Thursday, March 15, 2007

Challenges of of ICT utilisation in Africa

By Brenda Zulu
Promoting ICT utilisation in all sectors of economy is a standard prescription now for economic growth and is not a panacea either.

When reviewing the draft technical publication commissioned by UNECA with the view to improving the publication but most importantly bringing in new perspectives on the “The Role of Development Information in the Economy,” the Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting (AEGM) held in Lusaka on March 12-13, 2007 also looked at the challenges that Africa faces in promoting ICT utilisation.

It was seen that utilisation was supposed to be coupled with a package of e-readness that necessitates the formation of critical mass of ICTs applications in the economy. There was also need to create an enabling environment for ICTs in order to extend and reach the majority of African countries. At national level the promotion and facilitation of the adoption of ICTs by the local business community should be encouraged.

Challenges noticed by the AEGM included those faced by the African private sector, especially SMSs which include the use of ICTs for business development, aspects such as awareness, skills-building, access to finance for investment in ICTs and obstacles associated with the utilisation of online payments facilities.

These challenges also include the limited avaialability of infrastructure especially telecommunication networks and services, which required development and expanssion. An OECD study reitrated that the rollout and use of quality and affordable services should be available and affordable to individuals and business as a prerequist to their entry into the information society. The infrastructural development includes not only physical but also legal, technical and commercial aspects so as to create a sustainable and reliable environment to create and disseminate infromation. The high costs of teclecommunciations services could also be reduced by the development of an Africa satellite.

Financing the development of the infrastructure and ICT initiavities needs extensive efforts not only to extend and develop the existing infrastructure but also to maintain and upgrade the same considering the dynamism in the sector. The basic infrastructure development and maintenance is typically a capital expensive exercise. Cooperation and partnership with international organisations and private sector investors was necessary especially in the development phases. It was of paramount importance that governements played proactive roles in creating a conducive environment for various financing mechanism.

Enabling ICT policy frameworks were a must in shaping economic growth, productivity, employment and business performance as well as ensuring that benefits were widely shared. This called for the adoption of strategies for developing dynamic and coordinated national ICT policies, standards and guildlines and crafting investment incentives. The strategies could also target universal access policies and models at the national level, institutional collaboration and harmonisations at sub regional level.

Legal and regulatory frameworks need to be conducive to sustainable ‘multi-stakeholders’ partnership promote competition. Local and foreign direct investment in ICT, are required as a result of the recocognition that now one sector on its won could overcome the challenges of harnessing information for socio-economic development. The framework should also address the management of interlectual property rights.

It was clear that promoting regional intergration would create a market and help attarct investments. Improving information flow and communication on statistical activities in Africa by increasing the use of ICTs and publishing Regional Statistical Newsletter, among other technical publications, would be a starting point. Harmonisation would assist in bridging varying legislative, legal policy frameworks to provide for cross jurisdictional acceptance of authention service and for legal effect of electronic signatures in the case of e-commerce and environmental concerns.

Human capital was another key policy area in the infroamtion economy as new types of workforces were required for innovation and growth. It has beoame necessary therefore to monitor the supply, demand and development of ICT skills and human resources. This is of paramount importance especially bearing in mind that unlike the cureent technological revolution in India, our societital organisational ability to adapt to new technologies could not keep up with the pace at which the technology was introduced. Similary, It would be necessary to develop targeted curicular and tarining gered towards Africa needs and capacities.


It is also a challenge to asses the precise economic impacts and identify startegies to build individual and intitutional capacity to meet new and emerging challenges of the information economy. The analyis and assesment should take into account gender perspectives and how information impacts on gender specif issues.

There is need for Africa to encourage local content creation through strentherning digital and virtual libraries with a view to responding to data needs emerging from new development farmeworks and initiatives such as the New Partnerships for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Poverty Reduction Startegy Papers (PRSPs) and the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). For instance, the Business Process Outsourcing could be harnessed given the terends of increased outsourcing.

The private sector has played a big role in terms of industrialisation, trade and even as an infrastructure investor. It could be facilitated through the establishment of technoparks and incubators. The private sector also appreciates the political stablibility and commitment to agreed engagements as a strong ICT industry sector is a driving force for the information economy.

Important in the information society are ICT security, privacy and confidentiality related issues. These requirements should be included in policies when the enabling environment is created while at the same time create public confindenece and trust for e-society, information tarnsperacy and process openness should be balanced with the needs for information security and privacy.

Libraries should not charge for Internet Access?

By Brenda Zulu

“A library will not charge for internet access if the library core duty is to serve and provide access to information and knowledge for economic development,” said Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)Abraham Azubuike Chief Librarian If it does charge then it will be minimal amount that could be used to service computers.

Speaking during the Ad hoc expert group meeting on the role of Development Information in the economy Abraham Azubuike from UNECA secretariat presented Issues and Policy Dimensions Related to knowledge which libraries and information services was a sine qua non for sustainable economic.

It was clear from his presentation that no libraries meant failed education from poor learning, more ignorance, no innovation, no capacity and no development. He explained that adequately resourced libraries: catalysts add value and save cost up to 8.5 folds and that it harnesses information and knowledge for empowerment, productivity and discovery. He added that Libraries were Intellectual capital invested for long-term gains for all, bridging digital and knowledge divides along with economic divide.

He observed that effective libraries are very critical in ensuring the achievement of regional and global development strategies such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but the quality of library service available to the average African is grossly inadequate, ranging from barely adequate in to woefully deficient.

“Our libraries are in shambles and in Africa we must catch up because the idea of leap frogging can’t happen,” he said.

He added that the recommendations of WSIS provide a clear blueprint for future steps to be taken to revamp the library sector to enable it provide effective access to information and knowledge for development.

Responding to a question on the importance of local language documentation of libraries, Azubuike said it was very relevant to Africa because it would increase access to information.

He added that it was also very important to promote entrepreneurship in ICT technology in software development. He observed that there was lack of creativity among Information Technology (IT) experts in that African users are just using what is made available to them and that there was need for Technology developers to think out of the box.

Thabsile Mlangeni from MOF said it was important to convert information to knowledge and that there was need to instil a culture of reading in people. She observed that Africans do not read and that the bottom line was education.

Jennifer Kargbo, Director ECA Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa in an attempt to answer a question on patented information and if there was a limit as to it being a public good said that in a sense of information being a public good, some you pay for it and other is free as long as one acknowledges the source.

Azubuike observed that secrecy was the worst destroyer of knowledge and said that were there is a rule to publisher what you know it is either the second person will acknowledge you or pay you if it has a commercial value. On intellectual property and open source technology he observed that there was need to ensure efficient knowledge based development through maintenance of optimum balance between private appropriation of innovation and assurance that fundamental knowledge was made available freely for further innovation and discovery.

Southern African Research and Documentation Center (SARDC) Head of Programme, Barbara Lopi observed that many Africans do not access Libraries because of their poor state and poor service to their communities.

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) Economic Dimensions Programme Manager Jack Jones Zulu added that Africa still have to solve the problem of food security at household level if the children have to develop the culture of reading.

University of Swaziland, Senior Librarian Marion Chibambo said the Libraries should implement programmes that will instil the reading culture target programmes right from primary school. She observed that right now people were only reading to pass exams.

Azubuike observed that Africa had double negatives in that it does not have enough resources and that the few that are there are not used. Is Africa on the wrong gear or reverse gear? asked Azubuike.

He explained that information revolution was creating the benefits of externalities that are borderless in their effect. He wondered weather Africa could achieve the MDGs without changing its attitude. Looking at the educational goal on the MDGs, he said “Schools without Libraries were worse than no schools.”

He advised governments to take up action on the rrights-based access to information, knowledge and ICT as public goods through the provision of community access points.
This includes creation of digital public library and archive services, as well as digitization, and long-term preservation of intellectual and cultural goods.

ICT increase to improve statistical dissemination

By Brenda Zulu

There should be better information flow and communication on statistical activities in Africa by increasing the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and publishing regional statistical newsletters and other technical publications so as to avoid duplication of efforts.

Presenting a paper on the Role of statistical information in the economy at the Ad hoc expert group meeting held in Lusaka from 12 to 13 March 2007, Bakary Dosso of the African Center for Statistics (ACS) based at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, said one key reason for a lack of progress in statistical development was that past efforts had been undertaken in an uncoordinated and unsustainable way.

“African countries should be encouraged to participate in the work of the United Nations Statistical Commission coordination meetings on statistical development in Africa at all levels and in the work of various task forces and workshops on statistical development,” said Dosso.

Responding to a question on who should be trusted to be giving real statistics as there are many efforts institutions and agencies involved in statistical development work in Africa, Dossa said it was crucial that their efforts were coordinated in order to achieve synergy and avoid working as cross purposes.

He observed that there was lack of coordination and a collaborative framework as stakeholders do not coordinate, network and share enough information at national, sub regional and regional levels as those delivering National Statistical System (NSS) should promote coordination and synergy among institutions involved in statistical activities.

He explained that a component aimed at promoting coordination of statistical development and a number of activities to generate the most impact would include among others partnership building for implementation of Reference Regional Strategic Framework for Statistical capacity building in Africa (RRSF) and National Strategies for Development of Statistics (NSDS).

He admitted that there were many issues and challenges to develop capacity for good official statistics in Africa and that tackling them would be according to priorities. He explained that there was a weak political commitment to statistical production especially at national level with the National Statistical Offices (NSOs) often relegated low status in government hierarchies.

He added that weak institutional capacities including limited human and other resources to produce statistics, limited responses to the increase in demand for statistics needed to inform national and international development agenda and the inability to comply with current conceptual frameworks such as the 1993 System of National Accounts (1993 SNA) were all Africa’s challenges.

He said that demand for statistics in Africa had seen unprecedented increase as Policy makers and others sought to be informed on national and international development progress in the current and previous decades.

He said good official statistics were characterised by their quality, accessibility and efficiency as well as weather they were up to date. “How well they met the needs of the users was the main criterion to judge weather they were good or not,” said Dossa.

Initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Poverty reduction strategy (PRSs) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) increased massively the demand for statistics. Statistics were used to design national development strategies and monitoring progress towards the MDGs and so wider variety of social statistics were needed.

ICT enabled services increase new opportunities for business in Africa

By Brenda Zulu

Information communication technologies (ICTs) have increased during the past few years and the supply in that is already creating many new opportunities led by the spill over effects of ICT.

A United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) draft technical report on the “Role of Development information in African Economies” reviewed in Lusaka on March 12- 13, 2007, shows that ICT enabled services include faster production, diffusion and sharing of knowledge, faster pace of innovation, and changes in business models and increased investments in human capital.

It explains that the powerful presence the internet is providing the impetus for online transactions and current revolutionary transformations in business processes are embodied in the advert of e-commerce presenting a new model for trade and business. Economic transaction of business has redefined the concepts of market seller and buyers, as they all converge in the electronic space namely, the internet.

These developments present African countries with unprecedented opportunities for increasing economic development in the creation of new industries, rural development and tourism promotion.

Over the past five years, the dynamic growth of the internet, e-commerce and e-business has continued, with the total worldwide e-business market reaching $1.7 trillion in 2004. The process of economy wide innovations, driven by supply chain transactions, accordingly, has widened and intensified in every major economy.

The vibrant in Africa has led to conducting of business phones, paving the way for commerce which is mobile commerce or mobile electronic means of selling goods and electronic mobile a future in Africa. The nature of African mobile markets has led to innovative ways using the mobile for m-commerce. M-commerce which is the buying services through devices and has cash-centric societies based on a mixture of formal and non formal economies has provided the upsurge of m-commerce on the continent. Approximately 0.03% of Africans own bank accounts compared to 6% of Africans who have access to mobile telephony.

Even though the number of phones per 100 people in poor countries is much lower than in the developed world, they can have a dramatic impact: reducing transaction costs, broadening trade networks and reducing the need to travel, which is of particular value for people looking at work. In Africa mobile technology is the greatest with the greatest impact on development and can reduce transaction costs, broaden trade networks and substitute for costly physical transport. In addition, subscriber growth in several sub Saharan African countries exceeded 150% last year and there are now eight mobile phone for every 100 people in Africa, up from three in 2003.

In this increasingly global ICT driven market place, low-end data processing jobs were being gradually migrated to low wage countries, Based on current estimates, the offshore outsourcing market would likely balloon to about $35 billion by 2008.

Business process outsourcing was becoming a key generator of employment in countries such as Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia. However, in this sector, which relies heavily on the outsourcing of activities from North to the South, wages were relatively low and more importantly, there was a high degree of dependence on the market of intermediate agents. As a result, there is a real risk of such activities disappearing overnight as a consequence of their market of their transfer to other countries that offered better comparative advantages or an appropriate legal and regulatory environment.

Elsewhere in Africa, Ghana, Uganda, Senegal and South Africa are becoming increasingly popular destinations and inward investments are getting bigger and bolder. Affiliated Computer Services, a Dallas Headquartered outsourcing company, for example, is building a new data input center in Accra, Ghana that will employ 2000 workers.

ICTs have also served the community by providing the poorest population segments with improved access to information. In the transport sector which is the world’s largest and most pervasive industries, the travel and tourism sector was as exposed as any other to forces of change and attendant benefits that were being brought about by ongoing developments in the ICT arena.

The internet has been used to provide multimedia information about destinations to prospective traveller. It also affected auxiliary industries such as the transport sector which play a bigger role in tourism. The International Air transport Association (IATA), an industry body coordinating aviation rules and standards, had commenced introducing e-tickets whose issuance costs $1 and compared to $10 for a paper ticket. This was the industry could serve over $2.7 billion a year.

One of the key challenges facing many African countries was how they could introduce ICTs to enhance government efficiency. E-government included electronic interaction of three types: government to government (G2G); government to business (G2B) and its reverse and also government to consumer or citizen (G2C) and its reverse. Many rural people in Africa still travel long distance to look for services such as application for licences, birth and death certificates, obtaining public records or requesting for information on land, health and agriculture prices e.t.c

The availability of accessible e-Government services could reduce this greater access to government information, promoting civic engagement by enabling the public to interact with Government officials ensuring government accountability by making it’s operations more transparent and thus reducing the opportunities for corruption and delivering services online, saving time and reducing costs thus benefiting rural and traditionally underserved communities.

An example of e-government would be the Cameroon Single Processing Window for external trade which was launched in August 2000 as a project aimed at primarily reducing the processing time and improving service quality at Douala port. This two phased project cost about US1.5million. The first phase consisted of establishing a physical one stop office for all customs related services at Douala port. The various actors of foreign trade were such as the Douala port, banks, customs and national treasury that were dispersed in the city were successfully housed in one office.

The challenge of the second phase was to computerise the activities of the one stop office. In particular, the government wanted to ensure that the computer links between the tax and the customs information systems were operational, so as to facilitate the exchange of data between the two information systems were operations, so as to facilitate the exchange of data between the two information systems.

After the three year operation, The Cameroon’s single processing window for external trade had yielded some positive results. Although there had been no particular increase in trade so far at Douala port, the system had significantly curtailed time costs. Post authorities reported that overall import and export operations typically took 15 days prior to computerisation. By 2001, this had been reduced to three days and to two days by 2002. Processing time reductions were experienced in the areas of customs service reports, revenue collections and banking.

Commitment to promoting access and use is ICTs is a key ingredient to successful development. The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development report of 1997 concluded that developing countries needed to intervene strategically if they were to successfully integrate ICTs and sustainable development. This intervention should be in forma of effective national ICT policies, which should support the introduction of the new regulatory framework, promote the organisational change in line with development goals. ICT strategies need and policies linked to development objectives needed to redefine sectoral policies, institutions and regulations, taking into account the need to be responsive to the issues of convergence.

ICTs allow faster distribution and sharing of knowledge

By Brenda Zulu

The fact that Africa lags behind the Digital Divide makes clear the need to focus on development information as a first priority as new technologies allow for a faster distribution and sharing of knowledge.

Director Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Sub regional Office for Southern Africa, Jennifer Kargbo said that Development Information was an important driver of modern economy when she opened a session of the Ad-hoc Expert Group Meeting on the “Role of Development Information in the Economy” in Lusaka, Zambia on 12th March 2007.

She said Development Information was an important driver of modern economy and that it was strategic for development and planning, policy making and underpins innovation and creativity across the whole spectrum of the economy by acting as the main driver of production growth in modern economy.

She explained that Development Information also helps in understanding challenges such as population growth, unemployment as well the threats and opportunities presented by liberalisation and globalisation. She added that the emerging knowledge economy was information based and heavily dependent on labour force with ICT skills.

She outlined the challenges posed by an inefficient information system in Africa which included the challenge of politics involving control over information. While all governments see it in their interest to provide services, information, information on the quantity and quality of such services like number of schools, and hospitals, state of road networks, which might expose governments effectiveness are usually not sufficiently given adequate attention.

Kargbo also observed awareness as a challenge in harnessing development information for economic growth requires awareness raising and constituency building across all actors’ producers, facilitators, clearing houses and users alike.

She added the challenge of access to the application of information technology becomes very important.

Also the challenge of relevant Development Information and meaningful use the challenge was to produce relevant information. She observed that the supply of information sectors, agriculture with a resource allocated for the address the downstream socio economic effects of these on the economy.

Kargbo also added the challenge posed by technological limitations and weak human and institutional capacities. The state of many of Africa’s library was among the users of information for enabling and empowering.

The other challenge was that of coordination among the various Development Information actors involved in producing facilitating information sharing and exchange as well as among the users of information for enabling and empowering.

The objective of the meeting was to review the draft Technical Publication commissioned by UNECA with a view to improving the publication but most importantly bringing in new perspectives on the Role of Development Information in the Economy.

Geo information perspective on the role of development information in economy

By Brenda Zulu
The promotion of information communication technologies (ICTs) should not be a substitute for the efforts to ensure the development and modernisation of basic sectors of the economy, but should compliment and enhance these efforts.

The potential of ICTs to foster sustainable development, empower people, including women and youth, build their capacities and skills, assist small and medium sized enterprises reduce poverty, reinforce popular participation and enhance informed decision making at all levels was enormous.

Presenting a Geoinformation perspective to the Role of Development Information in African Economies, Andre Nonguierma a Geographic Information Systems Officer from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said in Lusaka on March 12, 2007 to the Ad hoc expect meeting that this required concerted efforts at national, regional and international levels to create conducive environment for the development, deployment and exploitation of ICTs within the economy and society.

“In this content special attention should be paid to those countries that lack the capacity to effectively participate in the Information Society.”

Nonguirma said Geoinformation was becoming known worldwide as an Information Development tool in the economy of which it is now a critical factor of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, as well as the management of natural resources, labour, capital and entrepreneurship.

He explained that Geoinfromation was an advanced technology which had recently gained visibility particularly in developing countries and that in the information systems for Africa, it goes beyond the cover of priority areas such as environment monitoring, water resource management and optimal site planning of human development, in particular industrialisation.

He added that satellite remote sensing has become a common tool of investigation, prediction and forecast of environmental change and scenarios through the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based models and decision support instruments that have further enhanced and considerably supported decision making as part of information development. He explained that with the advert of new high spatial and spectral resolution satellite and aircraft imaginary, new applications for processing mapping and accurate monitoring of statistical of a considerable amount data analysis have become feasible.

He said the integration of multi-source geo-referenced spatial data within a real spatial database, allows a synergistic processing of a considerable amount of information, the standardisation of data and elaboration of digital maps that are the basis of decision making.

He explained that the geo information in economy development have influenced decision support systems strongly in evaluating alternatives to enhance decisions and to achieve specific objectives. He added that Geo information technologies enable the collection and processing of land related data efficiently, rapidly and cost effectively using global positioning systems, computer mapping, remote sensing and GIS making it possible to relate economic and development decisions to specific locations or markets.

He observed that today there is an increase awareness of African governments and other sectors of society on importance of Geoinformation in socio-economic development as a tool to facilitate spatial data collection, access and use in the decision making process, both nationally and regularly, through a participatory approach. Emphasis is therefore placed on the whole structure for the acquisition, management and use of spatial data and not only on the technology.

He pointed out that the main geoinformation technology components consist of hard and sort wares. Global Positioning System (GPS), Total station, photogrammetric workstations, satellite imagery, and software packages that are capable of integrating spatial and non spatial data to yield the spatial information that is used in decision making. They are computer based equipment, procedures and techniques for manipulating spatial or map data.

He explained that the role of government was to provide basic infrastructure for achieving up to date Geoinformation on the nations land area, including these surface and bottom and the relative positions, nature and status of all her natural and marine resources. He advised governments to set up a national mapping agency, create national topographical databases and fund surveying and mapping in accordance with the United Nations’ of which they are signatories, that each member nation should set aside 2% of its annual budget for surveying and mapping.

He pointed out that e-Government introduces applications to support various dimensions and ramifications of government and has the delivery of public services, where there is an online, Internet-based, or electronic aspect to the delivery of the services.

Challenges include a major imperative in each African country to deliver relevant information that could promote and sustain economic growth and wide dissemination of data to collection to help facilitate better government as comminities have access to location and getting involved in decisions affecting them.

Geo information perspective on the role of development information in economy

By Brenda Zulu
The promotion of information communication technologies (ICTs) should not be a substitute for the efforts to ensure the development and modernisation of basic sectors of the economy, but should compliment and enhance these efforts.

The potential of ICTs to foster sustainable development, empower people, including women and youth, build their capacities and skills, assist small and medium sized enterprises reduce poverty, reinforce popular participation and enhance informed decision making at all levels was enormous.

Presenting a Geoinformation perspective to the Role of Development Information in African Economies, Andre Nonguierma a Geographic Information Systems Officer from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said in Lusaka on March 12, 2007 to the Ad hoc expect meeting that this required concerted efforts at national, regional and international levels to create conducive environment for the development, deployment and exploitation of ICTs within the economy and society.

“In this content special attention should be paid to those countries that lack the capacity to effectively participate in the Information Society.”

Nonguirma said Geoinformation was becoming known worldwide as an Information Development tool in the economy of which it is now a critical factor of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, as well as the management of natural resources, labour, capital and entrepreneurship.

He explained that Geoinfromation was an advanced technology which had recently gained visibility particularly in developing countries and that in the information systems for Africa, it goes beyond the cover of priority areas such as environment monitoring, water resource management and optimal site planning of human development, in particular industrialisation.

He added that satellite remote sensing has become a common tool of investigation, prediction and forecast of environmental change and scenarios through the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based models and decision support instruments that have further enhanced and considerably supported decision making as part of information development. He explained that with the advert of new high spatial and spectral resolution satellite and aircraft imaginary, new applications for processing mapping and accurate monitoring of statistical of a considerable amount data analysis have become feasible.

He said the integration of multi-source geo-referenced spatial data within a real spatial database, allows a synergistic processing of a considerable amount of information, the standardisation of data and elaboration of digital maps that are the basis of decision making.

He explained that the geo information in economy development have influenced decision support systems strongly in evaluating alternatives to enhance decisions and to achieve specific objectives. He added that Geo information technologies enable the collection and processing of land related data efficiently, rapidly and cost effectively using global positioning systems, computer mapping, remote sensing and GIS making it possible to relate economic and development decisions to specific locations or markets.

He observed that today there is an increase awareness of African governments and other sectors of society on importance of Geoinformation in socio-economic development as a tool to facilitate spatial data collection, access and use in the decision making process, both nationally and regularly, through a participatory approach. Emphasis is therefore placed on the whole structure for the acquisition, management and use of spatial data and not only on the technology.

He pointed out that the main geoinformation technology components consist of hard and sort wares. Global Positioning System (GPS), Total station, photogrammetric workstations, satellite imagery, and software packages that are capable of integrating spatial and non spatial data to yield the spatial information that is used in decision making. They are computer based equipment, procedures and techniques for manipulating spatial or map data.

He explained that the role of government was to provide basic infrastructure for achieving up to date Geoinformation on the nations land area, including these surface and bottom and the relative positions, nature and status of all her natural and marine resources. He advised governments to set up a national mapping agency, create national topographical databases and fund surveying and mapping in accordance with the United Nations’ of which they are signatories, that each member nation should set aside 2% of its annual budget for surveying and mapping.

He pointed out that e-Government introduces applications to support various dimensions and ramifications of government and has the delivery of public services, where there is an online, Internet-based, or electronic aspect to the delivery of the services.

Challenges include a major imperative in each African country to deliver relevant information that could promote and sustain economic growth and wide dissemination of data to collection to help facilitate better government as comminities have access to location and getting involved in decisions affecting them.

Regional policies for sub-regional integration and economies of scale

By Brenda Zulu

The Southern Afric Development Community (SADC) has made considerable progress in supporting Member states in their efforts to liberalize their information coammunication technology (ICT) sector as specified in the SADC protocol on Transport and Communications.

In reviewing the draft technical publication commissioned by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) with the view to improving the publication but most importantly bringing in new perspectives on the “The Role of Development Information in the Economy,” the Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting (AEGM) held in Lusaka on March 12-13, 2007 also looked at regional Policies for sub regional integration and economies.

With respect to SADC sub region, ICT activities include a number of initiatives, one which includes the adoption of a SADC protocol on Education and training that promotes the use of ICTs in curriculum development and teaching and learning.

Another is the SADC Protocol on Transport, communication and Meteorology, which focuses on the creation of reliable infrastructures in transport and communications to speed up development and facilitate trade among member states. The protocol itself is a commitment by member states to embark on fundamental transport and communications sectors.

The Southern Africa Transport and communications Commission (SATCC) Model regulatory Framework for Telecommunications (1998) paved the way for enabling regulatory framework in the regulatory framework in the region and for the creation of the Telecommunications Regulatory Association of Southern Africa (TRASA) to promote regulatory harmonisation in the region.

TRASA has developed a model telecommunications bill and guidelines on universal access and service, licensing, fair competition wholesale pricing and interconnection. It also has Tariffs and a frequency band plan for the 2.0MHz-30.1GHZ range and guidelines in the area of wireless and satellite regulation are currently under development. There is also a partnership with NetTel@Africa and an e-learning platform for training regulators in aspects ranging from ICT applications to management.

Realising that borders do not limit the diffusion of ICTs, it becomes important that region e-strategies are undertaken in such a way that they link and are compatible to national e-strategies. Therefore, the Regional Information and Communication Infrastructure (RICI) is a framework for harmonising national strategies at the sub-regional levels by Regional Economic Communities. This is consistent with regional economic integration goals in the area of ICTs. The RICI addresses regional communication policy, financing and regulatory issues in a way that provides an impetus for strengthening capacity at sub regional level in ICT for development whilst also building a critical mass to facilitate regional economic integration through ICTs.

Regulatory integration at the regional level would create and strengthen the community and associations of regulators to facilitate cross-border interaction and market enlargement. A key component of the harmonisations process at sub regional could be an Economic Policy establishing common tariffs for ICT products and services across borders. It could also offer a potential for costs sharing in executing joint projects at sub regional and regional levels, particularly the financing and strengthening of sub regional and regional backbones to enhance connectivity in the region.

The ECA has been working with Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa
(COMESA) in the formulation of an ICT strategy through a broad participatory process. COMESA had initiated programmes to harmonise ICT policies in the regional as a basis for creating larger markets to attract foreign investment to the region. It had adopted a drafted Model ICT policy, which drew heavily on the SAD experiences. An Association of Regulators of Information and Communication in Central and Eastern Africa (ARICEA) has been established to stimulate regulatory harmonisation based on the experiences of TRASA.

An important undertaking should be a study of ICT policies in the member states.