Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Research Output and Utilization in Selected Southern African Universities

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Research Output and Utilization in Selected Southern African Universities

Luckson M. Kaino (University of South Africa, South Africa), Choshi D. Kasanda (University of Namibia, Namibia) and David Mtetwa (University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4233-1.ch012
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Abstract

This chapter analyzes the contribution of academic research outputs in ICTs towards the improvement of economic and social development of communities in Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The findings reported emanate from a study that examined ICT projects undertaken at the universities of these countries and how the projects benefited the communities to realize the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The findings indicate that studies in ICTs were used as either an object or instrument of inquiry, and a number of challenges were associated with the dissemination and utilization of research outputs. In addition, the MDGs were not deliberately factored in the ICT research agenda, and their treatment was by accident rather than design. The authors recommend that in order for research outputs to address the MDGs, the universities should put in place explicit policies that emphasize production of knowledge relevant to community, and dissemination and utilization strategy policies for research outputs.
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Background And Literature Review

The contribution of academic knowledge to economic and social development of societies is widely emphasized. This recognition has raised attention to the role of higher learning institutions such as universities in research outputs and their relevance to society. While universities have the duty to teach and carry out research for academia growth (Colombo et al., 2010), they also have the role to contribute directly to social and economic growth of the society in which they are embedded (Etzkowitz, 2002; Nilsson et al., 2010). University research has a potential in the contribution to achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were agreed upon in year 2000 by the United Nation’s member states (MDGs, 2008) included: (1) eradication of poverty and hunger, (2) achieve universal primary education, (3) promote gender equality and empower women, (4) reduce child mortality, (5) improve maternal health, (6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, (7) ensure environmental sustainability, and (8) develop a global partnership for development (GRN, 2004, p. 1). The purpose of these eight MDGs was mainly to tackle the vestiges of poverty by addressing factors that impacted negatively on the lives of communities in all member states and the eradication of these by year 2015 (MDGs, 2008). From year 2000, a variety of activities and projects aimed at achieving the goals have been undertaken and reported (GRN, 2004; Oneworld.net, 2009). Set for the year 2015, the MDGs are an agreed set of goals that can be achieved if all actors work together and do their part (MDGs, 2008). The challenges faced by countries in increasing access to post-primary education, improving quality of education and addressing threats to education systems from pandemics, natural disasters and civil conflicts, need participation of all parties, which include higher education institutions. Countries need to strengthen the management of education systems, provide better teaching materials and increase expenditure for training, hiring and management of teachers. For example, an estimated 4.5 million teachers needed in Africa to achieve the MDGs by 2015 (MDGs, 2008) is a challenge to try to achieve within time left.

The contribution of ICTs in achieving the MDGs has been emphasized in many studies and reports (see for example OECD, 2005; Heeks, 2005; MDGs, 2008; Kaino, 2008; and others) and the participation of higher learning institutions in particular cannot be over emphasized. The significance of ICTs is realized in many aspects such as improved access to learning by all, creation of conducive learning environment by gender, quality of knowledge delivery, expanded secondary and post-secondary education, reduction of expenditure on training and many others (Pelgrum, 2001; Oates, 2003; Kaino, 2005; Smeets, 2005; Kaino, 2006, 2007, 2008). This is to the advantage of advances in Information Technology (IT) that have changed ways of communication in education and delivery of knowledge to society. Some new delivery technologies using, for example, electronic learning (e-learning) in virtual programs, Internet courses delivery strategies, audio and video communications have changed and challenged ways of knowledge delivery in the education sector. The advantages of ICTs have been recognized worldwide and national policy makers have realized the potential of these to restructure organizations, promote collaboration, increase democratic participation of citizens, improve the transparency and responsiveness of governmental agencies, make health care more widely available, foster cultural creativity and enhance the social integration of individuals with different abilities and groups of different cultural background (Kozma, 2005). The policies crafted should aim at programs that promote economic and social growth in societies.

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