ICT: Africa’s chance to bypass the West

The new information age has provided Africa with an opportunity to increase and accelerate development for the benefit of its people through utilisation of information and communication technology (ICT).

The new information age has provided Africa with an opportunity to increase and accelerate development for the benefit of its people through utilisation of information and communication technology (ICT).

The continent has been able to improve the lives of its people by enabling them to participate in the global economy and in electronic commerce.

In this regard, Africa should work tirelessly towards creating an enabling environment for the growth and rapid expansion of ICT on the continent.

Africans must put in place policies, guidelines and strategies to effectively utilise ICT applications and services to ensure efficient decision-making, better service delivery and improvement in all government processes.

With information technology, the continent should tackle key development challenges such as infrastructure and services generate sufficient economic growth and create employment opportunities to improve the welfare of people.

The use of ICT in all stages of education, training and human resources development should be pursued vigorously in Africa.

The sounding ICT policy in the education sector would go a long way in ensuring the roadmap for the development of ICT teaching and learning programs for the continent’s institutions of learning.

We should also consider establishing computer renovation centres in our countries in order to reduce the cost of acquiring computers for education and training purposes, this would enable more schools to acquire computers so that learners can obtain computer literacy from an early age.

Targeting the youths will eventually create a population which is conversant with IT, and hopefully reliant on it, so as to create the necessary market needed for IT to become an essential industry in our countries.

Since ICT revolution has the potential to develop our countries today, we need to undertake measures that bridge the digital gap between communities.

Since Africa has limited financial and technical resources, the continent should explore a phased and targeted implementation strategy for the rapid spread of ICT on the continent.

Governments should lead the first phase by publishing information on the Internet, in newspapers and other publications with the view of promoting transparency and democracy.

The second phase should be about governments initiating interaction and exchanging data with the public through various applications such as e-mail, search engines and downloading of basic information.

Collaboration between private and civil sectors in the provision of equal access and skills training in ICT applications and services would aid the government’s effort in narrowing the digital divide between individuals and communities.

Governments, private and civil society should collaborate and set up community information centers to deliver speedy, efficient and effective electronic services to the public, provide increased access to information, and to serve as outposts for knowledge dispersal, effective learning and promote information technology literacy among the population.

While policies and strategies must address the extension of the communications infrastructure through telecommunications reform to stimulate civil and private sector growth and create job opportunities, this is a necessary and possible if only leaders take the lead in encouraging the use of ICT.

ICT policy and strategies must also incorporate social goals by building human capacity and creating the conditions for the development of relevant applications and content.

ICT policies and strategies have to do with education, health, agriculture, culture and all other areas of activity that impact on the quality of life.

They can be integrated into sectoral as well as broad national policies and strategies. For example, countries may commit themselves to introducing ICT in schools in order to expand educational opportunities and increase the supply of ICT-literate graduates.

Similarly, they may extend internet access to rural clinics to improve on the delivery of health services.

As the use of the internet expands within countries, a host of specific issues emerge: privacy and security, intellectual property rights, access to government information are but examples.

The challenge is for all Africans to stand up and be equal partners with the rest of the world in this IT venture.