June 2005

ICT Policy in Africa

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It is a well known fact that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can serve as a powerful agent of change. This has been a realistic vision entertained by the developed countries including America and Europe especially, Norway. Norway in particular believes that these changes that can be brought by ICT can have a wide range of social implications, which will have positive impacts in the way of life of its people.  Norway has a very high standard of living, however their economy is highly dependant upon petroleum and other natural resources. Norway has recognised this dependency and is attempting to diversify their economy to include information technology and other industries in the event so that the demand for natural resources changes.

On the contrary, a lot of African countries' economies rely mainly on agriculture and a few mineral resources.  It is time for African governments to embrace the new trend and agent of change – ICT and develop policies that will enhance the use of ICT as a tool for socio-economic development.  This important vision that is lacking in most African countries, could be the turning point from poverty and misery on the continent to better the levels of life and happiness.

The African governments should understand the need to institute national, sub-regional and regional ICT policies (e-Africa) that will allow them to participate in the 'knowledge economy'.  Information is power and as we all know can do a lot.  It is never too late just as Norway is doing to try and establish a comprehensive plan and committed substantial resources in joining the race of ICT for development.  To follow Norway's example that is proving to be successful, African governments can also channel their efforts into sectors such as:

  • Individual, culture and environment,
  • African industries,
  • African workforce,
  • The governments,
  • Education.

There is an urgent need for African governments to put in place ICT policies that will ensure and enhance the delivery of information into individuals, institutions and African society at large that ICT is a positive facilitator rather than a social hindrance or threat.


African government should ensure that the national, sub-regional and regional ICT policies put in place are geared towards enhancing the ease of access to information and empowering the people in various ways with the tools of ICT at their disposal.  There should be encouragement for individuals to own computers, cyber-cafes and other ICT projects at all levels of the private sector.

To appreciate the impact of ICT usage on the environment, African governments should put policies in place that will help develop and promote environmental information that is Internet-based.

Illiteracy is not only a disease, but also a hindrance to development.  Due to the fact that illiteracy rates in most African countries are very high, there is an urgent need for African governments to develop policies in this digital age that will help to establish learning activities among educational institutions in the continent taking into account the culture and language aspects.  These educational policies should also address the development or promotion of skills in ICT among educators as well as the development of public-private partnerships in the uses of ICT.

One of the reasons for technophobia or the fear of changing to the electronic age especially among the older age groups is the fear of security of data on the networks.  While African governments need to put policies in place that will help establish an ICT friendly legal environment in the continent to promote competition, they need to consider the development of a regional strategy that will ensure data integrity, reliability and security. With security and fair competitions in place, governments can then develop policies that will encourage and promote the export of ICT products and services among industries, within the African region and outside of the continent.

In conclusion, the race for the knowledge economy may be a little too late for African governments but that is no excuse for them to be completely left behind. The pursuit for the attempt to establish themselves as part of the global ICT leadership may have eluded African nations. But this should not stop their governments from establishing comprehensive plans and committing substantial amounts of resources, towards efforts in meeting the Poverty Eradication and Alleviation Program (PEAP) and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) through the use of ICT by implementing national, sub-regional and regional ICT policies.

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