During the last 20 years, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have greatly provided a wealth of new technological opportunities, with the rapid deployment of both the Internet and cellular telephony leading the way (Sarkar De, 2005). ICTs can serve as potent agents of change (Yamuah, 2005). These technologies have invaded every country that is willing to accept and adopt them. The most important differentiating factor currently is policy. Policy makes a great difference regarding how countries are able to take advantage of the technological opportunities available to them and exploit them for good. Countries with progressive policies are seeing these technologies spread quickly. However, countries that are yet to formulate and integrate ICT policy have been plagued by slow growth of technology and the consequent lessening of support for economic and social development (Sarkar De, 2005).
Simply put, policy is a plan of action (Kumar, 1993). A policy is a public statement of intentions and behavior norms that is usually, but not always, formalized and made explicit by a sovereign government, institution, corporation or other organizational entity (Horton, 1997; cited by Olatokun, 2005). Such official statements set forth a goal, a vision, a direction, organizational values and norms or other kinds of guiding principle(s) that a group, enterprise or nation intends to follow and adhere to in the pursuit of its everyday endeavors (Olatokun, 2005).
Policies are intended to regulate the conduct of people in systems, but policies themselves are often conditioned by the sociocultural dynamics of the human systems for which they are intended (Olatokun, 2005). Polices are usually put in place by various governments. However, different stakeholders and in particular, the private sector make inputs into the policy process and affect its outcomes (APC, n.d.).
Information and communication technology (ICT) is any technology, which enables communication and the electronic capture, processing, and transmission of information (Parliament Office of Science and Technology, 2006). ICTs have become very important to contemporary societies. Whether one is talking on the phone, sending e-mail, going to the bank, using a library, listening to sports coverage on the radio, watching the news on television, working in an office or in the fields, and so forth, one is using ICTs. However these ICTS do not operate in isolations from one another (APC, n.d.).
ICT policy is an official statement which spells out the objectives, goals, principles, strategies, etc intended to guide and regulate the development, operation and application of information and communication technology. According to the APC (n.d.), ICT policy generally covers three main areas—telecommunications (especially telephone communications), broadcasting (radio and television), and the Internet; it may be national, regional (and or subregional) or international; each level may have its own decision-making bodies, sometimes making different and even contradictory policies.
Even when promulgated as distinct policy statement, ICT policies must take into account other policy areas, such as education policies, information policies, trade and investment policies, and cultural and linguistic policies. The mere establishment of written national ICT policy, however, has value in itself. It conveys, at a minimum, the message that the government is forward—looking and intends to pursue the utilization of ICT in society. Governments should aspire, of course, to more by putting the policy content into actual practice and becoming a role model in applying ICT in their administration and services (UNESCAP, 2007).