Fesmedia Publishes Handbook on ICT Policy Development in Africa

Freya Gruenhagen,
fesmedia Africa

fesmedia Africa, the media project of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in Africa, has published a handbook on the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy in Africa aimed at assisting law makers, government officials, lawyers, civil society organisations (CSOs), academics and members of the public engaged in the development and implementation of ICT policy.

Titled “Making ICT Policy in Africa: An Introductory Handbook”, the primary purpose of the handbook, according to fesmedia Africa, is to provide an introductory overview of the fundamental concepts and regulatory issues emerging in the process of ICT policy making, and to introduce good practice models for how to approach both the process and the issues as they emerge.

Explaining the rationale for the development of the handbook in its Preface, Ms Freya Gruenhagen, the Director of fesmedia Africa, said: “This handbook was developed to facilitate and contribute to ongoing efforts towards the development of ICT policies in Africa and it seeks to enable a greater number of citizens to participate in this important endeavour.”

She explained further that “At fesmedia Africa, we believe that all citizens, including women, youth and the marginalized, must be empowered to be able to participate meaningfully in decision-making and democratic debate and to contribute to the economic, social and political progress of their societies and countries. For this to happen, citizens need to have the means, skills and opportunities to access, exchange and use information and knowledge through the utilisation of ICTs. In this regard, we believe that countries should develop robust ICT policies and facilitate the effective deployment of ICTs in order to strengthen the information and communication environments, which is a prerequisite for functional, participatory democracies.”

According to Ms Gruenhagen, in the digital age, the development and effective implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policies is critical for countries to harness the full potential of ICTs in driving inclusive and sustainable development, by promoting universal access to information, internet universality, good governance, e-commerce, equitable quality education, among other important enablers of social and gender justice and socio-economic development.

The handbook seeks to provide users with the overarching principles, good practices and strategies that can be applied in a multitude of circumstances and could also be used as a training resource.

For instance, Appendix 2 of the handbook provides practical exercises and resources which can be completed in both self-managed as well as facilitated learning contexts to help users of the handbook apply theory to real-world ICT governance problems.

The first chapter of the handbook focuses on Governance frameworks and why they matter, framing a conceptual understanding of what constitutes ICT policy. It distinguishes between different legal instruments and how they interact with one another to form the ICT governance framework and further provides an overview of the main imperatives driving ICT policy development.

Chapter Two deals with the digital ecosystem,introducing the layer model of the Internet in order to frame a conceptual understanding of the digital ecosystem. It provides a conceptual understanding of what functions and relationships ICT policies typically govern, as well as identifying which key role players are involved in the development of ICT policy, and their respective and inter-related functions.

The third chapter, on Rights affected by ICT policy making,sets out which rights are most directly impacted by ICT policies and how. It considers the public international law implications for how ICT governance frameworks are developed and reflects on some of the most significant legal challenges and debates concerning human rights and the Internet. It also considers some existing principles and instruments for how domestic and public international law has been applied to selected ICT governance and human rights problems in Africa.

Chapter Four, looking at ICT policies in practice,offers an overview of the guiding principles underpinning the ICT development process, from formulation to implementation. It outlines and describes the most significant steps in the ICT policy making cycle, while drawing on the lessons learned in policy development processes in various countries in the region and further abroad, providing comparative analyses and

good practice guidelines, with particular reference to African examples.

The chapters are supplemented by three appendices at the end of the handbook, which serve as tools, namely:

  • ICT policy checklist, for assisting policy-makers and other stakeholders in the formulation and implementation of ICT policies to reflect on whether and how each of the steps in the ICT policy making process have been adequately followed.
  • Using the handbook as a training resource, whichsets out various tools and exercises to support users in self-driven or guided learning to apply the theory and concepts discussed in the handbook to real-world ICT policy making problems. It prompts discussion on various policy issues explored through the handbook, and contains a quiz to test users’ knowledge.
  • Recommended resources, whichsets out a list of recommended resources that can be used for more information, or in the structuring of a training session or programme.