Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big ICT strides in Southern Africa: News

Southern African leaders are making some public strides this week in regards to information and communication technology policy.  Today and tomorrow, the South African department of communications  (DoC) host a multi-stakeholder forum in Midrand for their Presidential National Commission initiative, the Information Society and Development (ISAD). Representatives Nyanda and Phiri utilize an approach which hopes to engage the different players in South Africa and has potential to improve planning and implementation of ICTs particularly for five areas:  ICT for Rural Development, SMME Development, Formation Ethics, e-Government Services, and e-Skills Development.  
One highlight is the e-Skills development commission which hope to create a national implementation plan for ICT skills development across the country and within its various programs and services.   In a recent Research ICT Africa study on e-skills (pdf), the research found that “In 16 out of the 17 countries, the strongest positive and significant effect on probability of higher e-skills can be attributed to having completed tertiary education”.  In order for the South African DoC to make a significant change within their country, not only does the government need to improve affordable access to the internet for all, they must also coordinate long-term education policies which strive for more university graduates. 
Another most relevant commission which the ISAD is looking for is an information ethics commission.  The whole concept of global security, human security, privacy and transparency is growing in research and importance.  With the Italian courts siding against Google for posting a video of a bullied boy with Down’s Syndrome for violating privacy law, South Africa has a responsibility to develop concrete resolutions which concern this area of information ethics.  Such a measure also falls in line with the conclusions of a recent African Union special discussion on ICTs (pdf) in which “Africa must harmonize its policies and projects at national, regional andcontinental levels taking into account the cyber security space” (particular recommendation by Senegal’s M. Cisse – page 14).

Across the border, Zimbabwe announces its 2010 – 2014 National Information Communication strategic plan.  ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa also hopes to cover cyber security and e-government just as proposed by South Africa.   The ICT Bill is on its way to Cabinet for approval.  Given Zimbabwe’s high rank in education (actually I’m not sure how it is doing these days), the group needs a solid plan for infrastructure and affordable access in order to meet a significant move towards the networked society. 

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