Impact of Sound Policies in Promoting Information Systems Research and Innovation in Africa’s SADC Region

Impact of Sound Policies in Promoting Information Systems Research and Innovation in Africa’s SADC Region

Kelvin Joseph Bwalya (University of Botswana, Botswana)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/jissc.2012070104
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Abstract

Countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Japan, and so forth are a force to reckon with in socio-economic value chains because they have fully embraced research and innovation as vital to their economies. Innovation is mostly a culture, and for innovation to thrive, it is desired that proper change management tactics be introduced as it results into social change. Research and innovation depends on multi-dimensional factors to thrive, policy being one of them. African countries have now started putting in place appropriate legal, regulatory, and institutional frameworks to support innovation and research. This paper presents an ad hoc survey on what has been done on the policy front in as far as encouraging information systems (IS) research and innovation is concerned in the SADC region. Initiatives and policy environments in Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi are presented. It brings out lessons learnt on how research can or cannot contribute to national development and competiveness. It also presents a number of theoretical perspectives and standpoints from which rationales for innovation and research policy can be extracted. The paper has found that, for the African case, incorporation of the research and knowledge management agenda into national policies is not an easy thing to do because of bureacratic and contextual implications.
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Introduction

Research and innovation policy can be conceived in a broad sense as public interventions to improve research and innovation performance and excellence. For research and innovation to thrive, it should be embraced into the cultural frameworks of any particular location. If this is the case, it is suffice to mention that appropriate change management platforms must be put in place for research and innovation to be accepted as a public good and adopted by the general citizenry, firms or any individuals. Research and innovation are inseparable as the two direct impact on each other.

There have been very limited innovation endeavors in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, apart from South Africa which has put in place sound policies and appropriate institutional and regulatory frameworks favoring research and innovation. This trend is changing as other countries are in the process of devising deliberate initiatives and putting in place appropriate policies to encourage innovation. One such country dedicated to the innovation paradigm is Botswana which is in the process of putting in place the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) based on Malaysia model (Blackbeard, 2009). These initiatives are sprouting out after the realization that for any country to compete in global socio-economic value chains, there is utmost need to transcend towards the knowledge-based economic model.

Why is there need to probe the impact of sound policies on IS research and innovation in the SADC region and its impact on social change? The SADC region is not the most active African region in as far as IS research and innovation is concerned. Whilst there are many reasons that may influence proliferation of research and innovation, evidence from other regions of the world point to policy as one of the major factors (Laranja et al., 2008). This paper gives the general hypothetical assertion that ‘sound policies and implementation follow-ups will have a positive impact on the growth of research and innovation culture in any particular location’.

As most countries in the SADC region, and Africa at large, delve towards establishing themselves as knowledge-based economies, it is important that strategic and tailor-made research and innovation policies and initiatives be put in place. Research in IS is especially important as IS is continually being utilized at various levels of the socio-economic hierarchy. This is so because IS acts as a transparent and efficient medium through which knowledge has to travel from one place to another, and hence managed. This paper, therefore is vital as it presents a marriage between IS and social change as countries use e-applications (e.g., e-Government, e-Health, e-Learning) for efficient knowledge management and social inclusiveness. The major objective of this paper is to highlight what has been done in light of encouraging research and innovation in the SADC region and how policy impacts on the same. With only a few endeavors in innovation and research in the SADC region, it is important to investigate why this is so.

The major methodology used in this research is intensive literature reviews in the domain of the role of innovation in knowledge-based economies. Mostly, journal articles and publications on websites are consulted to come up with the case studies presented in this paper. Using this survey approach, the paper brings out conceptual underpinnings on the role of sound policies in IS research and innovation in the SADC region

The paper is arranged as follows: the next section presents the background to the study, which brings out the theoretical underpinnings and rationales for encouraging sound policies in the spirit of innovation and research. After this, case studies detailing the research environments in Botswana, Zambia and Malawi are presented. Following this, lessons learnt from the case studies are presented and then the future trends and recommendations are given. The paper concludes by identifying the main conclusions of this work.

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