By APCNews GOA, India, 25 January 2006
For the last few years, APC has been working closely with other organisations and a large group of Kenyan civil society organisations and business to transform the national ICT policy. At last, a national ICT Policy has made it all the way!
APC member in Kenya, ALIN (Arid Lands Information Network) has been involved in this process. Alice Wanjira Gitau, previously on APC staff and currently coordinator of APC’s Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa (CATIA) in Kenya, has played a key role in this process.
Alice Wanjira Gitau has been the ‘convenor’ of this process, by way of keeping people informed, convening meetings and networking widely.
APC’s Willie Currie has also been credited with working with Kictanet in drafting passages that made it into the final policy.
Commented Alice: "At last a national ICT Policy has made it all the way! I personally believe that the persistence and determination (of those who campaigned from it) helped to make this a reality and we have much to celebrate."
But there’s work ahead too. Florence Etta of KICTANET said that rather than "resting on our oars", the need was to "pursue the next stages with much vigour". Florence notes that implementation plans of the policy document are needed too.
Alice said in an email interview: "We have been kept very busy, the ministry has requested us (KICTANet) to work with them to develop the ICT strategy paper."
But what role did civil society play in the policy, and how did it have an impact.
"Lobbying by civil society groups resulted in issues of social justice, development and the like being addressed. In particular, the gender discussion group managed to get their language inserted by the privates sector group. There is a chapter that specifically addresses gender issues, section 2.13," she added.
Civil society groups, Alice believes, had previously strongly criticised policy process without peoples participation. This resulted in a more participatory policy process.
Civil society also articulated social, justice, human rights and development issues not only to the policy process but also in a way private sector groups could relate to them.
Says Alice: "Civil society organisations made sure that issues of universal access/last mile, consumer rights, and non-market interventions (women, youth, disability, and the poor) have been addressed. The KICATNET Civil Society Caucus also ensured that they were included as important partners in development of ICTs."
Will, and if so how, will this new legislation affect the ordinary Kenyan?
It could have a direct impact on the level of access to ICTs for Kenyans, and on issues of development, argues Alice.
Wainaina Mungai, focal point for KICTANet’s civil society caucus, sees the role of civil society within the policy
process as keeping political and market forces accountable to the needs of society and encourage social responsibility and good governance.
Besides, there’s also the role of awareness raising and capacity building (especially to the unreached); ensuring social justice and a human/consumer centred approach.
Incidentally, the APC is the lead implementer of the UK’s Department for International Development’s CATIA programme’s component 1c on African-led advocacy for ICT policy reform.
Its overall objective is to achieve increased access to affordable ICTs in Africa, particularly for the poor and
those in rural and under-serviced areas. It aims to stimulate and support accelerated ICT policy and regulatory reform in six countries: Nigeria, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique.
This work, started in March 2004, is carried out through supporting existing initiatives and developing the capacity of informed advocacy groups and individuals from the private sector, civil society, and the media.