CHAKULA Issue #17: Global Information Society Watch (GISW) - Africa reports
1. Democratic Republic of the Congo (Lina Gjerstad, Alternatives)
2. Egypt (Leila Hassanin, ArabDev)
3. Ethiopia (Abebe Chekol, EFOSSNet)
4. Kenya (Alice W. Munyua and Muriuki Mureithi, KICTANet)
5. Nigeria (John Dada, Fantsuam Foundation)
6. South Africa (Charley Lewis, LINK Centre)
7. Uganda (Julius Torach, Dorothy Okello and Goretti Amuriat, WOUGNET)
INTRODUCTION: What is GISW?
The Global Information Society Watch (GISW) 2007 report – the first in a series of annual reports – looks at the state of the field of information and communication technology (ICT) policy at local and global levels, and at how policy impacts on the lives of people living in developing countries.
The publication (which can be read online at www.globaliswatch.org) has four sections: ‘WSIS in Review’, ‘Institutional Overviews’, ‘Measuring Progress’ and ‘Country Reports’. The first section critically examines the impact of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the post-WSIS environment, while the institutional overviews look at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). ‘Measuring Progress’ discusses the challenges around understanding and developing appropriate ICT indicators. 22 reports are included in the ‘Country Reports’ section, and cover countries as diverse as India, Spain, Peru and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Besides Spain, all of the countries represented are developing countries.
GISW 2007 was produced by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Third World Institute (ITeM).
GISW in Africa
This issue of Chakula focuses on the Africa reports. Links are provided to the seven reports covering the DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.
An ‘African launch’ of GISW will take place at 12h30 on the 18th July, 2007, at the SANGONeT ‘ICTs for Civil Society’ conference at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.
This will follow an earlier session on ICT policy in Africa. Panelists at this session will be: Natasha Primo, Executive Director of Women’sNet; Milton Aineruhanga, Programme Officer at WOUGNET; Coura Fall, Africa Manager of APC’s policy programme; Sylvie Niombo, Africa Women Coordinator at APC; and Abi Jagun, African ICT Policy Researcher at APC.
1. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
By Lina Gjerstad, Alternatives
“New technologies are not part of any reconstruction or development plan for the country… As the first elected government will take power in 2007, there is an advantage in starting afresh.”
The DRC is in a post-conflict reconstruction period at the moment. Up until now, ICTs have not been considered an inherent part of reconstruction and are not included in development schemes for the country. The four main ICT challenges identified are a lack of infrastructure, the lack of a broad-based ICT vision for the country, the absence of properly defined institutional roles and responsibilities, and a lack of public funds and human resources. This report was produced by Lina Gjerstad from Alternatives, a Canadian social rights NGO, which has been working in the DRC since 2002.
By Leila Hassanin, ArabDev
“There is, in effect, a dichotomous approach towards liberalisation in Egypt: liberalisation of services and technical applications, but limitations on the ‘liberalisation’ of expression…”
The Egyptian government has made ICTs a developmental priority and has modernised and upgraded the sector’s infrastructure, services, regulations and human resource capacity. Egypt had an antiquated ICT infrastructure until the early 1990s. People waited sometimes for years to have fixed phone lines installed, and the old copper infrastructure made connections unstable. Phone lines outside major cities were failing. Mobile technology aided in the diffusion of phones, but the government also extended fibre optic connections throughout Egypt, upgraded the copper lines and data centres, improved the integration of applications and in general provided more fixed-line connections. Now it only takes a few weeks to have a fixed line installed. This report by Leila Hassanin from ArabDev.
By Abebe Chekol, EFOSSNet
“Although the situation is improving (from a very low baseline), the ICT sector in Ethiopia is still characterised by a low penetration of fixed-line, mobile and internet services, a state monopoly, and far from effective regulation.”
This report by Abebe Chekol, from the Ethiopian Free and Open Source Software Network (EFOSSNet), provides a brief overview of the ICT situation in Ethiopia and the key stakeholders’ roles in the sector, together with a concluding remark on key areas that need to be addressed. It describes key areas of progress in the ICT sector in Ethiopia, and presents the country’s ICT policy-making bodies, implementers, and stakeholders that contribute to the development of the sector.
By Alice W. Munyua and Muriuki Mureithi, KICTANet
“[T]he Kenyan government is finally acknowledging the important role the various stakeholders play in the communications sector. There is now a more democratic space for participation in governance processes.”
There have been significant changes in the ICT sector in Kenya over the last ten years, despite the lack of a legislative framework to guide it. While it is difficult to capture all the developments in detail, the formation of the multi-stakeholder Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) has been a remarkable achievement. Through the network, an inclusive policy process has been catalysed, resulting in the country’s first draft ICT policy document, approved by cabinet in February 2006. This report by KICATNet’s Alice W. Munyua and Muriuki Mureithi provides an overview of the ICT policy process in Kenya and the role of KICTANet in this process.
By John Dada, Fantsuam Foundation
“When considered individually, the inherent ICT4D (ICT for development) credentials of the various initiatives discussed in this paper are clear. However, when viewed holistically, a lack of coherence and a lack of optimisation of resources become evident.”
This report presents an overview of ongoing and planned ICT initiatives in Nigeria. Nigeria has the most lucrative telecoms market in Africa, growing at twice the African average. In spite of this obvious and significant progress, Nigeria’s performance on a global scale is still far behind countries like Sweden, which has 100% access. This report by John Dada, from the Fantsuam Foundation, argues that one of the reasons for this is an ICT policy vacuum at the heart of the ICT sector in the country.
6. South Africa
By Charley Lewis, LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand
“While civil society and its ICT NGOs remain vibrant and active – raising issues, mounting campaigns, building awareness – their lack of concrete impact on either formal policy and legislation, or on South Africa’s input into global information society processes such as the WSIS, is something that needs to be addressed.”
This report, by Charley Lewis from the LINK Centre, provides a bird’s eye view of the status of South Africa’s ICT sector and of progress made toward the development of the country’s information society. The status and level of development of the various ICT sectors are described, and an overview of policy, legislation and institutional frameworks governing the sector provided. The final section of the report offers an overview of some of the institutions in the country with a specific information society/ICT focus, together with a summary of some of the issues and campaigns they have taken up recently. Their effectiveness is briefly assessed.
By Julius Torach, Dorothy Okello and Goretti Amuriat, WOUGNET
“[W]e can conclude that the required environment for the development of ICTs in Uganda is in place. This includes policies, legal and regulatory frameworks, political will, and public participation. However, implementation has been hampered by several challenges…”
This report assesses whether or not Uganda is on track to meet the ICT development objectives laid out in the WSIS Plan of Action. It provides an overview of the ICT status in the country, and presents some of the rapid changes that have happened within the country’s ICT sector. It finds that although the policy and legislative framework is in place and the political will exists, ICT development is being constrained by a number of factors, including the rural/urban divide, a lack of awareness about the advantages of ICTs, and a low level of skills. The report has been compiled by Julius Torach, Dorothy Okello and Goretti Amuriat from Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).
CHAKULA is a newsletter produced by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC)’s Africa ICT Policy Monitor which aims to mobilise African civil society around ICT policy for sustainable development and social justice issues.
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