Discuss the relevance information policy in africaDocument Transcript
Discuss the relevance information policy in Africa by Patrick Alfred Waluchio OngwenIntroductionThe term "information policy" has been used to refer to policy initiatives that promote the use oftools and concepts associated with the "global information society", with a view to realising theirpotential in achieving national, social and economic development goals (Mansell and Wehn,1998). In many cases, integration of the national economy with the global knowledge-basedeconomy is one of these goals.This means that information policy approaches will differ from country to country. This isreflected in how information policy has developed in Southern Africa, and along with othervariables such as level of economic development and historical context, contributes to thedifficulty in finding replicable common denominators in the regional policy environment.Rowland’s (1996) states that there is no such thing as a single information policy but rather thatpolicies address specific issues, and that effective compromises have to be made betweencompeting interests. Policies should be "flexible, dynamic and responsive to changingcircumstances".Information policy is also not just about information technology. Mansell and Wehn (1998) statethat Good policy with regard to the building of the Information Society must rely not only onsufficient technical and material resources (the networks) and skills, but also be coherent withother societal policies.Rowland’s (1996) also makes the point that information policy not only shapes events (proactiveinformation policy), but also responds to events (reactive information policy). To illustrate, therapid development of e-Commerce in many countries and regions of the world has led todifferent responses from governments. These range from full-blown participative policyprocesses, to implementation strategies involving rapid formulation of legislation toaccommodate digital signatures, changing tax structures, and the security risk surrounding onlinebusiness transactions.
In contrast, proactive policy-making processes can be seen, for example, in the areas of scienceand technology policy, where countries have based their innovation strategies on the need to bemore competitive. This has involved "foresighting" and the development of national goals andpriorities in targeted technologies, and addressing the matching need to develop a suitable skillsbase.Three hierarchical levels for information policy are proposed by Rowland’s (1996):Rowland’s (1996) three hierarchical levels for information policy • Infrastructural Policies would deal with the development of national (or more recently also regional) infrastructures required to support an information society. The absence of infrastructural policies and implementation strategies would make it virtually impossible to deliver on any other vertical or horizontal ICT-related policies. It is thus a prerequisite for progress in other areas. Policy development in Southern Africa reflects this reality in that generally telecommunications policies are the first to be revised, followed by a focus on separate policies in areas such as education, e-Commerce, freedom of information, universal service, etc. • Vertical Information Policies would include sectoral policies such as education, tourism, manufacturing, health, etc. • Horizontal Information Policies refers to those policies that impact on broad aspects of society, e.g. policies relating to freedom of information, tariffs and pricing, and the use of ICTs by government internally and in its relationships with citizens, business, labour, academia, etc.The need for integrating national ICT strategies overlaps with four well-established policy fields:technology, industry, telecommunications and media. Sectoral policies such as education,employment, health, welfare, etc. are increasingly having to address issues relating to ICTs andthe growing interdependence between the development of ICT policies and sectoral policies.Experience to date has shown that, in the absence of an existing national ICT policy, thetendency is towards the creation of sector-dependent policy that addresses only its own ICT
needs. These policies become firmly entrenched within the sector and later attempts to integratethem into a broad all-encompassing ICT policy become difficult.Information and Communication Technology (ICT)ICT is a convergence of microelectronics, computing (hardware and software) andtelecommunications. Modern trends in micro-processors and semiconductors has enable theprocessing and storage of enormous amount of data while integration of fibre optics and fastEthernet technology in networks has facilitated rapid distribution of information throughcommunication networks. Linking computing devices and allowing them to communicate witheach other creates networked information systems based on a common protocol. This hasradically altered access to information and the structure of communication —extending thenetworked reach to many parts of the worldMore simply ICT refer to technologies and tools that people use to share, distribute, gatherinformation, and to communicate with one another, one on one, or in groups, through the use ofcomputers and interconnected computer networks. They are mediums that utilize bothtelecommunication and computer technologies to transmit information – remember that handheld devices like mobile phones are part of ICTCONVERGENCE OF COMPUTERS AND TELECOMMUNICATIONIn contemporary application, international telephone calls are increasingly made through theinternet’s network of networks, and television and radio are broadcast via the internet. TodaysLocal Area Networks must be connected to the internet and secure copies of data (backups) arenow made through the internet rather than onto a local drive. Software, music and video can berented through the internet, sometimes without even requiring a copy on the local computer. Theinternet is accessible through mobile phone networks, which use it to present content to the user,and digital movies will be soon distributed through the internet to cinemas. The list is long andgetting longer by the day ICTs can be grouped into three categories:i) • Information technology uses computers, which have become indispensable in modernsocieties to process data and save time and effortii) Telecommunications technologies include telephones (with fax) and the broadcasting ofradio and television, often through satellites
iii) Networking technologies, of which the best known is the internet, but which has extended tomobile phone technology, Voice Over IP telephony (VOIP), satellite communications, and otherforms of communication that are still in their infancy.A dependable information system is essential for efficient management and operation of thepublic and private sectors. But there is a shortage of locally generated information needed forefficient performance of these sectors. In order to meet this objective, ICT use in every sectorshall have to be accelerated in terms in terms of information generation, utilization andapplications. But this can only be realized if there are procedures put in place to facilitateadoption of relevant ICTs in every sector of the economy. This therefore calls for need offormulation of ICT policies both in organizational level and national level. In my presentation, Iwill look at National ICT policies and specifically do an evaluation of our national ICT policy.INTRODUCTION TO ICT POLICYKen (1998) defines a policy as a set of decisions which are oriented towards a long-term purposeor to a particular problem. Such decisions by governments are often embodied in legislation andusually apply to a country as a whole rather than to one part of it. While The Web Dictionarydefines and ICT policy as:“The rules and regulations set by the organization. Policy determines the type of internal andexternal information resources employees can access, the kinds of programs they may install ontheir own computers as well as their authority for reserving network resources. Policy is alsorelated to network quality of service (QoS), because it can define priorities by user, workgroupor application with regard to reserving network bandwidth”BENEFITS OF POLICIES IN GENERALi) Help save timeii) Help prevent managerial mistakesiii) Improve consistency of decision makingiv) Focus decisions towards our business goalsQUALITIES OF A GOOD POLICYi) Support and be consistent with organizational strategies, objectives
ii) Practical and directly relevant to the businessiii) Be reviewed frequently and amended as needediv) Limit discretion of managers/employeesv) Precise, easy to understand and applyvi) Be in writingvii) Be applied and enforcedviii) Cascaded and interpreted to the lowest levelix) Effective in meeting security requirementsx) Must involve all key personnelNATIONAL ICT POLICIESA national ICT policy sets out the nation’s aims, principles and strategies for the delivery ofInformation and Communications Technology. If technology and industry are coming togetheraround the internet, governments that decide policy and regulate industry must recognize thisfact and adapt their policy-making accordingly.For examplei) There is no point in regulating traditional broadcasting in the usual way if it is being replacedby internet broadcasting which follows a different set of rules.ii) The notion of intellectual property and copyright changes when all information is digital andcan be freely copied and transported. For example, legislation about recorded music must takethis into account.iii) Other questions arise: How should workers’ rights to privacy in the workplace be regarded inthe context of email and the World Wide Web?iv) What will it mean to regulate telephone call costs when the ability to call via the internet at amuch reduced rate becomes generalized?OBJECTIVES OF AN ICT POLICYThe UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific further goes on to list thefollowing as common objectives of ICT policies aspirations to meet:i) Increasing the benefits from information technologyii) Helping people and organizations to adapt to new circumstances and providing tools andmodels to respond rationally to challenges posed by ICT
iii) Providing information and communication facilities, services and management at aiv) Improving the quality of services and productsv) Encouraging innovations in technology development, use of technology and general workflowsvi) Promoting information sharing, transparency and accountability and reducing bureaucracywithin and between organizations, and towards the public at largevii) Identifying priority areas for ICT development (areas that will have the greatest positiveimpact on programs, services and customers)viii) Providing citizens with a chance to access information; they may further specify theand so onix) Attaining a specified minimum level of information technology resources for educationalinstitutions and government agenciesx) Supporting the concept of lifelong learningxi) Providing individuals and organizations with a minimum level of ICT knowledge, and theability to keep it up to datexii) Helping to understand information technology, its development and its cross disciplinaryimpact