ICT in Africa: where’s the political leadership?
By BiztechAfrica – Dec. 18, 2012, 11:19 a.m.
By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Dakar, Senegal
Developing countries generally face challenges in terms of capacity, capability and resources – human and financial – to successfully and effectively harness the potential of ICT, according to a Global e-Schools for Communities Initiatives (GeSCI) report titled ICT, Education, Development and the Knowledge Society.
Addressing each of the issues requires building of capacity at all levels, the report says, and this it adds, should start with African leaders so that systemic changes can be planned from the top, creating an enabling environment for bottom-up innovation and development.
“I have said it before and I will say it again that Africa is suffering from a lack of strong, credible and trustworthy leadership,” technology analyst Léopold Camara tells Biztechafrica.
“ICT is such a complex sector that needs a strong desire and political will to invest in it, beginning by drafting sound policies, and implementing those policies.
“Everything must begin from the top and if the top is rotten, the bottom will also be rotten.
“Just take a look at the state of ICT education in Africa, it’s appalling! It’s only a few countries that are trying hard and even there it’s not moving forward, while the rest don’t even know where to start.
“How many African countries annually spend over 10% of their GDP on ICT, and how many of them have school’s high-quality ICT content?”
The GeSCI report reiterates that strong government support is a key for advancing ICT availability and usage in education as a broad social and economic development enterprise, a challenge that many education institutions in Africa face.”
The report nevertheless hails Senegal and South Africa’s policy moves, which it says introduced special education rates (e-rates) that have facilitated ICT access to schools and colleges.
“Mauritius has gone even farther towards establishing a university of science and technology to capitalise on ICT development,” the report says.
However, Camara expresses serious doubts about the sustainability of these advances, saying that in these so-called ICT-advanced countries the struggle was far from over.
“You know why? Because their involvement in ICT was only circumstantial and accidental, and now they seem to have run out of breath and ideas. Senegal and South Africa seem to have the same problem, the electricity dilemma.
“Before you buy a computer in your house, first you have to ensure that you have power or enough of it to charge your battery if it’s a laptop.
“And how would you operate it if is it’s a desktop? Apart from that, both countries can brag about having large bandwidth or good connectivity, or even owning thousands of meters of optic fibre cables or whatever, but their internet access and price are still unfavourable to the poor and rural communities.
“If one of them can brag that its internet price has come down, yes but it’s still too high compared to international standards.
“Where is the political leadership to help take Africa to higher levels of ICT? It’s not there and it’s short-sighted,” Camara accuses.
GeSCI was founded by the UN ICT Task Force in 2003 in a move to use ICT to address the issues of quality and access in the education systems of developing countries.