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AFRIK-IT  September 2002

AFRIK-IT September 2002

Subject:

Southern African ICT Best Practices

From:

Jeff Cochrane <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Wed, 18 Sep 2002 07:27:27 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (81 lines)

Greetings Afrik-ITes!

Ah, Botswana.  Haven't been in these parts in a couple of years, and the
changes are striking around Gaborone.  A new technical institute, a
shopping mall, the road to nowhere now filled up with light industrial
buildings and wholesalers, seemingly confirming the foresight of city
planners.  The hotels are all being upgraded, and I expect there are now
quite a few more restaurants, though I'm only in town long enough to check
out my old favorites.

The question of the day has to do with "best practices."  We all have in
mind our own special best practices for getting particular jobs done -- how
to facilitate access for disadvantaged groups, how to speed up national
policy reform, how to enhance training programs for technicians and managers.

For example, for small businesses that can't afford quality Internet
access, visiting a skilled business librarian at a community access center
might be just the help needed to track down on the Web a cheaper supplier
of spare parts or new production equipment.  The parts could even be
purchased online using the credit card of the center, with the business
person reimbursing in cash for a small additional fee.  Business persons
pay per visit for basic services, or can purchase a monthly
membership.  Since the center is housed in a school (with free rent and
electricity), in the mornings it is also available for student instruction
(at no additional cost to the school).  Collaboration with Cisco means that
the latest equipment and instructional tools are on hand, the staff are
skillfully trained, and revenues from certificate-course students in the
afternoons cover most costs.  Donors provide part though not all of the
startup capital.

That suite of methods constitutes a best practice for solving a particular
set of problems, at least according to some.  It's not a magic formula --
success or failure even when such practices are followed often depends on
all manner of things, and especially on sound management and a good
business model.  Donors (private foundations, local governments, area
businesses, etc.) sometimes infuse additional cash to pay for quality
technical and management support in the first year or two of operation,
onsite interns, roving management advisors, etc.

That's a best practice (according to some) for providing a certain quality
of access for students and community members in places that meet certain
conditions (e.g. a reliable electric utility).  There are sets of proposed
best practices to address all kinds of problem situations.  I've jotted
down notes for such problems as supporting community NGOs with ICT
integration, collecting data or providing itinerant services in remote (no
electricity or phones) areas (e.g. rural voter registration or itinerant
health services), help for networks of dispersed scientists or technical
practitioners in building communities of practice...

Under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA, a US law), some
countries in Africa are allowed to produce and sell their products in the
USA without tariffs, even though those products compete with American
producers who are often quite politically powerful.  Local producers in
Africa are scrambling to build supply chains -- networks of producers of
locally spun yarn and woven fabric, for example, that can be cut and sewn
in local factories and then exported to the multi-billion dollar ready-made
garment industry in the USA.  Simply finding the location of and
communicating with suppliers in a region like Southern Africa requires
quite a bit or work.  A best practice for building and supporting supply
chains in this and other sectors needs to be found.  I haven't seen very
many.  I'm hoping to return to this region in a year or so to see what
they've come up with.  For now, we're simply discussing the characteristics
that make a best practice the best.

I would be interested in hearing proposed "best practices" developed by
others for their own special problem situations.

Cheers!
Jeff @ Gaborone




----
USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade
Office for Energy and Information Technology
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20523
http://www.usaid.gov/info_technology/icd
Tel +1 (202) 712-1956, Cell +1 (301) 728-2160, Fax +1 (202) 216-3380
[log in to unmask], [log in to unmask], AIM JeffreyCochrane

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