengthening National ICT Policy in Africa: Governance, Equity and Institutional Issues

A concept paper provided a framework for a research agenda on the governance issues around information communication technologies [ICT] in Africa. The ICT sought to examine the regulatory, equity, access and other governance issues with respect to ICTs which were undertaken in 13 countries in Africa namely: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Each country submitted a proposal guided by the global concept paper. As this was a comparative project, it looked at overarching issues that provide unity in the diversity and was open to arriving at similar conclusions or sharply contrasting views using varied methodologies. The completed individual country case study reports were compiled for further peer review and editing, with a view to having them published

Institutions/Individuals that are received support under the ICT Program

  1. Ethiopia Economic Association/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute (EEA/EEPRI), Ethiopia
  2. Kumasi Institute of Technology and Environment (KITE), Ghana
  3. Kenya Industrial Research & Development Institute (KIRDI), Kenya
  4. Prof. Taïeb Bennani (for SEPTI/Prime Ministry), Morocco
  5. ICT Policy Commission, Mozambique
  6. Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Nigeria
  7. Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management (KIST), Rwanda
  8. Prof. Melvin D. Ayogu, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  9. Tanzania Commission for Science & Technology (COSTECH)
  10. Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST), Uganda
  11. COMDEV Secretariat, Zambia
  12. Institute of Development Studies, Zimbabwe

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