How and Why: A Decade of National ICT Policy Formulation in Malawi – A Historical Analysis

How and Why: A Decade of National ICT Policy Formulation in Malawi – A Historical Analysis

Frank Makoza (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTHD.2019040103


While African governments have developed information and communication technologies (ICTs) policies, there is still missing historical insights on how contextual issues shaped the formulation process in the context of developing countries. This paper analysed the formulation for national ICT policy of Malawi between 2001 and 2012. Historical approach was used where archival data was used to understand key events, contextual issues, and activities that shaped the formulation of the policy. The findings showed that there were external influences leading to the formulation of the national ICT policy. The local needs of stakeholders were not articulated adequately to come up with realistic policy objectives. Further, there were more pressing local issues that led to the policy being not prioritised and endorsed by the government administrations leading to the delays in policy formulation. The study offers insights that can assist for policymakers and practitioners when developing similar policies such as the national broadband policy and national cyber-security policy.
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1. Introduction

National ICT policy is an integrated set of decisions, guidelines, laws, regulations and other mechanisms geared towards directing and shaping the production, acquision and use of ICTs (Marcelle, 2000). The ICT policies main objective is support ICT investments, application and use of ICTs in social and economic activities. ICTs have been acknowledged to direct and indirectly supporting economic growth and well-being of citizens of a country through creating job opportunities, efficient delivery of public services, supporting sector economic activities and social activities (Duncan, 2015; Metfula & Chigona, 2013). Hence, developing countries have formulated ICT policies to reap the benefits of ICT in their environments.

It is widely accepted that well formulated and articulated policies can support low-income economies to achieve human and economic development (Brown & Brown, 2008; Diso, 2005; Kendall, Kendall & Kah, 2006). Such policies are clear, realistic and meet the expectations of the policy stakeholders and the needs beneficiaries. The formulation of the ICT policies that have such characteristics require a collaborative and rigorous policy formulation process (Bound, 2006). However, the process of formulating ICT policies in low-income status economies does not follow a linear process as highlighted in most public policy cycles found in literature. The process depends on the local context conditions, external factors, social and political factors (Kendall, Kendall & Kah, 2006). For instance, local pressing issues such as delivery of health care, access to clean water, food security, education and political popularity of those in authority may take over priorities on formulating national ICT policies (Brown & Thompson, 2011; Ngwenyama, Andoh-Baidoo, Bollou & Morawczynski, 2006;). It is important to understand how national ICT policy are formulated because lack of well formulated ICT policy may lead to failure in the subsequent phases of policy cycle e.g. implementation and evaluation.

A number of studies have looked at national ICT policy process in general (e.g. Adam & Gillwald 2007; Kendall, Kendall & Kah, 2006; Twaakyondo, 2011), but there is still a lack of knowledge on the understanding of policy formulation process (Chavula & Chekol, 2011). It is argued that the policy formulation phase is a continuous process within the policy cycle where emerging issues may lead to initiation of new policy goals, revision of old policy goals or termination of certain policy goals. The process for formulation of policy goals and understanding of the limitations and opportunities in the previous iterations can help policy makers to development means of addressing new policy challenges (Birkland, 2011). Given that policy process unfold over time, historical approach is appropriate to analyse events, contextual issues that shape formulation of policy (Manson, McKenny & Copeland, 1997).

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