UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
This section presents standards and policy instruments originating from and applicable to the private sector only. These may or may not have been formulated by, nor have the explicit support of the government. Generally such policies will be taken to include codes of conduct and similar guidelines formulated and implemented by properly constituted professional bodies. These policies and/or procedures, because they are generally observed by practitioners, have practically the same force as a law or regulation.
These policies/standards/regulations applicable to the private sector are becoming more and more important in the era of structural adjustment programmes. Prior to this, the Government used to be the biggest user of IT products in most of the countries surveyed. In the era of ESAP this is not necessarily the case. Private sector institutions should now have larger investments in IT than the Governments. Therefore any policies or policy instruments applicable in this area should be geared towards promoting the growth of IT use by private companies and organisations.
In Zimbabwe the main informatics professional body is the Computer Society of Zimbabwe (CSZ) founded in 1974. Its objectives are:
To promote the use and development of information processing and ensuring that the rights and privileges of the general public are protected
To promote a forum for the exchange of views between members of the Society on information processing and related technologies
To encourage research and development to improve techniques and knowledge of information processing and disseminate information amongst members of the society and the public through journals, circular, publications, lectures, seminars and conferences
To establish professional standards for persons employed in the field of information processing and to ensure that these standards are maintained
To encourage the integration of information processing plans and programmes for the development of science and technology
CSZ is widely consulted by the public sector on matters relating to information technology and education. The society is a full member of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP). It is also affiliated to the British Computer Society. CSZ is represented in several public sector policy making bodies such as the Research Council of Zimbabwe, NAMACO and the Harare Polytechnic Advisory Council.
In 1987 CSZ established accreditation procedures for institutions offering courses in informatics. The objective of this exercise was to establish a set of standards which must be met by each training institution and to produce a register of Accredited Training Institutions. This exercise has been highly successful as most institutions aspire for accreditation and the register is used by seekers of training courses.
CSZ also produced a code of practice for accredited training institutions which gives guidelines on
Response to queries
A complaints procedure, to be used by members of the public who have complaints against accredited institutions, has been drawn up and implemented. This has worked well in the sense that members of the public and institutions with complaints actually follow the established procedures.
A registrations procedure for individual IT consultants, and not companies, was also drawn up and implemented. All registered consultants have to abide by a code of professional conduct for registered consultants.
The Nigerian equivalent to the Zimbabwean CSZ is the Computer Association of Nigeria (COAN) which was formed in 1978. The objectives of COAN are virtually the same as those of CSZ; the former, however, was accorded chartered status in 1993 through a decree titled "Computer professionals" (Registration Council of Nigeria) Decree 49 of 1993 which was signed into law on 10 June 1993. Thus COAN was given authority over the general operations of the computer industry. The decree confers on the council the control and supervision of the profession and the authority to determine what standards of knowledge and skills are to be outlined by persons seeking to become members of the profession. COAN is a member of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP).
The charter demonstrated the Nigerian Federal Government's support and commitment to sustainable growth of the information technology.
4.0.1SUMMARY OF OBSERVATIONS
(i)Policies to promote increased use of or growth of national IT industry in the private sector are lacking.
(ii)With the advent of structural adjustment programmes the private sector has an increasingly important role to play in spearheading the growth of informatics in the economy. The importance of informatics as a sector is such that such development should not be left to chance but should be guided by appropriate policy frameworks.
(iii)Professional associations are active in some of the countries surveyed. They try to generate and sustain an intellectually active environment in which ideas germinate, grow and flourish.
(iv)Governments in some of the countries recognise the important role that professional associations play in promoting informatics in their countries. As such they accord them due recognition by consulting them on national IT issues and by inviting them to participate in some policy making bodies.
5.0ANALYSIS OF REPORTS
An assessment of the country reports need to be preceded by a consideration of several issues with a bearing on the policy activities reported. The major guiding objective of promulgating national informatics policies is the promotion of informatics as a vehicle for technological advancement and economic growth. The computer revolution has become a subject of extraordinary importance for developing countries because of the rapidity of technological change and the resulting impacts on production and consumption goods and services and on trade. Informatics makes it possible to gather data expeditiously and to transmit it rapidly at declining cost. It increases productivity and improves the quality and efficiency of all types of industries and services. It is important, however, not to lose sight of the fact that technology change involves not only science and technology, but also social, economic and political factors. A policy framework is an attempt to create an environment in which all these factors promoted the development and use of IT in a country.
Several socioeconomic and political factors seem to have hindered the formulation and implementation of integrated policies on informatics. Programmes to develop human resources in this area are just beginning to have a noticeable effect. Programmes to develop expertise in areas such as microelectronics and/or computer engineering are hard to come by.
Secondly, the countries surveyed, with the exception of Ethiopia, are relatively new nation states. Therefore one expects a learning curve effect to occur here. The ability of most decisionmakers to assimilate and apply information technology, lags behind the available opportunities. Thus there is a general lack of capability to fully grasp the impact of informatics on the decisionmaking process. Further, the introduction of structural adjustment programmes has redrawn the time horizons. Governments are attempting to inject fresh impetus into their economies. Since these programmes have been in force for four to five years it is perhaps too early to observe any effects of informatics policy initiatives.
However, there is no denying the strong growth in the use of IT since the introduction of economic structural adjustment programmes in some of the countries surveyed. This suggests that the focus on government and studies on government actions as a means of promoting innovation and adoption of IT may be misdirected. The apparent failure of centrally planned and directed economies in stimulating IT growth point to the necessity for a market driven approach to increasing national levels of utilisation of IT.
Thirdly the issue of promoting informatics is inextricably linked with that of introducing science and technology into the economy.
Current levels of institutional and national utilisation of IT fall far below world standards. Lu and Farrell (1990) give six major factors or areas which can influence the level of IT utilisation as:
(i)Economic and social conditions (including wage levels,
IT prices etc)
(ii)Political/legal aids and constraints such as policies with the effect of encouraging and discouraging use of IT
(iii)National infrastructure e.g. availability and reliability of power supplies and telecommunications
(iv)Education and training (availability of educated and experienced IT professionals and computer literate managers/end users)
(vi)Management practices (planning horizons, central autocratic authority; use of specialized staff)
Some of the factors such as the political and legal aids require action at the national level, while others can be dealt with at the institutional level. While the ESAP emphasizes action at the institutional or business level government support and promotional action is vital to the success of the whole effort.
(i)There is a good deal of activity in the case study countries in the area of informatics policy. Policies are continually formulated and implemented to provide a framework for the development of informatics. Equally important policies which have now become redundant are cast aside. However, none of the countries have formulated and implemented an integrated policy in informatics. Subsectoral policies reported focus on:
Hardware and software acquisition
Education and training
Research and development
Science and technology
(ii)It is worth noting that the economic reform programmes being implemented by the case study countries have introduced a new socio economic environment more conducive to the growth of informatics. Informatics, like other sectors, is entering a new period of vigorous growth in African economies. The reform programmes commenced in late eighties and early nineties. From that time onwards informatics products can be imported more easily than before.
(iii)There is considerable awareness of the importance of informatics in the development process. This is shown by such efforts as the introduction of computers in schools, colleges and Universities and the cooperation between governments and IT professional associations. There are, however, no integrated approaches which bring together national perspective with national resources and institutional capability.
(iv)By and large the case study countries suffer from a shortage of trained manpower. Programmes such as the introduction of computer education in the school system are hindered by lack of trained teachers familiar with the technology as well as shortage of funds to purchase the required resources. Both adequate use and maintenance of IT equipment suffer from the same problem.
(v)The time horizon for most policy activities is rather short. It may not be realistic to expect to see significant results in some policy areas so soon. Economic systems and results of human resource development programmes are not likely to become evident in such a short period.
(vi)Awareness of the importance of linking national systems to external data networks is, sadly, not matched by significant activity to achieve this. None of the case study countries has shown any particular policy inclination towards linking up with networks such as Internet and provide widespread access to their nationals.
(vii)Regional networking is also absent from the policy scenarios painted by the country reports.
(viii)There is almost a total absence of policies promoting either the use of IT in the private sector or the development of informatics as an industry. The lessons of countries in South East Asia and Latin America have not been picked up by African countries.
(ix)The private sector professional associations are quite active in some African countries. This factor is important in creating awareness and encouraging use of the technology and in creating an environment conducive to the development of high quality technical expertise.
(x)Efficient telecommunications structures are a requirement for the growth of IT in a country. None of the countries surveyed have telecommunication systems that can support a modern IT sector. Therefore African countries need to give priority to the building of modern communication networks which could support all the local value added information systems including those dealing with access to science and technology information.
(xi)The country reports make no presentation of success or failure indicators of the various policies reported on. This omission could be due to lack of time. Nevertheless, even subjective indications would have been useful.
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