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AFRIK-IT  October 2005

AFRIK-IT October 2005

Subject:

PPP-L - A New Listserv on Public-Private Partnerships in ICT

From:

Soenke Zehle <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Thu, 20 Oct 2005 13:46:14 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (103 lines)

Call for Participation

A New Listserv on Public-Private Partnerships in ICT

<[log in to unmask]>

This is an invitation to join a new listserv that focuses on 
public-private partnership initiatives in the field of information and 
communication technologies (ICTs), with a particular emphasis on the 
economic and political dynamic usually referred to as 'development'.

Following the growth of private-sector involvement in public 
infrastructure projects across the globe, corporate investments often 
have become a substitute for public funding formerly provided by 
intergovernmental agencies, international aid organizations, and 
governments. Usually considered in terms of a pooling of private and 
public resources, public-private partnerships aim at a cooperative 
provision of services and products to exploit synergy effects although 
they take many forms and adopt a variety of organizational, funding and 
governance structures. Through this process, public institutions are 
expected to become more 'proactive' in terms of their engagement with 
private actors, and the development process is projected as being, 
altogether, more equitable and sustainable.

Such official pronouncements aside, assessments from the ground tend to 
view the relatively new tool of PPP with much more ambivalence. While 
major info-corporations are indeed offering themselves as ’partners in 
development‘ and support ICT development as vehicles for 'effective 
service delivery' and 'e-governance', they also take advantage of the 
newfound enthusiasm for Public-Private Partnerships to stake out their 
own commercial claims, crowd out public-sector alternatives, and 
actively discourage alternative forms of development cooperation. 
Questions concerning the motivations particularly implicit in relation 
to these initiatives include the gaining of inter-company competitive 
advantages, pole positions in standard setting (and pushing aside 
technological alternatives), influencing procurement strategies, and so on.

Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs) are offered as an alternative form 
of development cooperation. Unlike PPPs, which are based on the primacy 
of an ambiguous private/public distinction, MSPs focus on whoever has a 
stake in a given process. Because the position and identities of 
'stakeholders' are largely self-defined, MSPs, at least theoretically, 
are open to individual and collective actors that may be left out of PPP 
processes that involve only state and private sector actors. Beyond the 
contractual relationship of PPPs, in principle MSPs prioritize 
overlapping interests, emphasize trust and transparency, and could also 
play an important role in the development of new accountability 
mechanisms. More generally, perhaps, MSPs affirm that the idea of 
'partnerships' is itself in flux and open to contestation.

The idea to launch a project committed exclusively to PPP-in-ICT arose 
during a two-day conference, Incommunicado 05: From Info-Development to 
Info-Politics, held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in June 2005. 
Incommunicado 05 attempted to offer a critical survey of the current 
state of 'info-development', generally known by its catchy acronym 
'ICT4D' (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) but 
also created an interest in more focused follow-up projects that would 
engage specific dimensions of the info-development process. 
Public-private partnerships in ICT became a topic of debate during the 
conference, with discussions concerning, for example, the role of Cisco 
and Cisco Academies in their partnership with the UN Development 
Program, the on-going role of Microsoft in its Unlimited Potential 
program and its recent partnership with Canada’s International 
Development Research Centre, and the role of WSIS in the evolving 
landscape of similar info-development alliances.

What we envision is a lively exchange of research, critical discussions 
and reports from the ground, a sharing of experiences both via a mailing 
list and - later on - a collaborative weblog. Given that PPPs in ICT 
involve a complex set of actors - including intergovernmental 
institutions, states, local authorities, transnational corporations, 
small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and non-governmental 
organizations (NGOs) - the scope is both specific - PPP in ICT - and 
broad enough to address related developments and processes.

To be taken up at a later time, we also propose the joint development of 
a code of conduct for PPP that addresses the specificity of ICT.

A great deal of research is done outside the institutional loops of the 
academy, research labs, or development consulting, so we hope that the 
framing of this topic will be of interest to those who wish to engage in 
a substantial PPP-in-ICT exchange, regardless of whether or not they 
consider themselves researchers, community and/or media activists, etc.

On PPP-in-ICT and PPP-Watch

The domain currently used for this project is pppwatch.org. In the 
context of software, 'pppwatch' refers to a small demon used to monitor 
the PPP connection. In the more general context of info-political 
efforts, the idea of a 'watch' also suggests common cause with other 
'watch' projects that attempt to create a modicum of transparency and 
accountability in development processes - regardless of whether they 
involve public or private actors - where there is none. Both offer apt 
descriptors for a project that intends to keep an eye on the evolving 
dynamic of 'partnerships' in the field of ICT.

We are hoping that you will participate in this project. The listserv 
will ’go live‘ once an initial threshold of 50 subscribers has been 
reached. Online subscription will be enabled once this number has been 
reached. To subscribe, please contact Soenke Zehle ([log in to unmask]) or 
Lisa McLaughlin ([log in to unmask]). The site and list are currently 
maintained by tmsp.org, hosted by kein.org.

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