Friday, September 3, 2010

Single silver bullets, like ICT, do not work on their own!

Dear Colleagues

This is an old e-mail message from October 2008. The conference could have been at any time from say 1990 to now, and its theme would still have been relevant.

The point being made is that with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) it is possible for important things to be done remotely ... especially the building of political systems and gathering of information. It is argued that with information, then many of the constraints on development and the reasons for poverty will be resolved. Without ICT, it follows, that this information cannot be obtained and therefore problems will remain.

This is an elegant argument ... but I do not see it having much connection with real world reality.
ICT is a Means to Achieve Development and Democracy

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a means to achieve development and democracy, through supporting political, economic and social transformation, the Commonwealth Director of Legal Affairs told delegates at the Sixth Commonwealth ICT Summit in Abuja, Nigeria yesterday (6 October).

Betty Mould-Iddrisu was speaking at the opening of the two-day summit organized by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). She made the address on behalf of Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.

"Without a robust telecommunications network citizens cannot access health services remotely or obtain a good education for their children who are located in remote communities. We must help lift the smallest and most vulnerable and most in need off the bottom rung," she said.

Experts in the field of telecommunications and ICT, private sector representatives, international aid agencies and civil society organisations are meeting discuss the theme: "Ensuring Effective Connectivity for a Socially Inclusive and a Commercially Vibrant Africa."

The term digital divide refers to the gap between those people with effective access to digital and information technology and those without

This summit also offers participants the opportunity to explore Africa as a fertile emerging market for ICT business, to gain up-to-date insights into current trends in technological advances, and compare national ICT strategies.

The Secretary-General is encouraging the global network of Commonwealth member governments and associations such as the CTO, COMNET-IT and the CBC to work in partnerships with the wider
international community to help Africa to reduce its digital divide

Ms Mould-Iddrisu reiterated this by saying: "The Commonwealth is not a resource-rich organisation, in money terms. But its networks, and the goodwill that it generates, can be worth a great deal."

Over the coming months the Commonwealth Secretariat will be delivering a series of workshops designed to build capacity in the Development and Implementation of National ICT Strategies, a necessary pre-requisite before any major investment in ICT can be made.

Top government officials from more than 58 countries, including non-Commonwealth countries are attending the meeting to discuss Africa's march towards ICT development.

The CTO is an international development partnership between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth governments, business and civil society organisations. It provides the international community with effective means to help bridge the digital divide and achieve social and economic development, by delivering to developing countries unique knowledge-sharing programmes in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the specific areas of telecommunications, IT, broadcasting and the Internet. It has a specific focus on private-public partnerships.

Source; Commonwealth News and Information Service (London)
The problems of progress and performance in socio-economic development are multiple, and solutions have to address all the issues simultaneously in order for progress to be achieved. This is very difficult at the national level, but easier in a smaller setting. There have been great successes at the community level ... but often not sustainable because the national level elements of the economy have been so badly broken. One of my examples of this is the success of community development in Shenge, Sierra Leone during the 1980s. Because of the completely dysfunctional national economy and politics of the country, very little of the progress could be sustained without perpetual external intervention!

Success in socio-economic development requires more than one silver bullet ... everything that is needed must work to have success. This is a simple idea ... but national government and the relief and development community is not organized to engage in this way!


Peter Burgess

1 comment:

  1. Hi Peter,

    Likewise, microfinance I believe, doesn't offer a panacea. In our strategy paper for Ukraine, ICT in the deployment of affordable wireless broadband offered the more than full cost recovery component of a multi-component approach which also included microfinance, childcare reforms and a centre for social enterprise.