Is there an ICT “development paradox” to match the “productivity paradox”: that in developing countries you can see ICTs everywhere but in the development statistics?
If there is, a lack of ICT policy coherence could be to blame. A 2010 workshop hosted by the University of Manchester’s Centre for Development Informatics investigated this issue. You can find the workshop summary report online: Delivering Coherent ICT Policies in Developing Countries.
Four main issues were identified during the day which can help explain why ICT policy – and, hence, the technologies themselves – are not making quite the development contribution that they could do:
- Coherence with Main Development Challenges: the need for ICT policies to incorporate ICTs’ role in addressing the grand challenges – economic stability, security, and climate change – that face developing countries in the 21st century.
- Coherence with the ICT4D Value Chain: the need for both horizontal coherence (ensuring policies don’t focus just on issues of ICT readiness and availability, but incorporate ICT uptake and impact as well), and vertical coherence (ensuring policies integrate all of the cross-cutting elements necessary for ICTs to have a development effect).
- Coherence with Development Policy: the need for ICTs – at the least – to be integrated into other parts of development policy; or – at the most – to be given special recognition for the technology’s transformative potential to fundamentally change development models.
- Delivery of ICT Policy Coherence: the need for policy advice and support not just for policy content (which has historically taken almost all of the policy limelight), but also for the processes of policy making and implementation, and for the policy structures that shape those processes.
The danger is that ICT policy in many countries is incoherent because it is stuck in the past: failing to address the forthcoming global challenges; focusing only on the early parts of the value chain, not all parts; isolating ICT policy from development, or perhaps just subsuming it, rather than looking ahead to the transformative potential of technology; and focusing only on the content of policy, not on how it is made. Unless these deficiencies can be addressed, ICT may continue to fall short in its development impact.
Further details of workshop content and presentations can be found at:
Details of OECD work on ICT policy coherence for development, which helped to trigger the CDI workshop, can be found at: www.oecd.org/ict/4d (seminar) and http://www.oecdbookshop.org/oecd/display.asp?K=5KS8HFLQQXMN&LANG=EN (book)
Your thoughts on ICT policy, and policy coherence, are welcome.