This book presents the context, theory, and current thinking on the interaction between ICTs and local governance, particularly in Africa. November 2007.
Sub-Saharan Africa consists of thirty-four of the fifty least developing countries and fourteen of the thirty-two landlocked countries that are confronted with the most daunting economic, social and political challenges .
Despite progress in expanding the reach of basic and new ICT services and applications in African countries, the majority of the population still does not have access to telephone service, computers and the Internet. Moreover, there is a wide and uneven disparity along the fault lines of social inequality such as socio-economic status, age, gender, geographic location and ethnicity.
Bilateral and multilateral agencies, the United Nations bodies and foundations have played a key role in advancing the diffusion of ICT in the region and fostering enabling environment for the participation of the private sector in the delivery of services. However, despite optimism about the capacity of the private sector and direct foreign investment in the ICT, the outcomes of privatisation and liberalization have not been that successful in Africa.
The large flows of private investment have benefited only a handful countries such as South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco where infrastructure has well-developed already. Furthermore, privatisation did not lead to automatic increase of the number of users or bring the costs of access down, while the imposition of free-market conditions onto the inequitable conditions in the region has simply reinforced the iniquitous status quo and in some cases led to transfer from public monopoly to private one.
Although competitive markets represent one of the alternative options to promote universal service, there has always been a large segment of the African population whose needs was not met by markets. Africa has the largest segment of the population that is below the poverty line and with weak purchasing power whose needs should be met by alternative financing mechanisms that extend beyond the borders of the market.
Two main alternatives have been considered to bridge the access gaps: The Digital Solidarity Fund and the Global Public Goods framework. The first proposal was made by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal during the first phase of World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the Fund was established as a legal foundation in Geneva securing contributions from cities and local authorities. While the enthusiasm is high particularly at the level of key regional organizations and some countries, there is growing uncertainty about a long-term "charity-based" strategy for ICT development.
On the other hand, the global public goods approach has become an important and an alternative framework for justification for financing mechanisms that go beyond what the market supplies. It argues that extending access to the Information Society in developing countries is a global public good that benefits everyone because of the value of network externalities. In other words, since the global economy runs on global information networks to create a global marketplace, the private sector in developed countries stands to benefit from the extension of ICTs in developing countries and should help pay for ICT for development as a global public good.
ICT development in Africa also faces other constraints apart from lack of access. For example, unresolved problems of governance and injustice at the local levels and the dynamics of the global economic systems seriously hinder any effective ICT policy implementation.
Likewise, African countries' participation in global governance issues and their access to trade and debt relief are critical for their improved participation in information society. Financing the mainstreaming of ICTs in health and education will make sense only accompanied by policies that ensure new and additional resources and if the problem of the debt burden, which makes it virtually impossible for African governments to maintain adequate programmes of public education and health, are seriousy addressed.
For this reason, the discourse on financing ICT for development following the WSIS process should therefore encompass frank evaluation of the impediments associated with local governance, the global trade regime and the broader debates on debt relief.
Based on the paper "Financing ICTs for development with focus on poverty" by Lishan Adam
This paper presents a scenario in which education is approaching a potential tipping point, where major changes are about to happen as a result of developments in technology, social networking, deeper understanding of educational process, as well as new legal and economic frames of reference. The set of changes constitute what we refer to as Education 3.0, and it impacts on the roles and behavior of key stakeholders. The scenario we describe suggests that Africa can shape these changes to benefit its own development, but that if it fails to do so, it will be left behind and will end up impacted negatively by the changes that are inevitable. March 2007
According to the author, a variety of factors are responsible for the lack of acess to bandwith in Africa, but the biggest cause is the high cost of international connections to the global telecommunication backbones. This is mainly the result of the lack of international optic fibre infrastructure, which is necessary to deliver sufficient volumes of low-cost bandwidth, and the consequent dependency on much more expensive satellite bandwidth. PDF format.
Currently Africa has amongst the highest international bandwidth costs anywhere in the world. Although it varies, the international element of the cost to the consumer is significant proportion of the overall cost he or she pays. The same is true for institutional users like Governments or for companies in the private sector.
Addressing the needs of the poor is an intrinsically decentralized and contextual exercise that requires innovative and distributed financing. A systematic effort to understand the needs of poor, their social and political context and the constraints placed on them due to lack of ICTs would make ICTs more meaningful to those who need information and knowledge the most; identify innovative approaches for making provisions for those who cannot afford access to them and reduce wasteful expenditure, by avoiding transplanting applications that worked in developed countries to the contexts of poor regions. PDF document.
The Information Technology Centre for Africa (ITCA) is an information and communication technology (ICT) focused exhibition and learning centre to demonstrate to African policy makers and planners the value of ICT for development.
Affordable access and the skills to utilise increasingly advanced but essential services remain the central public interest issues for regulators in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Pdf document.
This paper considers the role that ICTs can realistically be expected to play in improving the level of living and quality of life of people in different parts of the world. It focuses above all on low-income countries, where most development assistance efforts are concentrated and where the challenge of utilizing ICTs effectively is greatest.
ICTs can play a key role in development and poverty reduction. ICTs can help promote economic growth, expand economic and social opportunity, make institutions and markets more efficient and responsive, and make it easier for the poor to obtain access to resources and services. PDF document.
The African Regional Preparatory Conference for the WSIS, in Accra, with the theme “Access – Africa’s key to an inclusive Information Society” was aimed at prepararing Africa for an effective participation in the second phase of the WSIS and to ensure a strategic and interdependent digital partnership that would promote economic growth and human development of the continent.
This paper presents a review of African participation in the first phase WSIS process. It is not intended as a comprehensive analysis, but to stimulate discussion about ways in which African participation - particularly that of African civil society - can be more effectively structured during the second phase of the summit. PDF document
The Plan of Action adopted at the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva 2003 requested the Secretary General of the United Nations to create a Task Force to study the issue of financial mechanisms for ICT for Development (ICTD) and present a report to facilitate discussions in the second phase of WSIS. This is the African perspective of the report.
When the first phase of the WSIS failed to make a firm commitment with regard to new financial mechanisms for ICT development in the South, the mayors of Lyon and Geneva joined with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade commited 1 million euros to launch the a DSF themselves. This fund is sustained through the voluntary commitment of public authorities and/or private entities who decide to implement the “Geneva Principle”, which involves a 1% contribution on public ICT procurement contracts, paid by the vendor on his profit margin.
The Acacia initiative is an international program to empower sub-Saharan
communities with the ability to apply information and communication
technologies (ICTs) to their own social and economic development.
The Catalysing Access to ICT in Africa (CATIA) programme aims to enable poor
people in Africa to gain maximum benefit from the opportunities offered by
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and to act as a strong catalyst
for reform. It will support a package of strategic activities to improve
affordable access to the full range of ICTs, from Internet to community radio.
The LINK Centre is the leading research and training body in the field of
information and communications technology (ICT) policy, regulation and
management in Southern Africa. LINK focuses on capacity building in the public
sector and development arenas through quality training, applied research and
consultancy services necessary to maximise the benefits of the Information
Society and the Knowledge Economy.
This project of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) aims to enable African civil society organizations to engage in information and communication technologies (ICT) policy development to promote an Information Society based on social justice and human rights.
This paper sets out to look at the question of financing the provision of information
and communication technologies (ICTs) in the South, within the context of the
United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society, and advocates adopting
a “global public goods” perspective on the issue. June 2004. PDF document.
The global public googds approach allows to recognize the information society building blocks according to the vision, aspirations and values that define it. Identifying its components makes it possible to explore a range of specific financial options for this public good in particular. PDF document.