LINK Research Agenda
Research Papers & Reports
Research Report: Consumer Best Practices in the Telecoms Sector - Isabelle Gross, Charley Lewis & Russell Southwood (Also available in print-on-demand format)
Research Report: Empowering Regulators to Protect Consumer Rights in the ICT Sector - Charley Lewis & Russell Southwood (Also available in print-on-demand format)
Conference Paper: Achieving Universal Service in South Africa: What Next
for Regulation? - Charley Lewis
Paper: Digital Turmoil for South African TV - Chris Armstrong & Richard Collins
Policy Paper: The State of eDevelopment in South Africa - Luci Abrahams & Arthur Goldstuck [Also available in print-on-demand format (3,5 Mb)]
Book: Access to Knowledge in Africa: The Role of Copyright -
Chris Armstrong, Jeremy De Beer, Dick Kawooya, Achal Prabhala & Tobia Schonwetter (eds)
Policy Policy Research Paper no 10: International mobile roaming in Africa - Ewan Sutherland
Policy Research Paper No 9: e-Governance for Social & Local Economic Development: Gauteng City Region perspective - L Abrahams & L Newton-Reid (2mb pdf) (click here for a low resolution version)
ACA2K briefing paper: ACA2K Methodology Guide - African Copyright & Access to Knowledge Project
ACA2K: Research Findings from Africa
in Relation to WIPO Development Agenda Priorities - African Copyright & Access to
Auditors general and telecommunications - Ewan Sutherland
The South African Call Centre Industry: National Benchmarking Report, Strategy, HR Practices & Performance - Chris Benner, Rahmat Omar & Charley Lewis (2007)
Policy Research Paper: Towards an African e-Index 2007: Telecommunications Sector Performance in 16 African Countries - Steve Esselaar, Alison Gillwald & Christoph Stork
Unbundling local loops: global experiences - Ewan Sutherland
Policy Research Paper No 8: SA Sector Performance Review 2007 - Steve Esselaar & Alison Gillwald
Counting mobile phones, SIM cards & customers - Ewan Sutherland
The regulation of undersea cables & landing stations - Steve Esselaar, Alison Gillwald & Ewan Sutherland
SA Sector Performance Review 2006 - Steve Esselaar & Alison Gillwald
Towards An African E-Index SME e-ACESS AND USAGE across 14 African Countries - (eds) Christoph Stork & Steve Esselaar (a Research ICT Africa Report)
Assessing consumer activity in the telecomms & Internet sectors in Africa - R Southwood, J Nguo, O Sagna & Charley Lewis
ResearchICTafrica! Research Report: Towards an African e-Index: Household and Individual ICT Access and Usage across 10 African Countries - (ed) A Gillwald
Commons-sense Project: The African Digital Commons: A Participant’s Guide, 2005 - A Armstrong, & H FordPolicy Research Paper No 7: South African Telecommunications Sector Performance Review 2004 - A Gillwald & S Esselaar (pdf format)
Policy Research Paper No 6: Digital Dilemmas for South African TV - C Armstrong & R Collins (pdf
Sector Performance: A Review of Seven African Countries
- researchICTafrica.net (pdf
Investment in Network Extension: The Case of South Africa
- A Gillwald (pdf
Case Studies (Nigeria, Algeria & Tanzania)
- S Esselaar, A Stavrou & J oRiordan (pdf
Policy Research Paper No 5: South
African Telecommunications Sector Performance Review 2003 - A Gillwald & S Kane (pdf
here for an overview presentation)
Policy Research Paper No 4: National
Convergence Policy in a Globalised World: Preparing South
Africa for Next Generation Networks, Services and Regulation - A Gillwald
Policy Research Paper No 3: Under-serviced Area Licences in South Africa - A Gillwald
Policy Research Paper No 2: Assessing Telkom's 2003 Price Increase Proposal - W H Melody
Alexandra Township And The Alexsan Kopano Resource Centre: Background
Report, prepared for UNESCO
by Merridy Wilson, 2002 (pdf
gender-oriented information and learning needs assessment
of the youth of Alexandra, prepared for UNESCO
by Merridy Wilson, 2002 (pdf
African ICT Decision-making Case Study, prepared for CTO
/ Panos, 2002 (pdf
An Information Policy Handbook for Southern Africa - Tina James (ed) 2001 (1,8 Mb executable file or 3,5 Mb pdf)
Corruption in Global Telecomms - Ewan Sutherland
Telecommunications & Climate Change: African & European Experiences & Requirements - Ewan Sutherland (Click here to access the full paper)
Economic inclusion in the 21st century: grounds for universal household broadband services - Luci Abrahams
ICT Sector Indicators: What are we measuring? - Charley Lewis
E-Index ITU Indicators presentation - Presentation at the ITU Indicators meeting between the 9th and 11th of February by Alison Gillwald (pdf format)
monopolies, virtual monopolies and oligopolies to... what?
Media policy and convergence in South Africa and the UK
- Inaugural Address by Richard Collins, 2004 Vodacom Visiting
Professor in ICT Policy and Regulation (pdf
Telecom Reform for Development - paper presented by Alison
Gillwald to the 'Information and Communications Technologies
(ICTs) for Poverty Reduction: When, Where, and How?' conference,
Harvard University, 20 September 2003 (pdf
Triumph and Tragedy of Human Capital: Foundation Resource
for Building Network Knowledge Economies - Inaugural Address
by William H. Melody, 2003 Vodacom Visiting Professor in ICT
Policy and Regulation
Policy and Regulatory Issues of Broadband - Alison Gillwald, 2002 (pdf format)
We, the Workers…
Unions and ICT in South Africa - Charley Lewis, 2002 (pdf format)
Current Issues in Regulation - Alison Gillwald, 2001
ICT 2000 Conference Papers
Telecomm Policy & Regulation
for Women and Development - Alison Gillwald, Oct 1999
Articles & Submissions
Submission on the Proposed ICASA Amendment Bill 2012
Submission on the Proposed Electronic Communications Amendment Bill 2012
Comment on the Proposed Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
Amendment Bill, July 2010
Comments on Draft Broadband Policy of South Africa, September 2009
Submission on the Convergence Bill , April 2005 (pdf format)
on the Draft Convergence Bill, 3 February 2004 (pdf
Attracting Investment for Competition to Telkom - William H Melody, February 2003
Convergence and Broadband Implications for South Africa, January 2001 (pdf format)
Telecomms Monopolies Unwanted in the New Economy - Tracy Cohen, 3 March 2000
Research: Papers, Presentations & Articles
This section sets out issues currently on the research agenda of the LINK Centre, as well as offering access to our some of the research output.
The research papers, conference
presentations, articles, submissions
and other documents posted here have been delivered at other
conferences or seminars; published in journals, books or newspapers;
commissioned for other agencies, or are shared as work in progress.
For more research papers, go to the African Journal of Information and Communication, published by the LINK Centre.
ICT Research Network
This research programme is supported by the Department of Communications, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, the International Development and Research Center, Internet Service Providers Association of South Africa, the South African VANS Association, Transtel, Uniforum SA, and the Vodacom Foundation.
2 Research Agenda
2.1 ICT policy and Regulatory Sector Review
2.2 Anticipating, Monitoring and Evaluating Telecommunication Policy and Regulatory Developments
2.3 Integrated Framework for Universal Access and Service
2.4 Convergence Policy
2.5 Models of ICT Usage for Community Development
2.6 Towards an 'Afroputer'
2.7 Globalisation and International Institutional Impact Analysis
2.8 ICTs and Rights
2.9 Labour and ICT
3. Models of Government and Governance in the Knowledge Economy
3.1. Electronic Government
3.2 Institutions and Innovation in the Knowledge Economy
3.3 Government Electronic Readiness Assessment Model for Africa
3.4 E-Government Initiatives in Africa: What is Happening Where?
3.5 E-Government for Africa: Assessing the Opportunities and Challenges
3.6 Creating an Electronic Government Network for Africa
3.7 Policy Issues for Electronic Government in Africa
Despite the dramatic transformation of the ICT sector in South Africa over the last half decade, as it adjusts to meeting the needs of a developing country in the global economy, this process has not had the benefit of public interest research and rigorous analysis on which to base policy and regulatory decisions. This has severe implications and the potential of impacting negatively not only on the sector but also on the country as a whole. It is necessary to improve the quality of information on which effective policy is based and which can play a critical role in strengthening the political process that informs the formulation and implementation of that policy.
Most of the understanding of the information age comes from the theory and experiences gained in the developed world. There is little in-depth knowledge of issues that are specifically relevant to the African context. There are major areas of the economy and society where the impact and potential of ICTs have not been studied at all in the South African context, leaving government in a weak position to formulate policy comprehensively and implement plans effectively.
Research is critical to establishing the needs of countries and groups within them, and to conceptualising approaches that are likely to be effective in resolving country-specific problems. Strengthening institutional capacity for research, analysis and debate in developing countries is an indispensable element in the construction of knowledge societies.
South Africa produces little in the way of independent, primary research feeding into the ICT policy and regulatory processes. Unlike other parts of the world committed to participatory policy formulation processes, there are no independent agencies contributing to these processes in the broader public interest on the basis of rigorous applied research.
To fill this strategic gap a dedicated ICT Research Network is being established at the LINK Centre to generate the information and analysis needed to inform appropriate but visionary policy formulation and effective regulation of the sector. The multiple-funded programme will respond to the national research needs of the sector by tracking developments within the sector and anticipating forthcoming policy and regulatory issues. At the continental level the Centre will provide analysis of developments and seek to provide innovative and sustainable solutions to the core developmental issues that face the continent. This research will be drawn on to provide input into various international initiatives and developments and to provide the basis for a critical analysis and monitoring of them. The centre has also identified a number of important ICT projects at the local or community level that require dedicated research if they are not to be lost in the broader research at a national and continental level. This ranges from more technical and new economic issues such as the importance of metropolitan networks to becoming globally competitive to innovative ways of creating public access in remote areas.
The research agenda will be placed in the context of examining how the introduction of ICTs changes the value chain and economic equation in the knowledge economy. Do such changes offer new opportunities for countries in the developing world? What approaches and responses by governments, the private sector and trade unions in Africa can best harness ICTs for social development and economic growth? What is the role of government in this era of rapid technological change? How does government transform itself to take advantage of the potential of ICTs to serve its development agenda? What action does government take to mitigate and manage the risks that arise in relation to ICTs and development? Specifically, what is government's role and what actions should it take to bridge the digital divide?
Such research questions have global dimensions, but their manifestations within South African and across the Southern African region have important lessons and implications across the rest of the continent, and for developing countries more broadly.
The intention is that in time the models and methodologies arising from these studies will also be disseminated for use in other countries though regional partnerships and continental networks and databases. The Network will try to develop approaches that will allow the economic surpluses of liberalisation to be capitalised on for social advancement.
The research agenda is divided into two sections, which reflect the development of the two training components which have emerged within the Centre. The first focuses on the ICT sector through private provisioning in a liberalising market and examines the policy and regulatory environment required to enhancing that emerging market and optimising associated social gains that can accompany this. The second focuses on ICT in the public sector, specifically in the area of public service delivery and innovation at national, provincial and local government level. To reflect the current thinking and historical development of these two components within the Centre and the sector more generally they have been separated out at the moment. This also facilitates the separate funding sources for the research areas currently but we anticipate that increasingly the areas of activity will become integrated into a single research framework.
The purpose of this undertaking is to attempt to establish benchmarks for the sector on which to assess its progress. Indicators, some of them internationally agreed, will be used to determine progress in the sector against the national objectives of the legislation and other criteria that may have emerged as significant between statutes. For examples this study will seek to review progress towards universal service with the use of internationally agreed measures such as teledensity, lines per 100 people, to assess South Africa's progress. These and other measures such as cost per line, subscribers to enhanced or broadband services, interconnection costs, tariff and quality of service measures are important for effective international comparative purposes. It is instructive to compare percentage growth against other countries of similar size and wealth, or even more demanding conditions rather than looking at absolute figures to review national performance, such as in the examples below. While after the first year one should have an good idea of the performance of sectors and thereby the institutions within it, with year on year studies it will allow trends studies that should be informative in anticipating developments within the sector.
Moving from the broader sector analysis, the research network will also focus on identifying, tracking and monitoring specific policy directives and regulations at the national and international level. Initially it will probably not have the capacity to cover all developments but some of the areas that LINK has historically identified as significant and some issues that it has anticipated as emerging are listed below. This monitoring and evaluative research will then also feed into the broader sector performance review described above.
The Network will anticipate forthcoming policy and regulatory issues and prepare the research ground in preparation of this so that they are able to benefit from rigorous, independent and public interest research and analysis. For example the legislation stipulates a number of issues for which the regulator will be required to prescribe regulations eg. Interconnection and facilities leasing, number portability and carrier pre-selection. In so far as is feasible the Network will also monitor the outcomes of these processes, particularly with regard to the impact on the sector in the performance review mentioned. A key ongoing focus of the Network in this regard will be to continue with the research on universal access and service that the Centre has been commissioned to do with the intention of assisting with the development of an integrated framework of universal access and service.
With the support of the Canadian International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) LINK has provided research support to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) with the development of a framework for universal access by seeking to integrate a number of regulatory processes. These included combining the requirement to review the community service obligations of the mobile cellular operators, the review of the universal service levy and the licensing regime for underserviced area licences. Although constrained by certain realities such applied research has allowed for complementary regulation that could better meet universal service objectives. Through commitments to the IDRC the Centre will be writing up its modelling of the framework and proposals, all of which could not be implemented as proposed, for dissemination within the extensive IDRC developmental network.
This project will have continual need for updating and consideration of its application under different circumstances in other countries. Innovative ways of providing affordable access to an increasing range of services will be an ongoing area of study as the one of the keys to sustainable development. A number of critical issues in relation to resolving this framework do not lie with the regulator however. The long awaited definition of universal service, without which many other factors hinge, lies in the hands of the Minister. Likewise without a business and implementation plan the Universal Service Agency will be unable to extract the maximum benefits of their supporting legislation. The Network will make itself as available as possible to support any public processes that seek to resolve these stumbling blocks especially with regard to locating universal access in the context of the information society and economy.
In a similar vain on the policy development front the Network has identified the policy and legislation on convergence, proposed by government to pull together the cluster of ICT legislation passed over the last eight years, as a major challenge for the coming year. With regard to policy developments, This the kind of policy research which the Centre will anticipate and conduct the necessary research on the public interest issues well in advance of the pubic process. It will be concerned to examine the policy and regulatory questions that emerge with the convergence of services across traditionally distinct delivery platforms. Traditional telecommunications has been concerned with carriage issues of accessibility, interconnection and pricing. The only area of overlap between it and broadcasting was the allocation of scarce resources such as spectrum. Broadcasting has been regulated with regard to free speech, indigenous content and ownership. When these conventionally distinct areas converge, questions arise around the extent to which public regulation of these areas should converge. There are immediately a number of areas where questions of political convergence are relevant. Universal access will be compounded with the introduction of initially high-cost devices and services, often requiring a higher set of skills to utilise effectively. Cross media ownership will remain a critical issue as the high cost of the networks and their associated capital costs have resulted in greater consolidation of the global communications market. Interconnection of networks and interoperability of receiving equipment will become more important than ever as interconnectivity between different platforms will be central to seamless communications for consumers. Further it raises questions around ensuring the viability of older forms of communication during the transition to this digital broadband era. Central to all of this the creation of an enabling environment for innovative content and carriage options for a developing economy in a highly competitive international economy.
While this is a complex enough task for developed economies, when such developments are to be harness to provide benefits beyond a small elite, one is unlikely to find solutions in developed country models. Specific projects to increase access to the information society, will be funded through dedicated donor aid to focus on practical solution that could begin to inform appropriate policy. Two specific projects that have been identified are listed below.
There are many community ICT projects in South Africa and in other African countries. However, many of them are unable to provide services of use to their local communities for lack of training, local content, contacts to service providers or appropriate models. In this project, LINK will work with the community ICT projects in South and Southern Africa (especially through the Community Information Network for Southern Africa) to find examples of best practice in use of community ICT, investigate services that could be of use to community ICT projects, and develop guides for usage of community ICT.
For the Information Society to blossom in Africa, many more computers are needed to provide universal access. However, currently the computers that are used in Africa are imported, increasing dependency and requiring foreign exchange. Other developing countries have made considerable efforts to develop local computers that are appropriate to local needs, such as the 'Simputer' in India and the 'PC Popular' in Brazil. As Mike Jensen and others have argued, an appropriate African-made computer (or 'Afroputer') could be based around a portable screen (LCD) so that it could use batteries off-grid electricity and use open source software. This research task will investigate what alternative hardware options are available, conduct a needs-analysis for an 'African computer', link with similar projects in other African countries and produce recommendations for the project. After this, lobbying can be conducted in support of this project.
Several international initiatives from DOTForce to the UN Special Task Force on ICT have acknowledged the unequal and uneven impact of international governance systems on developing countries. Developments within the major multilateral organisations that impact on the ICT sector, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) will be monitored and analysed in order to provide more informed participation by South Africa and other developing countries. Major policy developments will be tracked and the likely impact on South Africa assessed. Ways of optimising South Africa and other developing countries' participation in the global economy while at the same time influencing the international agenda which in many ways favour the developed economies, will be assessed and made available in the public domain for these purposes. Historically, South Africa has been bound by international agreement on issues that many would argued it has not been sufficiently informed on and which some would argue it has sometimes reneged as a result. One of the areas in which the Network anticipates South Africa is going to find itself increasingly embroiled is that of ICTS and rights and international obligations.
As the benefits of connectivity begin to spread on the continent, and indeed across the globe, governments are increasingly considering afresh, their role in Internet governance. These concerns extend beyond the administration of country domains and infrastructure issues, to their proper role within the management of consumer rights, including concerns with illegal or objectionable content, privacy, surveillance, disaster recovery management and standards setting for network security. In the face of global instability these concerns are being revisited afresh with new emphasis placed on the importance of the national interest. In addition, many bi- and plurilateral agreements require that certain cautionary steps are taken in this regard. One cogent example is the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention, to which South Africa is a non-member signatory. These questions necessitate a fine balancing of rights between safety and liberty and while ostensibly matters of national concern, agreements like the COE convention have provisions on extra-territoriality, which make international co-ordination relevant. Many domestic provisions on consumer rights for electronic commerce, strengthen this claim.
Research in this area aims to achieve three goals:
- An audit of relevant consumer protections, privacy and surveillance legislation potentially having an impact on Southern Africa
- An evaluation of the relevant legislation and interest groups active in the region
- An attempt to ascertain best international practice, with due regard for domestic constitutional protection, in order to assist in the formulation and implementation of policy affecting consumer welfare, privacy and surveillance.
Another area of research neglect identified by the Network is that of labour. Technology, and ICTs in particular have, since the days of the Luddite rebellion against power looms, been recognised as having a fundamental impact upon work, workers and the workplace. From Joseph Schumpeter's 1930s economic analysis of the "gales of creative destruction" blown by the new technologies, through to the ILO's 2001 World Employment Report, the debate has raged about the nature and extent of these impacts upon levels of employment, skills development and working life. As call centres and ICT-enabled globally-distributed production proliferate, as the Internet picks itself up from the dotBomb debacle, and as trade unions worldwide begin to grapple with the ICT era, and more recently at home the recent ICT jobs summit, a range of key research questions are thrust to the fore.
2.9.1 ICT and the Labour Process
To what extent do ICTs change the labour process as they are rolled out in manufacturing, through call centres, and across the economy? What new skills requirements are imposed, and how does this impact human resource development and performance management?
2.9.2 ICT and Employment
What are the effects of the diffusion of ICTs on employment levels and the external labour market within the economy? To what extent have there been shifts in the global location of employment caused by ICT-enabled outsourcing and distributed data processing, the spread of ICT-mediated tele-work and the rise of call centres?
2.9.3 ICT and Work
What has been the impact of ICTs on internal labour markets, upon the content of jobs and upon conditions of work? Are call centres merely digital sweatshops? To what degree are tele-cottages, tele-work and e-work changing the nature of employment itself?
2.9.4 ICT and Unions
What have been the responses by trade unions to the changes wrought by ICT in employment levels, work and working conditions? To what extent have unions been able to respond effectively to the rapidly changing policy landscape in telecommunications, ICT and e-commerce? How effectively have unions been in deploying and exploiting the new technologies themselves?
The grid below provides examples of how one could begin to cluster these research issues and provides an entry point from either of the axes in order to begin to develop a more integrated understanding of some of the major research issues facing the ICT sector.
||Universal Access Framework
||Transparent implementation plan and audit
||Participatory processes and accountable outcomes
||Mechanisms to deal with merging institutions and processes
||Systems that allow developing countries to influence agenda setting and decision-making
||Co-ordination of contributions and monitoring of performance
||Creation of fair competitive environment
||Efficient licensing and regulatory regime
||Compliance with reciprocal and equitable commitments
||Virtual telephony (voicemail)
||Public access to enhanced services
||Exemptions for universal service on basis of success
||New generation networks
||Interconnectivity within Africa and between Africa and world
|Cost of receivers;
creating economies of scale through standardisation;
|Asymmetrical international tariffing
||Expand consumer demand on interoperable networks
||Growth in subscribers to services, and increase in number of services
||Take up of new converged services across different platforms
||Global partnerships, access to foreign markets, harmonised governance
||Inclusion in access policies and delivery
||Labour trends, unemployment and retrenchments, job creation through call centres etc
||Shifts in skills and opportunities eg Applications and content
||International comparative analysis and solidarity
||Ownership by historically disadvantaged
||Ownership across platforms; consolidation vs diversity
||Market access; foreign ownership
||Accessible language for usage
||Ensuring development of local content and encouraging local applications
||Development of relevant and appropriate applications and content
||Protection of indigenous knowledge in international fora and distribution of local content and applications
||Access rights, waiting period and numbers
||Tariffs, quality or service, churn
Interoperability of digital gateways, migration periods from analogue to digital
|International benchmarking, commitments, participation
Electronic government in its narrowest sense is about the application of ICTs for improving government services and government business. A number of authors discuss and review developments in e-government within this narrow definition.
It can also be stated that electronic government is a way of doing business that moves society into an era where citizens increasingly interact with government, demanding a greater variety of services and information, where the demand for service and the ensuing pace of change grows ever greater, and where the need for innovation and entrepreneurialism in government is at a premium.
How do governments keep up with this demand?
We can investigate the potential impact of e-government from an understanding of the major new policy themes and operational emphases that characterise the current period of government in South Africa and other African countries and how these themes and emphases intermesh with the business and technical features of e-government. This will give rise to key research themes - a schematic architecture for this research agenda is set out below in Appendix B.
This research focus will investigate the ways in which South Africa and Africa are inserted into the global economy. In order for SA and the region to benefit more from the global economy, we need to work better, to insert into the global economy in a more efficient way.
This interest area will explore the impacts of e-government and relevant aspects of e-commerce on economic development and economic growth in the global economy.
How could an e-government approach foster economic development? By creating a government more capable of intervening when appropriate? Can government become a bigger player in economic life by having the same levels of informational power as business has? How would regional e-government work, how would e-government work in other African countries?
Electronic readiness assessment has increasingly important consideration when planning the development of the techno-institutional capabilities required for the information age. To this end, a number of e-readiness assessment tools have been developed and applied. Most of these tools, however, have different targets and purposes than government institutions. Some tools assess the readiness of communities for living in the networked world (CSPP 1988) or for e-commerce (CID 2000). Other tools target countries and thus seek to assess their readiness for e-commerce (APEC 2000), or the growth of e-commerce in such countries (WITSA 2000). Other tools focuson countries and seek to assess their capacities for effective participation in the emerging global digital economy (McConnell 2000). Others, such as the CIDCM (2001), specifically target developing countries and seek to assess the diffusion of ICT and more specifically the Internet use.
While all these assessment tools assess various aspects of communities, societies and countries, there is no tool specifically designed to assess the readiness of government organisations for e-government. Richard Heeks (2001) identified this in his paper on e-governance readiness and went further to identify important factors to be considered in building e-governance. This work however falls short of being a tool for assessing government readiness for e-governance. The E-Government Capacity Check Criteria developed by KPMG Consulting in 2000 and used to assess the capacity of the Canadian Federal Government for e-government is so far the most comprehensive tool available in the market. However, like the CID Readiness Guide, this tool uses a matrix format to summarise the findings on the basis of each level of readiness. Although, it is the best effort in the market so far, it is not comprehensive enough for application in the African context. Furthermore, it does not provide indications as what managers should do given a particular state of readiness.
The proposed research will build on the body of knowledge already created on the subject of e-readiness assessment and develop a comprehensive tool for assessing government readiness for e-government, specifically tailored to the African context. The readiness assessment tool will first determine the principal capability factors upon which government readiness for e-government depends, and the levels of readiness that are appropriate for commencing the e-government project or proceeding through various developmental stages of e-government. The application of the tool to any government organization should provide information on the following:
- What e-government initiatives the organization can accomplish successfully with its existing ICT resources capabilities
- The characteristic problems and challenges is it likely to face
- Appropriate strategies needed to improve the utilization of its current ICT resources
- Appropriate strategies needed to advance from its current level of readiness to the next.
Like all other Internet-enabled applications, such as e-commerce, electronic government has become a global phenomenon and an essential required feature of all governments in both the developed and developing societies. To this end, all governments have mounted initiatives that seek to strengthen their institutional capacities to take full advantage of the emerging global knowledge economy as well as meet the diverse and varying problems and challenges that it poses to their national social and economic development.
Besides lagging their counterparts in the developed world in their adoption and use of the new technologies, developing countries are seriously constrained by the severe resource scarcities amidst a multitude of development needs, such as poverty and HIV/AIDS, which they must attend to. These problems notwithstanding, a number of e-government initiatives have been mounted in different countries. Some of these have been very successful while others have been less successful. Successful or not, all these initiatives have valuable lessons for those intending to mount similar projects. Furthermore, the more successful projects can provide best-practice cases for other countries and can be replicated elsewhere in Africa with minor adjustments at a considerably reduced cost to such countries.
The purpose of this research therefore is threefold.
- To find out what e-government initiatives are ongoing in various African countries.
- To identify lessons and beneficial learning opportunities that can be drawn from these initiatives, and
- To make such information available and accessible to the rest of Africa.
While governments of the advanced societies of the west have made significant advances in embracing this new range of applications, those of the developing world are yet to attain comparable levels and are therefore less likely to take full advantage of these opportunities. While lack of adequate resources in the developing world amidst multiple competing demands for them is clearly one the principal reasons accounting for the apparent lack of progress in embracing the new technologies, the important role of knowledge and understanding of the complexity of these initiatives cannot be ruled out.
In fact, this could be a much bigger problem than lack of adequate resources for unless one knows where to invest scarce resources one cannot really tell whether the best returns can be obtained from such investments. To this end, other countries have adopted a "wait and see" approach, which basically means learn from other's mistakes. The problem with this approach, however, is that the cost of waiting or failing to invest now could be much higher than the benefits of doing so later.
What then should these countries do? The answer to this important question is the assessment of opportunities and challenges that e-government poses. A good starting point in this process is an examination of how government ICT resources are currently deployed and the extent to which these meet current national development priorities, strategies and plans. The information obtained from this exercise would then be used to develop strategies for ensuring that the deployment of these resources accrues maximum returns to the government in terms of enabling its capacity to meet its developmental obligations.
The proposed research would carry out an audit of government ICT resources in selected African countries with a view to identifying common critical opportunities and challenges and to formulate strategies for addressing these. To this end, the study will attempt to provide answers to the following research question:
- What opportunities are there for African governments to benefit from electronic government?
- What challenges must they overcome in order to take full advantage of these opportunities?
- What public policies, strategies and programmes are required to exploit the opportunities and to effectively overcome the challenges?
- What are the country-specific and/or region-specific issues that emerge from this review?
The ability to overcome distance and time, the traditional barriers to communication, is one the greatest potential of the emergent global network. It permits instant sharing of information and knowledge on a global scale. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) realized the potential benefits of information sharing and reuse in government and thus developed some principles for achieving this - reported in their 1997 publication.
The benefits of information and knowledge sharing and reuse can be expanded beyond the boundaries of particular governments, using the same technologies, and can be made a permanent feature through the establishment of appropriate networks. The benefits of such a network can be immense in Africa, given its poor communications infrastructure and scarce resource and research capabilities, especially in new and emerging fields such as electronic government.
This proposal will seek to achieve the following three objectives:
- To examine the feasibility and practicality of establishing an e-government network and identify its vision, mission and goals
- To develop plans for the establishment of the network
- To initiative and launch the e-government network project
Government operations are often guided and informed by suitable public policies, which generally remain in force over an extended period of time. Some policy documents become legal conditions through legislative enactment and thus remain in force perpetually with occasional amendments until declared inapplicable through another enactment. The policy formulation process, from the beginning to the end, takes a reasonably long period of time, typically two to three years. In a rapidly changing environment such as the expanding applications of ICT that give rise to new applications with far-reaching implications to individuals, organisations and society, such as e-commerce and e-government, three years can be too long for a meaningful policy to be developed. By the time such policy is finalised, the issues that gave rise to their formulation shall have changed considerably to the extent that the intended impact of such policies either becomes minimal or even negative.
To overcome this process, ICT related polices should be formulated in such a way that they only provide a broad framework that allows for a broad range of alternative decisions and options to be taken. Alternatively they can be based on a range of thematic issues that are critical to the development and effective deployment of the technologies and that remain fairly unchanged over a longer period of time. Determination of such thematic policy issues is especially important to African countries given their scarce resource bases amidst multiple competing demands for public attention. The proposed research will seek to investigate these with a view to identifying critical policy issues and how they should be formulated. It is hoped that this would shorten the time required to complete the policy formulation process.
Characteristics of the Current Period
Key Characteristics of E-Government
Customer Service / CRM
Effective Service Delivery
Decision Support Systems, Electronic payments & transactions systems
E-publishing & citizen access to information
Electronic payments & transactions systems
Public service reform
Electronic payments/ transactions
Electronic payments & transactions systems
"24 x 7 x 365",
"anywhere, any time"
Electronic payments & transactions systems
Decision Support Systems
Access to information in specific areas - health, agriculture
Building and managing e-government teams
E-publishing & citizen access to information
Public service reform
Reform of postal and telecomms businesses
New policies for servicing citizens and customers in various areas - health, social grants, agriculture, education
Universal access to infrastructure and infostructure
Appropriate applications to address specific development challenges
E-publishing & citizen access to information
E-publishing & citizen access to information
E-publishing & citizen access to information
E-publishing & citizen access to information
E-publishing & citizen access to information
Reward philosophy for KM
KM performance measurement
Policy and Regulatory environment
Service Charters, Multi-purpose portals, other devices, which work best and why?
Managing ICTs in institutions undergoing continuous change
Access to information and privacy issues
Ethics of e-government practices
Ethics of e-government practices
Ethics of customer service
MIS and Decision Support Systems
KM strategies and measurements of value created
Quality assurance and productivity measures
Citizen/customer feedback mechanisms and evaluations
Measuring social and financial impacts/ returns
How can government get a better profile of the citizen's needs?
How can government better utilise its knowledge of citizens needs to design better services?
Giving the service that the citizen wants
What value adds are valuable to the citizen and affordable to government?
Knowledge exchange, Designing new approaches to managing government and service delivery -encouraging new projects
Case studies, analysis and presentation of findings - new initiatives, successes and failures
Designing models for entrepreneuralism in public service delivery
Research & development - new applications for the local context
Recruiting R & D talent to government
Promoting R & D re new generation applications eg mobile applications, wireless networks, etc
Open source software and open standards
For further queries, please contact our offices.