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AFRIK-IT  March 1996

AFRIK-IT March 1996

Subject:

A Letter to Washington [1]

From:

Clement Dzidonu <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Fri, 29 Mar 1996 18:09:10 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (125 lines)

Hello:
 
I think the proposed April 3rd Washington public meeting on the Leland
initiative and that of USAID, has opened up an important issue which have
been talked about in private for a long time. It is about time we bring it
out in the open and discuss it openly. Here is my opening shot...
 
First, I want to join Menghestab in thanking Jeff Cochrane  for keeping as
posted on the what is going on in Washington. Good job Jeff, I know we can
always count on you and others to keep us informed....please keep us posted
we need to know even if we can't participate.
 
BTW: Those making it to the meeting, I suggest you dig into AFRIK-IT
archive and make available to the participants some of the material we have
been discussing on this list. I am sure most of the questions and answers
are contained in the contributions to the list.  I really think there is a
lot of good material there. Send a message to the list address and download
them.
 
Now to my letter, I want to state that I share the views expressed by David
Dion in his two postings on this subject. The truth is a lot of colleagues
share these views in private. I am sure those on this list will not be
surprise about this revelation.
 
There has been for sometime concern in relation to how "initiatives" upon
"initiatives" for African IT  development has been launched without regards
to what is on the ground or what others are doing. A colleague once remark
in private that: it looks like another scramble for Africa, IT-wise. But I
will described it as more like a disorganized chaos in the name of Africa
IT. It is amazing how this could be going on for so long without us doing
anything about it.
 
I am sure other colleagues have expressed this view in different places but
it looks as if no one is listening. Is about time we seriously address this
issue for all our sake. Looking at it carefully we all seem to be part of
the problem than the solution. We are in this together.
 
The point is, you cannot bring about a real sustainable (long lasting)
change if you deliberating or unknowingly exclude from the decision making
process those that  will be affected by the change. I am sure we all know
that at  least. It is no wonder that most of the  'special'  IT initiatives
for Africa hardly make the impact they were bill for.
 
The song and dance that accompany the launching of some of these
initiatives cannot be justified, never mind about the millions of tax
payers money the went out in the smoke. The evidence is there for all to
see.
 
What is the usual starting point of most of these initiatives: It goes
something like this...One international organization/agency or a group of
them will sit down and say...
 
We think Africa has a special problem (of one kind and another), let us put
together on paper some ideas to set up the agenda, speculate on the nature
of the "problem", suggest some possible strategies/approaches for coming
out with the solutions, then put together an 'initiative document' in
consultations with some of the Africans in the know  and take it from
there.
 
Another agency or group of them go through the same process and come out
with yet another initiative for resolving the same "African problem".  It
is no wonder that David Dion and others like myself have lost count of the
numerous African IT initiatives.
 
The Leland initiative like the numerous others targeted at Africa all
certainly have good intentions to begin with, but they are not going to
deliver the goods if the architects of these initiatives continue to put
the cart before the horse.
 
I am sure most of the people on this list don't know what the Leland
initiative is all about and how it came about; never mind about the
millions of Africans out there who this initiative and others like it are
targeted. Some may ask: Who is Mr. Leland?
 
We have been told that: Following the Leland meeting, teams are scheduled
to be sent to a number of target countries to discuss issues with local
service providers, leaders of PTTs, ministers of communications,
representatives of various user communities, etc.
 
Why put together an initiative, set the agenda, hold a public meeting
elsewhere (far away somewhere) and then dispatch guys to Africa and say to
these Africans:. ".. hey guys, here is what we think, what do think, ...
now we are ready for your input, whatever that might be...."
 
I really think we can do better than that. We cannot continue with this
'top-down' approach and hope to make a real impact and bring about a real
change. This goes for IT as well as other areas. We need a completely
different approach. The intentions are good but we are continuously getting
the approach wrong in my view.
 
It is a fact that most of these African countries have put together their
own kind of "Leland initiative"; some of these may be in the form of  a
National IT policy or other types of National IT strategy document.
 
Each of these countries recognized the need for IT for their national
development, and then went ahead a put together their own initiative
document on how to tackle their specific IT-related developmental issues.
 
Why can't this be the starting point for these international initiatives,
why not use a 'bottom-up approach' instead. Let us remember that Africa is
not a homogenous entity, no two African countries are the same. The
common-problem, common-solution top-down approach is taking us nowhere.
 
There is a  famous Swahili saying (in English): "Help ME carry MY load".
Let us not forget that this is not the same thing as: "I will help YOU
carry YOUR load.  The emphasis is different and that's the difference.
There yet another famous African saying that: "Let me carry my load, to the
knee-level and you can help me carry it onto my head". Again note the
emphasis, that's the message of this letter to Washington.
 
Bye for now
 
 
 
 
Clement Dzidonu
 
***************************************************************************
*  Clement Dzidonu Ph.D.                    Tel: + 353 1 6081918          *
*  School of Systems and Data Studies       Fax: + 353 1 6615046          *
*  University of Dublin                     Email: [log in to unmask]  *
*  Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland                                     *
 
***************************************************************************

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