Getting ICTs back on the agenda: five suggestions

Amy Mahan points me to A word to the G8, an article at regulateonline.org about the recent meeting of the UK high level policy forum Africa after the African Commission: What priorities for the German G8.

Richard Heeks took part of the forum and wrote a paper suggesting five ways to get ICTs back on the agenda [of the G8]:

1. Put ICTs back on the G8 agenda, as part of a recognition of science and technology’s role in African development.

Heeks asks for openness at all levels. I fully agree: free software, open science, open access journals, open educational resources, etc. seem to me an optimum way to foster endogenous development and south-south cooperation. Indeed, I think this is actually a good way to revert old cooperation trends and strategies (more charity-like) and enter a new path towards empowerment through capacity building.

2. Commit to support at global and national levels for Open Digital Economies that remove the legal and infrastructural barriers to African participation in the digital economy.

And, in my opinion, those barriers will be easier to remove if we shifted from “push” to “pull” strategies, by trying to activate the demand for digital content and services. Sustainability (and the entrepreneurs’ interest) is based on this.

3. Initiate a MOT Force – a global collaborative Mobile Opportunities Task Force to harness the development potential of mobile devices.

4. Support a Digital Enterprise Initiative for Africa that would incubate new enterprises, and kickstart the developmental use of outsourcing.

Richard Heeks has already written about offshoring to developing countries. Even if I understand his points, I really doubt any politician would even consider his approach: intellectual property — and programming has plenty of it — is a tricky issue, and even if offshoring just coding (not design) would lock inside one’s country the added value part, reverse engineering and, thus, a shift in the added value part would immediately follow. I think that international collaboration/cooperation is a must, but I still do not know if offshoring is the way. On the other hand, foreign investment, i.e. in the shape of microloans, is more appealing to me: there’s a direct return for the investor, and a benefit (and profit) for the developing country, both as gaining access to seed capital and, why not, also to knowledge tied to some procedures to be followed in order to be eligible in the call for projects.

5. Support capacity-building for African ICT-based innovation.

I believe that Heeks puts little stress on this point and, to me, is the most important one. He actually states African nations will not become world leaders in fundamental computer
and telecommunications science R&D. But, with G8 support, they can become leaders in the
development of innovative business and social applications
. Well, if projects such as One Laptop Per Child — or the like of it — really succeed, and ICTs are effectively included in everyone’s curriculum in developing countries, new born digital natives can quickly catch up with old-way-of-thinking digital immigrants. And R&D, in intellectual property, is mostly a matter of thinking. I know this is just a guess and quite a simple, frivolous one, but the idea is launched: if globalization and the knowledge society have something good, it might well be something like this.

More info

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2007) “Getting ICTs back on the agenda: five suggestions” In ICTlogy, #45, June 2007. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=556

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