Policy and Socio-Economic Contexts for IT Based Public Sector Reform in Postcolonial Developing Countries: The Contrived vs. the Actual

Policy and Socio-Economic Contexts for IT Based Public Sector Reform in Postcolonial Developing Countries: The Contrived vs. the Actual

James M. Njihia (University of Nairobi, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-839-2.ch002
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Abstract

IT based public sector reforms takes place within a contested policy and socio-economic context but one that often appears non-controversial since the pursuit of development is generally desirable. In this chapter we explore this context from two discursive perspectives, the dominant international ICT development dialogue associated with western institutions, and from postcolonial theory that emanates from reflections on the postcolonial condition found in most developing countries. They are presented as representing a contrived and an actual context respectively that give rise to policy-practice gaps. The discussion brings out the limitations of developmentalism when conceptualizing IT innovations and change in postcolonial developing countries, and suggests an approach that factors in postcolonial theory in bridging these gaps. This would strengthen existing innovative approaches and provide new analytical perspectives that factor in history, time, global geo-political structures, and the submerged potentially destabilizing voices in former colonies. Future research directions towards post-development and their challenges are also highlighted.
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Background

There is near universal consensus on the efficaciousness of adopting ICTs in the whole world including developing countries (Avgerou, 2003). ICT for development (ICT4D) and E-Governance are widely championed by international development agencies as important avenues out of poverty for faster integration into the global economy. It is frequently cited as a major opportunity for them (Mansell, 2002) and in the public sector, E-Government is associated with good governance (CAFRAD, NEPAD, & UNDESA, 2003; Grindle, 2004). In the year 2000 the G8 leaders adopted the Charter on the Global information Society and established a public-private partnership, the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force), to champion ICT globally. This resulted in a report that put ICT at the heart of development (Digital-Opportunity-Initiative, 2001). ICT was thus recognized as an enabler of development beyond the traditional conception of ICT initiatives as stand alone infrastructure projects, now they would be evaluated in the context of broader development goals. ICTs were also underlined as a major contributor to fighting poverty, and to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. With such high level attention, the pursuit of ICT4D and E-Government becomes imperative for national legitimacy in the international arena (Mansell & Wehn, 1998b; Stoltzfus, 2005).

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