e-Readiness in post-conflict and developing countries: a reflection (part II)

[continued from e-Readiness in post-conflict and developing countries: a reflection (part I)].

Second question relates to what methodology would be more applicable in post-conflict countries, being the issue whether it should be better to apply an existing one (for the sake of comparability) or design and implement a customized one that would better fit our purposes / the country’s framework and needs.

Fostering the Information Society in post-conflict and developing countries.

I don’t really think, as I said, that there is just one solution or a common road-map to foster the Information Society. Without hesitation, each country, each region, each community could set their own successful strategy and have but just some things in common with another community… or with themselves in another moment of time.

But I can see three main trends or aspects to take into account.

ICTs and immediate relief

As it happens with the distinction between humanitarian action (or humanitarian aid) and development cooperation, I believe that in the first stages after an armed conflict or a natural disaster urgent measures of efficacy and efficiency apply. ICTs should be planned to mainly benefit logistics: not development, not empowerment, not higher goals. Basic infrastructures should be a priority to help national and foreign aid agencies to do their best.

A second step (can go in parallel with the former), and easily brought by Web 2.0 applications, could consist on some empowerment on the population to connect with their peers and kin: think of refugees or victims of natural disasters. But this is just a corollary of the efficacy and efficiency goals of the institutions: they do not only have to provide material relief, but psychological and social. It’s just efficient to set up a website where people can find and be found, by themselves, and not by centralizing everything at the headquarters.

In this train of thought, e-commerce or business e-readiness models and micro level measurements of ICT impact should prevail. We do not want to focus on the population appropriation of technology, but on the institutions’. Connectivity, networks, productivity (to better achieve their humanitarian goals). Thus, we should design our own methodologies (while inspired in others’) and own set of indicators, at the very micro level.

Development of institutions

It is way beyond doubt that development can only come in a proper framework. And this framework is called government (let’s include in this term both governance and government). Actually, this is but the second part of the former point: enforcement of institutions, now not ad hoc institutions (like foreign humanitarian aid agencies) but structural institutions.

My opinion is that the focus in this phase should be e-Government, which, at least, means thee things:

  • ICT empowered institutions, measuring their access to technology, to capacity building, their supply of digital content and public services, etc.
  • ICT empowered citizens, at least above a lower threshold so they can interact with their governments
  • The sufficient infrastructures so governments and citizens can easily work with each other

Sectoral, government-focused indicators and assessment guides should be the ones used in this phase. Already established indicators and methodologies should be customized according to one country’s reality and specific needs and goals: e-Justice might not be a priority, but e-Administration; direct democracy (through electronic devices) might not be a priority, and strong engagement (e-participation) from the civil society might be very important.

e-Readiness for Development

Third phase is but the (only) phase that e-Readiness indices and rankings usually explain: how to benefit from ICTs to progress and achieve more welfare, by means of increased productivity, competitiveness, etc.

As the landscape has now become global (after the emergencies of the directly post-conflict issues, and after the main national institutions have been built), it is advisable to follow and use international data (i.e. rankings) to get an idea of a country’s overall performance, especially in relationship with their neighbors.

This does not mean that these should be the only tools to use, but only that some harmonization between a country’s customized tools and the global standards should be achieved, the reason being simple: not only e-readiness, but the whole economy is now competing at the global economy level, so just one set of rules applies: the international one.

Some conclusions

In my opinion, at early stages of development (such as post-conflict scenarios) only ad hoc initiatives should apply. A participatory (action) research approach can be absolutely useful. And afterwards trying to infer general conclusions to improve the model and make it valuable in broader contexts.

At stages where development (endogenous, self-centered) is not the issue, but competitiveness (exogenous, third-parties-dependent), the more globally agreed measurements, the better, with one caveat: these measurements should be improved to collect all aspects relevant to most countries.

Unfortunately, I think that we have neither one nor the other.

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

Peña-López, I. (2008) “e-Readiness in post-conflict and developing countries: a reflection (part II)” In ICTlogy, #55, April 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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