In this blog I am addressing the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in the application for the position of African ICT Policy Advocacy Coordinator.
The issues to be addressed are:
a) why do you think ICT policy is in critical need of attention in Africa;
b) what do you think are the most important areas to intervene in the near future?; and,
c) how do you see the relationship between human rights and the internet?
First, I wish to address our understanding of ICT and how we can integrate it into our governance systems and also our daily lives. I have struggled to find a term for this and the best I could find was “Progress through Technology”, or in German, “Vorsprung Durch Technik” . I prefer to use the German expression because in German the word “Technik” not only means technology, but also the technique of studying and mastering the skills of something.
Thus my belief that African countries need to relook at their ICT Policy and include the mastering of ICT tools as part of their focus. These tools include the
1. social media revolution of sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.
2. Mobile telephony (not only smartphones but also older technologies such as USSD)
3. touch screen and tablets
in getting information to their constituents.
It is my opinion is that discrimination in the world in 2012 and beyond, is not based only on race, culture, gender, or geographical location, but more importantly in access to services and technology. African leaders must address this through ICT policies that are forward looking, and easily adaptable to changes in technology.
Africa can use the latest technology to the benefit of all its residents. The attitude to education which is presently geared to becoming an industrial country, must be changed to a system where knowing where the information is available is more important than having the information in your head. This means moving from our present agricultural society to a knowledge-base society within the next decade.
This leapfrogging into a knowledge-based society can be assisted by creating an ICT Action Group (IAG) reporting directly to the President or even Parliament. I propose such an IAG should consist of four staff members, of which two should be young people under the age of twenty-five. (The (male and female) staff member should each have software programming skills and should also participate in gaming leagues such as Warcraft. In addition, they should have a minimum competency in the number of words they can SMS per minute on their cellular phone.)
The objectives of the IAG:
• Advise the President and Cabinet on ICT.
• Ensure ICT capability of all members of the Cabinet and their staff.
• Create a Government Ministerial scorecard on Information and Communication Technologies. This includes a baseline survey of computer equipment and civil servant skills, as well as monitoring the information availability over government websites.
• Oversee the creation of a central register with data on residents and businesses.
• Ability to declare certain areas to be under-serviced and secure funds to roll-out infrastructure
• Identify international trends such as Facebook and Chat with the view of encouraging local sites that are able to provide the same service. This will encourage innovation and access to information.
• Promote local content development to enhance the National Identity.
• Host free internet websites for any resident of of their country
ICT and Human rights
Human rights are to be understood as something we are entitled to because we are a human being. With the advent of the Internet and more and more powerful ICT tools, some of the citizens of the world are being left behind. While the information on the Web might be available to anyone, availability of infrastructure to access the Internet in lacking in many developing countries. two issues are thus defined in ICT policy, access to the information, and being given the education to use ICT.
Thus, just as the provision of water or housing, access to information and communication technologies must be provided by the government to its residents – in the same manner they provide libraries in the communities.
As for teaching ICT usage, in the Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26 it states:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace
In earlier times we referred to the three R’s being reading, writing and arithmetic. Today, using the computer as a e-reader, blog writer, movie uploader or collaborative social movement, has become just as important to learn at the primary education level.
Our ICT policies should strive to…
“Develop the tools and systems to assist the management of our countries (government, civil society and private sector) in providing access to services and technologies to allow maximum quality of life to all who live there.”