The Influence of National IT Policies, Socio-economic Factors, and National Culture on Network Readiness in Africa

The Influence of National IT Policies, Socio-economic Factors, and National Culture on Network Readiness in Africa

Airi Ifinedo (NAV Solutions, Canada) and Princely Ifinedo (Cape Breton University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1637-0.ch007
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Abstract

This study examines the influence of national IT policies, socio-economic and cultural factors on the network readiness of African countries. The capability and level of preparation of a nation to participate in and benefit from information and communication technologies (ICT) for socio-development is assessed by the network readiness index. Prior studies have shown that such factors have a significant influence on how a country benefits from its use of ICT products for development. Research on this topic with data from the African continent is rare. This study serves to fill this gap. It is based on data from a cross-section of twenty diverse African countries. The data suggested variability in the use of ICT for developmental purposes among the sampled countries. To that end, Africa should not be viewed as monolithic in such respects. The study showed that all the measures used to operationalize national IT policies, socio-economic and some cultural factors are positively related to the network readiness of the sampled African countries. Importantly, the quality of each country’s educational systems, its transparency (corruption) levels, its ICT regulatory framework, and its cross-cultural dimension of power distance (PDI) were found to have significant relevance to its network readiness. The implications of the study’s findings for research and policy making are discussed.
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Introduction

Information and communication technologies (ICT) play a vital role in the advancement of modern societies (Pohjola, 2002, 2003; Gibbs et al., 2003; Dewan et al, 2005; WEF, 2011). Countries that have realized the importance of ICT continue to benefit from such products (Dasgupta et al., 2001; Chinn and Fairlie, 2004; EIU, 2011; WEF, 2011). Indeed research has shown that countries that invest heavily in ICT products and services tend to have higher growth and developmental indicators than those with fewer ICT investments (Caselli and Coleman, 2001; Shih et al., 2002; Pohjola, 2003; Dedrick et al., 2003). The policy decisions of developed countries consistently emphasize ICT-related projects, issues and initiatives in their development plans (Jorgenson, 2001; Pohjola, 2003; Bui et al., 2003; Dedrick et al., 2003; Erumbam and de Jong, 2006).

In contrast, less developed parts of the world, including Africa, are only beginning to grasp how ICT-enabled services can be used to hasten development (Molla, 2000; G8 DOT Force, 2001; Ifinedo, 2005a). Indeed development reports (e.g. G8 DOT Force, 2001; InfoDev, 2007) and other studies (e.g. Bui et al., 2003; Mbarika et al., 2005; Langmia, 2005; Bagchi et al., 2006) indicate that several African countries are not yet quite ready to benefit from all the advances of the information age or ICT. A recent report on Africa explained “that future socio-economic development will need to embrace the use of ICT” (InfoDev, 2007, p.5).

Commentaries and research findings on how ICT diffusion is influenced by socio-economic change and development in Africa have started to emerge after a dearth of publishing from the continent on information systems (IS) (Odedra et al., 2003; Mbarika et al., 2005; Bagchi et al., 2006). Despite these efforts to disseminate new insights, most publications (e.g., Janczewski, 1992; Wallsten, 2001; Odedra et al., 2003; Roycroft and Anantho, 2003) discussing ICT-related issues in Africa tend to treat the continent as if it were a monolith. Only a handful of researchers have so far acknowledged the distinctions among Africa’s separate sub-regions and countries (Darley, 2001; Straub et al., 2001; Ifinedo, 2005a; Langmia, 2005; Bagchi et al., 2006). It is important to make this clarification because ICT problems and initiatives differ among Africa’s different countries (Molla, 2000; Ifinedo, 2005a; Morawczynski et al., 2006; Bagchi et al., 2006). Morawczynski et al. (2006), for example, have shown how the links between ICT acceptance and economic development vary among African countries. As Bagchi et al. (2006) explain, “[t]he diffusion of ICTs is not uniform among African nations.”

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