'Jury still out' on ICT policy development in Africa
The Southern African NGO Network (SANGONeT) hosted its third annual ICTs for Civil Society Conference and Exhibition from 17-18 July 2007 at the Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg. The theme of the 2007 event was ‘Applications for the Development Sector’.
One session, co-ordinated by APC, dealt with ICT policy in Africa. Drawing on the experiences of various APC African members, the session highlighted recent ICT policy developments in countries like Uganda, Senegal and Congo Brazzaville.
Wougnet’s Milton Aineruhanga said that there are several ICT challenges in Uganda. These are to: increase the awareness of ICTs in national development; integrate gender concerns into ICT policy; strengthen the rural focus; advocate for the country-wide decentralization of ICT infrastructure and to offer incentives for investors.
Download Aineruhanga’s presentation.
Read the GISW country report.
Coura Fall, APC’s new policy programme Africa Manager, gave an overview of the ICT policy environment in Senegal. She pointed out that a low penetration of ICT services is due to the monopolies in the ICT sector. There was also little investment in the area of universal service.
Download Fall’s presentation.
Sylvie Niombo, APC Africa Women Coordinator, gave a run down of the ICT situation in Congo Brazzaville. She pointed out that Congo Brazzaville is a post-war country, and that, as a result, much of its infrastructure has been destroyed. She said Celtel and MTN dominate the country’s telephony, which totals some 800 000 subscribers.
The cost of IT is high: a good second-hand PC (Pentium III) can cost as much as US$800. Access to the internet costs about US$2000-5000 for the equipment, and about US$100-700 a month for bills.
Freedom of expression also remains a challenge in the country, especially when it comes to political concerns. At the same time, there are no plans for capacity development.
Download Niombo’s presentation.
Finally, Abi Jagun, APC’s African ICT Policy Researcher, looked at the ICT policy environment in Africa more broadly. She argued that the focus on infrastructural development on the continent was because the “economic analysis commands a greater share of the global press”. As a result, a key focus in global thinking on ICTs was placed on increasing and expanding infrastructure.
On liberalisation, Jagun said the process in most African countries was incomplete. At the same time, only a third of the continent’s countries have partially or fully privatised national operators. As far as effective regulation goes, the “jury is still out”. She said “independence” [as in: independent regulator] was subject to interpretation.
Jagun concluded by arguing that there was a need for a rebalancing of the economic and social priorities in infrastructural roll-out.
Download Jagun’s presentation.
The session was followed by a mini-launch of the first publication of the GlSW, a project by APC, ITeM and Hivos.