Society ignores ICTs at their peril
by workshop participant, Brenda Burrell, Kubatana.net
was invited to participate in the ICT Policy and Civil Society in
Africa Workshop held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 6 - 10,
the only representative from civil society in Zimbabwe, this was
both a privilege and a great responsibility.
a dictatorial regime intent on retaining power at any cost controls
Zimbabwe. The Government's monopoly of key mass media tools such
as radio and television means that Zimbabweans and other citizens
of the regional and international communities are presented with
the ruling party's version of democracy in Zimbabwe.
is in this context that I assess the presentations made at the recently
ended ICT Policy and Civil Society Workshop held in Addis Ababa.
of the information was very useful and provided an overview of the
UN's contribution towards the formalisation of ICT policy in Africa.
According to UNECA's website, there is no formal government policy
process for developing a national information infrastructure in
Zimbabwe. African Information Society Initiative (AISI) initiated
its promotion of National
Information and Communications Infrastructure (NICI) plans and strategies
in African countries in 1995. It is disappointing to note that Zimbabwe
appears to have made no progress in this regard.
this is the case, then APC's proposed training module entitled "ICT
Policy and Civil Society" has come at exactly the right time.
Civil society in Zimbabwe is well established and connected via
email, telephone and fax. It is however under extreme pressure as
government seeks to exert its influence and control over the non-profit
sector. Despite this, I am persuaded by Peter Benjamin's overview
of the training material that Zimbabweans ignore ICTs at their economic
peril. Civil society in general has failed to keep up with the enormous
strides taken in the field of ICTs and their significance has yet
to be fully appreciated
countries need to work together to build a future for the generations
that follow. A future where Africa becomes the preferred home of
our youth, unlike the situation in Zimbabwe where the "brain
drain" of professionals has impacted negatively on progress
particularly in key sectors like health and education.
believe that we need to encourage peer review amongst African countries
- where the best practises amongst us are lauded and promoted, and
the worst are openly criticised and rejected. This is indeed a challenge
but one we must take up with commitment and enthusiasm if democracy
and good governance is to become a reality throughout Africa.
purpose for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) scheduled
for December 2003, is to develop a "common vision and understanding
of the information society and the adoption of a declaration and
plan of action for implementation by Governments, international
institutions and all sectors of civil society". Unless African
civil society informs itself of the issues at hand and advocates
vigorously to be included at this level of policy formulation, it
is likely that the WSIS resolutions will have little bearing on
the daily realities of African people.