In the last fifteen years, the information and communication technologies for development have evolved rapidly. The developing countries have started formulating their ICT policies only in the last five years or so. But most ICT policies are solely focused on developing the IT sector and are often driven by the vendor interests, thus remaining rather weak on the development perspectives. Little emphasis is laid on improving competitiveness of industry in this increasingly globalising world. Much emphasis is also not laid on good governance for improving efficiency, better delivery of citizen services and deployments that may lead to employment and livelihood support.
The DOT-COM alliance, an USAID project which brings together agencies of the dot-GOV, dot-EDU and dot-ORG sectors, has since 2001, raised the critical elements that needs to be taken into consideration in the policy processes especially for developing countries. One critical aspect that has been emphasised is a gender perspective, that can be built into new national policies. Lessons from experiences of developed and developing nations who have been ahead of others, provide a great opportunity to get a head start.
The Association of Progressive Communications (APC) is another network that has supported formulation, assisted the civil society to engage and advocate for development concerns to be built into ICT policies. Not only has APC provided community platforms for learning and sharing, but also has helped create alliances and policy watch monitors.
Five key ingredients are necessary to ensure that the disadvantaged, poor and rural communities can take advantage of an information revolution. The first key ingredient is policy environment. This needs to be supplemented by the other four ingredients, viz., infrastructure, education, skills and access.
Whenever countries have engaged in multi-stakeholder participation in their ICT policy processes, like in Kenya, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China or India, the policies have found greater acceptance and have translated into remarkably effective programmes and projects. In this issue, we have presented a development perspective to the ICT policy. We do hope that the cases presented in this issue will build the perspectives of developing countries and provide valuable insights to the international support organisations, be it bilateral or multilateral agencies.
We look forward to learning more from governments and civil society in lesser known or documented countries.