CHAKULA Issue #15: CATIA Policy Advocacy Interviews

Interview with: Michel Lambert & Lina Gjerstad

Interview with: Dawit Bekele & Zerihun Zewdu

Interview with: Coura Fall & Jacques Iyok

Interview with: Jummai Umar & Hogan Ededem

Interview with: Dorothy Okello & Goretti Muriat

Interview with: Alice Wanjira, Catherine Nyaki & Brian Longwe


For nearly three years the Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa programme (CATIA) has worked towards strengthening the context for the vibrant adoption and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Africa. The programme has been set up with nine components, each with its particular advocacy aim. Areas of intervention include low-cost wireless and satellite technology, affordable computing, ICT and broadcast policy advocacy, developing capacity to participate in global ICT decision-making processes, pushing for an African internet backbone and local content development.

One CATIA component, co-ordinated by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and APC partner Tina James, has been engaged in ICT policy advocacy in six countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya.

Work started in March 2004, and focused on supporting existing initiatives and developing the capacity of informed advocacy groups and individuals from the private sector, civil society and the media. This multi-stakeholder perspective was common to all the advocacy interventions. Focus areas, however, depended on the country context, and included Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), gender and ICTs, media capacity building, and community radio.

With the CATIA programme nearing the end of its three-year intervention, CHAKULA spoke to the country animators and project partners for the component to find out if they thought their work had made a difference…

Interviews conducted by Alan Finlay.



Only just emerging from a civil war, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has for many years proved difficult for development initiatives to work in. This is especially the case when dealing with ICTs, which many people don’t consider a developmental imperative. But as the Canadian-based Alternatives has found, it is possible to get a foothold in difficult terrain. CHAKULA spoke to Michel Lambert, the Director of International Programmes at Alternatives, who was based in Kinshasa for three-years, and Lina Gjerstad, the newly-appointed ICT programme manager in Kinshasa, about their hopes and plans…


“One smaller research project just asked different organisations: ‘What are you doing about ICTs?’. Our results were interesting. For example, 95% of organisations – NGOs, small businesses etc. – don’t even have a computer. Amongst those that have, 50% don’t have the capacity to use them.”
– Michel Lambert, Director of International Programmes at Alternatives


CHAKULA: How long has Alternatives been working in the DRC?

MICHEL LAMBERT [ML]: For about six years. Alternatives was started in about 1994, and has been active in over 35 countries. We work with civil society and grassroots organisations to help them secure their economic, social and political rights. We do training, capacity building, amongst other things. We had had a longtime programme in South Africa, and then Angola. We went up through those different countries.

CHAKULA: How did you end up in the DRC?

ML: There were a lot of problems in the eastern DRC. The Canadian government was providing humanitarian funds. So we started in this area of the country. With local partners, we started working with content. There were so many organisations who needed websites. So we constructed this one Congolese civil society portal. It is a local content project. Everyone was telling us it is a stupid idea: ‘They don’t have a tradition of writing; no one has access to the internet’ etc. Now we have 120 000 visitors a month. They are writing 3-4 articles every day. They are not all participating at the same level, but every day the portal gets something new. We decided in 2000 to open an office in Kinshasa. I’m the one who opened the office.

CHAKULA: The portal has a political agenda…

ML: Yes. The issues they raise are political issues. We have major teams working on issues like peace and human rights. What you don’t see when you look at the website is that we had to build a political infrastructure behind it – to discuss ethical and editorial policies for the content. So that if someone sits and says they should separate Katanga from the rest of the country, you know, this is not supposed to be on this web. We have this policy to encourage people to publish, but it happens within a leftist political framework.

CHAKULA: How did you move from creating this important platform to where you are now?

ML: We soon realized that content was only part of the challenge. We started a project distributing computers through Computer Aid International. Still there are major issues at stake in the DRC. The word ‘ICT’ does not exist in any government paper. It is not written anywhere. There is no policy at all. Even in World Bank papers, the word ‘internet’ does not exist at all when they talk about the DRC. When we had the national consultation using the CATIA funding it was very obvious to everyone that the main problem is that there was no infrastructure. Everyone uses satellite. It is expensive. It is the only way to use the net. There is no landline. It doesn’t exist. You now have some cellular phone companies giving access to certain services.

CHAKULA: And the CATIA funding helped you address this…

ML: Yes. Our CATIA work helped us realise that we could do something about it. The way of doing it was that we could sit together with the sectors that we would not traditionally work with, in the government and in the private sector. It’s not something in Alternatives’ genes! When I was discussing that with our other colleagues in other programmes, they said: ‘What are you doing?’. We said, ‘But with these people we can make something happen’.

LINA GJERSTAD [LG]: I have only been in Kinshasa for a month and a half, but the lack of both general infrastructure and ICT infrastructure was immediately apparent to me when I arrived there. The lack of awareness of the importance of ICTs at the government level is also striking. Striking because, while we are talking about development, we are really talking about reconstruction. It is a transitional government. We are coming out of a war, and we are supposed to have a presidential election at the end of July [2006]. Some fighting is still going on in the east and now I have just noticed a news piece calling for a delay in the elections. So we are not going to see a government for a minimum of six months. That means that change is going to come slowly. It is striking that the main documents guiding the reconstruction have absolutely not mention of ICTs. You talk about transport and infrastructure, you talk about electricity, but nobody is talking about ICTs.

CHAKULA: The DRC’s neighbours have ICTs high on their agenda. Rwanda, for instance, was recently made the headquarters for the EASSy [submarine cable] project…

LG: There is a map I have from the regulator. You see the cabling in Rwanda, in the DRC’s neighbours. In the DRC, it is a white hole. There is some cabling in Kinshasa. But when you see a map like that it is striking. There is a running gag. In French ‘blanc’ is white and ‘trou’ is hole. But put them together and you get ‘troublant’, which means ‘troubling’. So when we were workshopping ideas for research, the white hole becomes ‘troubling’.

ML: The main thing now is that we are doing research to help understand the extent of the problem. There have been two research projects. One smaller research project just asked different organisations: ‘What are you doing about ICTs?’. Our results were interesting. For example, 95% of organisations – NGOs, small businesses etc. – don’t even have a computer. Amongst those that have, 50% don’t have the capacity to use them. The second research project is really about infrastructure. It is asking: ‘How can we have a telecommunications backbone?’, and what kind of open access policy should be adopted so it is not managed by one national institution that will monopolise it.

CHAKULA: Is the research being conducted together with your multi-stakeholder partners?

ML: Yes. When we started to work with CATIA we created a new forum, which is considered a civil society forum because it is an association, but it is a multi-stakeholder forum. This forum is working on the research; so it is collaborative research. It is being presented to the Congolese authorities as independent research. When we discussed it with the IDRC [International Development Research Centre], people were excited, because it is the first time they’re doing something in the DRC for ages. People were a bit sceptical too, but at the same time they want to know. Most research done until now has been done by vendors and resellers, by multinationals. The Congolese government looks at their proposals, which say: ‘We can give you a backbone for $1-2-billion’; and they might have the money, and they might see opportunities, because the multinationals offer infrastructure. But still it is a lot of money. We believe it can be done for much less, and we think our research will show this.

CHAKULA: How expensive is access in the DRC?

ML: It is very expensive. Megabytes which are sold for US$50 in Canada are sold for US$3000 in the DRC.

CHAKULA: As far as the CATIA intervention is concerned, what do you think has been your greatest achievement?

ML: There were many things. An important achievement for us was the involvement of the key stakeholders in the Congo. As I said, we were able to involve the government representatives and the private sector. Previously we were working only with civil society organisations interested in the issue of ICTs. For me, the national consultation, which got everyone from the different sectors around the same table, was the main issue. The policy issue was considered a side thing, because there is no physical infrastructure to regulate at the moment. We only had a few TV shows, and radio shows. The second key thing will be the results of this research. If this research is not conclusive, it won’t be good. It has to be conclusive, and I am convinced it will be. Around that we will prove that all these people can work together and come with serious content, and we can make these things go further. That will be the turning point.

CHAKULA: What about the long-term sustainability of your work?

ML: The process will continue. I think funders are interested in the DRC. They want to do something, but they don’t know how to get into the country. It is this black hole. The CATIA funding has only been for one year. So we came late in the process. CATIA funding was important, of course. It contributed to the meetings, the national consultation, the training on advocacy and the structures, and the first research. The IDRC funded the main research. Now they want us to do more advocacy, and popularise the research.

LG: I am coming at the end of the CATIA work. I am in Kinshasa for at least six months. That is a testament to the commitment to not having the advocacy part of the work die down.

CHAKULA: As the new ICT Programme Manager in Kinshasa, are you optimistic?

LG: I’m optimistic in the sense that because it’s an historical moment, we have a chance to seize that. There will be a new government, new institutions or recreated institutions, hopefully new legislations. We will use the six months to build up support; private sector, civil society and media. One of the activities we would like to launch with APC is discussion groups. We could have one group about infrastructure and access, and another about legislation. The idea of that is to have documents ready to present to the new government when they are ready. This will support the mobilisation of parties. Will I see it in six months? No. In terms of the new government, it will be six to twelve months before we see anything.

ML: I think it is just a beginning. I might be a bit of a dreamer, but what I believe is that this research will be wonderful, and from there I am expecting that we will propose various scenarios and possibilities. We may have a chance.

To find out more about the project visit:
or (in French)

Also visit:

Or contact the CATIA animator in the DRC:
Lina Gjerstad,



Promoting open source software has been the advocacy focus for CATIA in Ethiopia. CHAKULA caught up with CATIA animator Dawit Bekele, who is also the co-ordinator of the Ethiopian FOSS network EFOSSNET. Zerihun Zewdu, a member of the EFOSSNET Secretariat, joined the conversation…


“…I can say with confidence that a year and a half ago there was practically no-body who could understand what FOSS is, what the policy issues are, what the advantages are.”
– Dawit Bekele, CATIA animator, Ethiopia


CHAKULA: What exactly is EFOSSNET?

DAWIT BEKELE [DB]: EFOSSNET is a network of individuals, an informal organisation. It is not really legally established. We wanted it like that because establishing it would take a long time. So we are working under the umbrella of the EITPA, the Ethiopian IT Professionals Association. Of course, the main aim of EFOSSNET is to promote the use of FOSS in Ethiopia.

CHAKULA: Why FOSS – I understand Ethiopia has many ICT challenges?

DB: Yes. There is a lot to do in the telecom area, for example. ETC [Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation] has a monopoly on everything to do with telecoms, including mobile. It is all under one single company, and I believe that the consumers are suffering from that without a doubt; even though others, especially the government, may see the situation differently. Telecoms are expensive and often unreliable. There are services we don’t get that the corporation doesn’t give to us. There were a lot of things to change in the telecoms sector – but I consider that a lot of it is not a doable job. CATIA’s advocacy programme has preferred to work in an area where there is a good chance to succeed in the limited time available. I was interested at the time in FOSS. I requested CATIA to support advocacy in that area. So that is what we did.

CHAKULA: I have been told that you need to be careful how you go about putting your point across in the telecoms sector…

DB: Yes. And FOSS is much less controversial, so we chose it.

CHAKULA: How have you gone about your advocacy work in Ethiopia?

DB: In fact we haven’t really worked on advocacy yet. Our objective was to create a fertile ground for ICT advocacy by creating the awareness that didn’t exist at the time, and by creating “change agents”.

CHAKULA: “Change agents”?

DB: These are champions who would be pushing FOSS policy. When EFOSSNET was established just 18 months ago we realised that policy makers and the general population knew little about FOSS. Even the first members of EFOSSNET knew very little about FOSS, since they were all mainly proprietary software users. In this situation, it was impossible for us to talk about advocacy. We needed to know more about FOSS before trying to convince others that FOSS brings opportunities for Ethiopia. So we started with internal capacity building. We had monthly seminars where we discussed one specific FOSS issue. For example, we had seminars about Linux distributions, localisation and FOSS, FOSS development etc. Once we started to be more comfortable with FOSS, we started to open up and give trainings to non-members. In particular, we had a Linux training for 31 people in February [2006] in Addis Ababa, and FOSS training for more than 100 people in three regional cities in May. Finally, in July, we had two training workshops [FOSS Pro and FOSS Office] for more than 40 and 80 people respectively.

ZERIHUN ZEWDU [ZZ]: We also distribute FOSS CDs and documents alongside the training and workshops…

DB: Yes. And we had a policy workshop where we invited as many people as possible from government organisations. The workshop was attended by more than 100 people.

CHAKULA: It sounds like you must have raised significant awareness of FOSS…

ZZ: At first hardly anybody knew about FOSS except some very technical administrators in big organisations. I think our movement contributed a lot to showing people that there is a good alternative that helps in development.

DB: I believe we have been successful, because I can say with confidence that a year and a half ago there was practically no-body who could understand what FOSS is, what the policy issues are, what the advantages are. Now, after a year and a half, after the establishment of EFOSSNET, we have quite a number of people who are interested in using FOSS and pushing the FOSS agenda. So the awareness is much higher now, thanks to the various training, seminars and meetings that we have had, not only in the capital, but in regional towns too. So I think we have achieved our goals. In EFOSSNET we have focused on not trying to do too many things. Advocacy skills have been learned, such as how to approach the media. These are things that I have personally learned and I have tried to push in EFOSSNET.

CHAKULA: And now that the CATIA funding is coming to an end?

DB: FOSS is really an interesting area for donors. We have other partners that may not help us right now financially, but we are sure that they will continue to help us with logistics. For example, UNECA has helped us with venues. The context is supportive. We are quite optimistic, even without funding, if we really work on it. In addition we believe that we also have very motivated members and we can achieve a lot even with limited or no funds. In fact, what we are trying to do is empower our members before the end of our funding cycle. Unfortunately, both CATIA and UNESCO funding expires at the same time. So we will not have money, but we want to have members who are confident and motivated. If we have these kind of members we will survive.

CHAKULA: What work lies ahead for EFOSSNET?

ZZ: In the next few years we plan to work on what we have been doing until the point where we believe that enough knowledge is available to talk about policy, to provide support and training. So our long-term plan is to see FOSS policy in Ethiopia and to have a considerable number of FOSS users.

DB: In the past we focused on internal capacity building. Before we start preaching, we needed to know the bible. So we wanted to make sure we knew the issues before we confronted people. There are hardened supporters of proprietary software out there! There are people who have based there lives on selling licences. They may consider our work as a threat, even though EFOSSNET is not against proprietary software. We have to make sure that we have answers for these people as well. So we needed to know our arguments. And I think we achieved that in the past year, and now can be more aggressive in our advocacy. I think that is what we are going to do in the future.

To find out more about the project visit:

Or contact the CATIA animator in Ethiopia:
Dawit Bekele:



In Senegal, few journalists have access to technology for their day-to-day work, and ICTs seldom make it into the news. Which is why the CATIA intervention in that country chose to focus exclusively on developing the capacity of the media to use and write about ICTs. Now it has launched its own television show. CHAKULA spoke to CATIA’s animator in Senegal, Coura Fall, and Eco journalist Jacques Iyok…


“In Senegal journalists don’t have computers. Maybe one for 10-12 journalists in a company. They don’t want to be in the queue, so they go to a cybercafé and send it to the editors from there.” – Coura Fall, CATIA animator, Senegal


CHAKULA: What is the key ICT challenge in Senegal at the moment, do you think?

COURA FALL [CF]: The one challenge is about a new global operator which can offer telephone, internet and international access, because Sonatel has had the monopoly. The government announced a tender for the new operator in 2005. Since that day it has started to go slowly, and we don’t know where it is going and when the new operator will be announced.

CHAKULA: Does Senegal have a good ICT policy in place?

CF: Some ICT policies are already done. There is, for instance, a regulatory framework in place and a commitment to a liberalised telecommunications market. The e-government programme was also launched last year. But I don’t feel we have a good national strategy for ICTs. It is not written. We are trying to advocate to get things done. It is, however, in the process. ICTs are part of the growth strategy for Senegal. The government has asked a task force to work on it and come up with guidelines. I am involved in the task force.

CHAKULA: What kinds of things is the task force discussing?

CF: It is a question of working out steps specific to ICTs within the framework of the government’s strategy for accelerated growth. We’re asking: ‘How do we make sure that ICTs profit to the maximum within the framework of the strategy?’. The task force has been set up with several sub-groups which each deal with a field in relation to ICTs, such as the business environment, the development of infrastructure and human resources.
CHAKULA: You decided to focus on developing capacity in the media for your advocacy campaign. Why did you chose to work with the media specifically?

CF: ICTs were not written about with any authority in the media, if they were written about at all. This meant that the media could not be an independent watchdog to the important changes happening in Senegal. It could also not help to bring about change in government policy. It could not put pressure on the government, or inform the people, when it came to ICTs. In our first national consultation in 2005, we invited different ICT actors from the private sector, civil society and the media. Initially we identified three priority areas: ICT access, capacity building and ICT regulation, but decided to focus on capacity building in the media. We talked together to try to understand why ICTs are not very well written about. The journalists said they don’t have the understanding or knowledge about ICT policies and issues. Most don’t even use ICTs in the newsroom. So we chose to reinforce their capacity, their views and understanding and knowledge about ICTs.

JACQUES IYOK [JI]: The journalists were generalists, not specialists. Sometimes they cannot even use a computer…

CF: Journalists don’t have computers. Maybe one for 10-12 journalists in a company. They don’t want to be in the queue. So they go to a cybercafé and send it to the editors from there. The newspapers just don’t have money to pay for computers. You maybe have one with enough computers. But they don’t have laptops. What they use right now is recording when they go to an event.

CHAKULA: Tell me more about the training…

CF: We work at three levels for the capacity building: Press owners, editors, and journalists. Our focus is on newspapers, radio, magazines and TV. The journalists are involved in the training. With editors we hold lunch meetings and consultations. The training focuses on theoretical issues, such as perspectives on the WSIS [World Summit on the Information Society] and on practical issues, such as creating web pages, blogs and management issues.

JI: In the last training we did, we trained them in FOSS. Now they use it to download radio programmes…

CF: One of the purposes of the training is to allow the print journalists to interact with the broadcast journalists. We have trained around 25 journalists from newspapers, magazines and radio.

CHAKULA: And besides the training?

CF: We are actively involved in creating a media space for ICT reporting. For example, Jacques is a journalist working on an advocacy plan. With him we are doing a TV show called Debatic, which is a debate about ICTs. In Senegal, we don’t have a show talking about ICTs, we don’t have ICT magazines. Nothing. So this is a big step. We also met an editor who decided to have one page in a magazine where we can publish and write about ICTs.

JI: We also decided to have a radio programme where we can invite all ICT experts to talk about ICT issues. We have a lot of ICT experts in Senegal who are involved in the Internet Governance Forum, for instance. Our president is very oriented to ICTs, despite the challenges we have mentioned. He created the Digital Solidarity Fund in Geneva to reduce the digital divide.

CHAKULA: Is the radio show broadcasting already, or is it still in the planning stage?

CF: We have been talking to two radio stations to do regular debate on ICT policies. The first radio show will be on Saturday 12 August 2006.

CHAKULA: What do you think your biggest achievement has been?

CF: The training has been our biggest achievement. We did the media dialogue with the regulator, the operators, and all the media. We were talking about the new global operator. It was the first time we had all these people around the same table. Before that it didn’t happen. We have also created an association of journalists specialising in ICTs. This network includes some ICT experts to support and help them.

CHAKULA: And your future plans?

CF: The main plan is the TV debate. We want it to be a regular. It is for three months at the moment. We are looking for some sponsors for the show because we have to pay the broadcaster. We have some actors who are very interested, like the government and regulator, some teleco operators. With TV you can reach a lot of people. We also plan to do an ICT Caravan in Senegal. The van will have computers and a high-speed internet connection. We want to do some training with the local population, maybe some women, and also to train journalists. We have 11 regions, and we know that we have to talk to all the population. So each month we decided to go to a different city with a journalist to meet the people. We decided to stay for three days in each city. The local journalists would be there and we would discuss ICT issues.

CHAKULA: What about funding or sponsorships. Is this difficult to come by?

CF: Without APC support, getting funding will be a little difficult in Senegal. As I told you, even the newspapers don’t have computers. This is also the case in some parts of the private sector. So we need to propose a good plan to donors. I think we will need funding. The corporate sector is too poor.

JI: We are searching for sponsors who will give us computers that we can offer to the journalists…

CHAKULA: How have your personally grown during the CATIA programme?

CF: Personally, this process was very beneficial for me. First of all, I feel stronger. I learned to work with different people from different countries. The way we did the reporting and monitoring helped me to be more focused on something and to do it more efficiently. Even my financial and administrative skills have improved. I think my relationship with the media has been very successful and useful. I know now that you have to be very careful about what you tell the media because they use it for their purposes! So every time I have to do a press release for them, I think this, and it is good. I have found this very empowering. I have been involved in ICTs for some time – for instance, with an ISP [Internet Service Provider] in the Ivory Coast, before the war. Then in the creation of three GSM [cellular] networks, one in Senegal, one in Ivory Coast and another in Togo. In Senegal I worked with an IT group which specializes in developing software and call centre connectivity. Now I am running my own business and have a call centre doing connectively for some companies. I am providing the US Embassy with connectivity! So I feel lucky. I feel very empowered.

To find out more about the project visit: (under construction)

Or contact the CATIA animator in Senegal:
Coura Fall:



In a country of 130-million people, Nigeria has only one community radio and no policy on community broadcasting in place. Yet there are hopeful signs that things are changing. CHAKULA spoke to Jummai Umar, the CATIA animator in Nigeria, and ActionAid’s Hogan Ededem, a project partner…


“…We believe that there has to be a framework that will guide regulations and even protect the people. This entails talking, lobbying with whomever cares to listen; no matter how little connection we see.” – Jummai Umar, CATIA animator, Nigeria


CHAKULA: Why community radio in Nigeria?

JUMMAI UMAR [JU]: There are many reasons. A lot of advocacy work has been done in Nigeria to see the emergence of the country’s broadcasting sector according to the African Charter on Broadcasting. We have the private broadcaster and government broadcaster, but we don’t yet have community broadcasting. So the national priority advocacy issue is the creation of a community radio sector. This will be a tool for addressing the universal access problem, while striving for harmonization, collaboration and convergence at the policy development and implementation levels. We also think the rural people of Nigeria understand radio, because it is widely used. These are some of the reasons why we narrowed down on this aspect.

CHAKULA: How have you gone about lobbying for a community radio sector?

JU: We got people talking. We started with a consultation, and then started working with the policy regulators. Along the way we realised that the best way to bring about change was to bring it to the people themselves. In that line we have ActionAid as our major partner. They readily took on the campaign, situating it in their programme area called Partnership Against Poverty. This programme entails working with community-based organisations at community levels to carry on advocacy with local and state government.

CHAKULA: And how does CATIA fit in with this?

JU: The national policy formation link is provided by CATIA. We started that work in July 2004, so we have been doing it for two years. At a national level, we are working in a coalition called the Community Radio Coalition [in partnership with Panos and AMARC, who are leading the CATIA component on pro-poor broadcasting policy]. In the Coalition you have about 300 individuals and NGOs. I am facilitating the committee on policy and government engagement, which means our CATIA component is responsible for developing a policy framework. Quite a few donors want to start up pilot projects in the community. But we believe that there has to be a framework that will guide regulations and even protect the people. This entails talking, lobbying with whomever cares to listen; no matter how little connection we see.

CHAKULA: Is the Coalition only for civil society organisations?

JU: Mostly civil society; but you find that when we have training programmes or even advocacy outings you have government and private media stations, as well as officials in other non-media sectors coming. So you could say that it is a multi-stakeholder coalition – there are even small businesses, such as IT companies, and trade and professional groups involved.

CHAKULA: Can you tell me more about ActionAid’s work at the grassroots level?

HOGAN EDEDEM [HE]: Sometime last year ActionAid adopted community radio as a key advocacy issue for the year. Our methodology involves empowering the community to understand their rights and to press for it. One of the tools we use in working with communities is called REFLECT. This is an empowerment methodology which uses the characteristics of communities to identify their problems and chart solutions to these problems. A number of people are trained in REFLECT. This group forms what we call the ‘REFLECT circle’ and works with the entire community on development issues. ActionAid is working through these circles to help the community understand what community radio is, why community radio in the first instance, and how they stand to benefit from it.

CHAKULA: Do you consider what you’re doing a movement?

JU: We like to think of it as a movement. It is definitely a grassroots-oriented initiative. We want to see it evolve into a social movement. We believe that is the way to get governments to listen, because they are driven by people’s aspirations for change. It will give us more leverage, than if we were just an individual organisation.

HE: Partnership Against Poverty works through a number of NGOs and CBOs in more than 68 communities in 12 states of Nigeria. There are 36 states, so it is a broad-based advocacy initiative.

CHAKULA: How successful have your efforts been, do you think?

JU: The strength in advocacy is in the process and the type of support that gets, including ‘converts’ to the cause. Sometime early this year the president granted a second community a radio licence. Just one; but to us this is an indication that the message is getting through. I think it is a matter of time. Even the government itself sees and understands the need for that sector to come up in relation to aspirations. The policy process can be long and tedious. But at a programme level I think it is a very big thing to bring ActionAid in. This means that our advocacy process has grown that much shorter. Although a committee has not been formed, the president has approved the formation of a committee that would recommend criteria to the government for a policy framework. These are indicators that the government is listening. The Coalition has contributed to a lot of reviews of broadcasting documents. We worked on the Radio Frequency Management document and introduced a community radio perspective to that. These documents are usually driven by the public and private sectors.

HE: The response has been encouraging, given the fact that things like this take some time. Communities are grappling with issues of survival and trying to achieve the basic rights – food, education, safe drinking water and healthcare. The need for community radio is sinking in. The indicators are coming out that the people really want the means to air their opinion, to propagate their messages, amongst themselves and beyond.

CHAKULA: What about the future?

JU: A coalition means we pool our resources; because of this the advocacy will not die. ActionAid has its methodologies for raising funds. The biggest sustainability issue for us is ActionAid agreeing to take it on! And it has. As an animator I will continue to provide support for Action Aid until the day that we wake up and we have a policy in place. Of course, if we move on it, it will evolve into other demands.

CHAKULA: And you, Jummai, what have you personally learned from this experience?

JU: I have learned a lot through this process. I have gained a lot of visibility as an individual. I have accumulated a lot of social capital. The network has grown beyond Nigeria. It has grown around the world. I have learned patience; because working within the Coalition means that you have to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of other organisations fighting for the greater good with you…

To find out more about the project visit:

Or contact the CATIA animator in Nigeria:
Jummai Umar:



The goal of The Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is to promote the use of ICTs by women’s organisations in Uganda. Set up in 2000, WOUGNET has been a lead actor in ICT and gender advocacy in that country, and has engaged on several policy fronts; including bringing a gender focus to ICT policy in Uganda, open source software and WSIS. CHAKULA caught up with WOUGNET’s Director, Dorothy Okello, and the organisation’s ICT Programme Manager, Goretti Muriat….


“Now we are strong. Now we have an impact. It has given us a push and shown policy makers that we are serious. Now we have made a noise, and had workshops. So they know.” – Goretti Muriat, WOUGNET ICT Programme Manager


CHAKULA: Tell me more about your CATIA work in Uganda…

DOROTHY OKELLO [DO]: Uganda was not a CATIA project from the beginning. WOUGNET had been involved in other components, but not in the policy advocacy component. We have only been engaged in that since about the last quarter of 2005. So it is short. Of course, our project focuses on gender and ICT policy advocacy in Uganda, and we have been very engaged with the APC on the WSIS issues. I would say since Tunis our CATIA participation has really started. In particular our activities have involved the Gender Civil Society Caucus at the WSIS.

CHAKULA: There has been a lot of criticism of WSIS. How did you find the summit?

DO: We managed to get some gender language into the WSIS documents. But now we have moved to a national focus. Our first strategy is this: We keep saying ‘gender’, but people don’t really know how to integrate this into ICT policy. In a way you can’t blame them if the documents come out without a gender perspective. It’s really ignorance and the lack of a good example. So we said: ‘Let’s target the ICT policy makers, ICT experts, and journalists.’ By the ICT experts I mean the techies. We targeted them to begin thinking about ICT issues from a gender perspective. We wanted to get them to ask: ‘How do I incorporate gender into what I am doing?’ So we planned to hold training workshops on gender.

CHAKULA: How did the workshops go?

DO: Well, first we needed to do gender training for our own caucus, the Uganda Women’s Caucus. For this we took advantage of the presence of Natasha Primo [Director of the South African-based Women’sNet and Chairperson of APC’s Executive Board] at the Africa Source conference which was held in Kalangala in January. She trained us in GEM [Gender Evaluation] methodology. We also thought that if we just started offering training for the experts, they might not want to come. So we said: ‘Why not do some public promotions and then invite them?’. In March we held a public forum. It was well attended with about 80-100 participants and there was some good feedback. We had commissioned a paper, and presented the findings. We began with basic concepts, such as ‘What is gender?’. In April we did the workshop. It went well in that we got some key players coming to that. For example, ICT journalists were there and we had some representation from the institutions, from a Uganda communications perspective – the ICT experts. But unlike the public forum the participation at the workshop was lower than we expected. We had targeted 40 trainees, but we got 25. We think the 25 that came were committed, but we could have had more.

CHAKULA: What sort of impact do you think you have had?

GORETTI MURIAT [GM]: I am hopeful that the ICT policy in Uganda will be gender sensitive. At the moment the policy has not been approved. It has been by cabinet, but not by law. There are chances to review it. We are going to make enough noise; so by the time they review, they will know it is not gender sensitive, and they will have to change it.

DO: I think the greatest achievement, in terms of CATIA funding, is the public forum. It enabled us to establish personal contacts. The training was also important. This enabled us to meet government and regulators. They were enthusiastic. And we were able to strengthen and build new contacts for advocacy purposes.

CHAKULA: It was important to have the focused attention that funding allowed…

DO: Yes, definitely. The CATIA funding has enabled us to move very aggressively. For example the briefing paper on ICTs presented at the forum; we had already done a smaller effort, on a volunteer basis. Now we have some funding, we can actually make it into an attractive booklet, which is easy to read and appealing.

GM: I think it has set us off; moved us from where we were to another level. While we had been involved in advocacy, we could not do as many activities as we wanted to. The CATIA funding gave us a push. With CATIA we were able to target policy makers, create awareness. The Uganda Women’s Caucus was fragmented. CATIA gave it some funding to come together. If you don’t have funds, you are not serious. Now we are strong. Now we have an impact. It has given us a push and shown policy makers that we are serious. Now we have made a noise, and had workshops. So they know. CATIA has helped us develop advocacy materials and positions papers on gender issues, and policies briefs and reports. We have developed materials. These are our tools.

DO: Exactly. You can see that we had the training, the public forum, the workshop. Now the Uganda Communications Commission, the regulator in our country, is hearing from us every month. This funding allows us to have something to have to reach out to them. We can set the agenda, and invite them to a public forum, rather than waiting for them.

CHAKULA: What lies ahead for you?

DO: What we are looking at this quarter is doing an evaluation of the Rural Communications Development Fund. The Fund is essentially looking at universal access, particularly targeting the rural areas where development is needed. These are defined as those counties that the national operator has identified as uneconomically viable to operate in. Under the RCDF there are various initiatives: Portals, ICT training centres, MPCCs [Multi-purpose Community Centres], and so on. We’re not interested in how many telecentres have been set up, but in the utilization and uptake of the services being offered from a gender perspective. How many men, how many women and what services are being used. Often we get challenged: ‘Ok, you’re saying that, but where is your data to back that up?’. This will give us some data to say: ‘Look, this is going on’. This kind of survey hasn’t been done before in Uganda.

CHAKULA: Are you optimistic about the future?

GM: From this workshop [Goretti had just participated in a CATIA workshop in Johannesburg] the idea was raised that we should look at issues of infrastructure. The good news is that we have a new ministry and new minister. So if everything has to move we have to have an approved ICT policy first. Lucy Abrahams [the Director of the Johannesburg-based LINK Centre] said if we want things to happen, we can even advocate for an ICT policy exclusively for women. That seems like an exciting idea!

DO: We see a lot of opportunity to build on this project. I think for me personally, delinking it from everything else, it is quite a thing. It has given me excitement that all these things that we have been talking about have been possible. Now we can see all these opportunities, and can keep them growing…

To find out more about the project visit:

Or contact the CATIA animator in Uganda:
Dorothy Okello:



The Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANeT) is a multi-stakeholder network of civil society, private sector and media ICT actors. For the past two years it has been lobbying for better ICT policy in Kenya, and has grown into a formidable force in the country. Yet meeting everyone’s needs in a multi-stakeholder network is not always easy. And as the network grows in power and influence, the problems can sometimes be amplified. CHAKULA asked CATIA animator Alice Wanjira, KICTNeT’s National Co-ordinator Catherine Nyaki, and Kenyan businessman Brian Longwe how they hold it all together…


“Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. We only move on things that have a consensus. If we don’t have a consensus then we either spend some time trying to reach consensus or we dismiss it. If people don’t trust each other, they trust in the process.” – Alice Wanjira, CATIA animator, Kenya


ALICE WANJIRA [AW]: We have been doing a lot of policy advocacy work over the past three years to speed up the ICT policy process. As you know, this has involved creating a multi-stakeholder network, with private sector, media and civil society working towards one common objective: To make sure we have a legal regulatory framework in which the ICT sector can thrive. We set KICTANeT up in a consultative workshop, and our process has been consultative. What we did was focus on a couple of issues we thought were important across the sectors and groups. For instance, a consumer awareness campaign was one of them. This was of common concern to all the parties. It involved a process of creating trust.

CHAKULA: Some people were sceptical about the possibility of the different groups working so effectively together…

CATHERINE NYAKI [CN]: Before we came together we were opportunistically bashing each other. We needed to get together in an environment where there were no issues, where we could just sit down together to discuss things. We needed to see how similar our goals were. We wanted the same thing, but we were going about it differently.

AW: They used to say that all they knew about civil society was these bra burning activists. They’d say: ‘You people keep using big words. When I hear ‘mainstreaming’, it sounds to me like you are introducing a new tax’…

BRIAN LONGWE [BL]: On the other side, civil society called us bloodthirsty vampires…

CN: We called the media corrupt, and said they received little brown envelopes from politicians…

BL: Then the private sector attacked the media…

CHAKULA: Despite this initial name-calling, it has been a success. KICTANeT is now the ‘official mouthpiece’ of the ICT sector in Kenya. The government turns to you for answers…

CN: I think it is quite evident in Kenya that KICTANeT has had a huge impact. Right now when you say ‘ICT issues’ and ‘ICT advocacy’, immediately people think of KICTANeT. Its presence is being felt everywhere. It has been able to weave together a membership which is very representative. Apart from building strong synergies, it has helped being felt in all areas, particularly in the policy arena. It’s a name which is familiar, whether it is in the media or government sectors. That’s because there has been this element of trust that has been built. But it has not always been easy. There are still some difficulties.

CHAKULA: Such as?

CN: Some people, for instance, still don’t fully trust the private sector on certain issues. But we are working around that. There are also still some tensions around FOSS and proprietary software.

AW: The other thing I would say is this: The unique characteristic that has helped it become a success is the emphasis on the network’s looseness. The emphasis has always been on this and the equality of its members. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. We only move on things that have a consensus. If we don’t have a consensus then we either spend some time trying to reach consensus or we dismiss it. If people don’t trust each other, they trust in the process. The network is able to diffuse some of these tensions and provide a neutral ground.

CHAKULA: KICTANeT is taking the lead in the review of Kenya’s ICT policy document. What stage is the process at at the moment?

CN: It is in the comments stage. The draft bill was put out and it was not very well done. The government then asked KICTANeT to manage the input. This still has to be given. The actual implementation of the ICT policy will be quite a process when that gets under way.

AW: The ICT policy process has led to a medium-term strategy. An ICT board has been established. This is a group of stakeholders who is advising the ministry. There are 5-6 KICTANeT members who are on that board.

CHAKULA: Does KICTANeT’s influence worry you in any way?

BL: As an individual, I have concerns. My experience in the past is that anything that can exercise power before long becomes subject to efforts to gain control and manipulate it. It could be anyone: Donors who come to promote their agendas, government imposing its agenda, or the private players pushing their angle.

CHAKULA: This kind of jostling is to be expected, but it needs to be above board…

AW: Yes. That is why we have a programme committee to ensure that no single agenda is pushed. The committee is made up of all the groups.

CN: My worry is when something looks so successful and is rapidly developing that there are a lot of expectations. Sometimes people think it is only you who can solve an issue. You can end up taking on too much.

CHAKULA: How do you manage people’s expectations, given your very real limitations?

BL: One thing that has worked very well so far are the monthly planning meetings. These are open to all members and provide everyone with a chance to bring their issues or agendas to the table. There is then relatively open discussion on the issue as well as an evaluation of what is currently being done about it or whether something needs to be done by KICTANeT. This type of process ensures that no-one feels sidelined and that everyone who bring an issue gets the benefit of others’ points of view.

CHAKULA: And now that the CATIA funding is coming to an end?

AW: We started thinking about sustainability a year ago. When we started our network all the members contributed. We don’t depend entirely on donors. That is usually the most dangerous thing.

BL: As part of our sustainability plan, the network has had to set up a minimal legal entity in the form of a Trust, with a secretariat to run the day-to-day affairs. Of course now members in the network have put their heads together to fund these activities. So there are different forms of resources….

CHAKULA: What challenges lie ahead for the network?

BL: Now that the telecoms market is fully liberalised, the big issue is competition regulation. There is a little bit of anarchy in the market right now with over-excited players stretching the limits of their licenses and in many cases engaging in unfair competition. I think issues surrounding anti-trust, predatory pricing, cross-subsidization and market structure will be the new frontier upon which future battles shall be fought.

To find out more about the project visit:

Or contact the CATIA animator in Kenya:
Alice Wanjira:


Chakula is a newsletter of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) – Africa ICT Policy Monitor Project aims to mobilise African Civil Society in ICT policy for development and social justice.

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