The Policy of Uses of ICTs in Developing Countries: The Case of Tunisia

The Policy of Uses of ICTs in Developing Countries: The Case of Tunisia

Saida Habhab-Rave (University of Poitiers, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-847-0.ch048
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Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to examine the policy of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on the development of countries, especially on Tunisia. The first part of the article summarizes the evolution of the definition of ICTs policy. In the second part, the authors assess the contribution of ICT to the development of Tunisia. Tunisian’s response to these ICT challenges is discussed from three viewpoints. Firstly, the ways ICTs are impacting on the business, management and development. Secondly, what is being done with regard to ICT policies, especially for all sectors of the society. Thirdly, the impact the broader vision of policy has. In the final part, the relationship between policies of ICTs and sustainable development is discussed. On the basis of the technology-knowledge-innovation-economic development cycle, individual participation is thought to begin with general, ICT and business. The fascinating case history of the Finnish Information Society which lends significant tangible support to this and other models is summarized.
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Introduction

Over the past three decades, the convergence (both in terms of technology and markets) of telecommunications, the mass media, networked computing environments, and the internet has changed the way the developed world works and plays. This information and communications technology (ICT) based “network society” is seen as the generator of a “new economy”, manifested in such icons as Silicon Valley and the Asian Tigers. However, almost all of these dramatic changes have been taking place in the developed world, whilst the developing world, and especially Africa, appears to be falling ever further behind. This “digital divide” will continue to widen as long as Africa is excluded from the network society and the new economy. While the potential advantages of ICT for Development are enormous national policies are yet to adequately reflect truly comprehensive and integrated strategies for harnessing and exploiting his potential. Much mention has been made of a growing digital divide between countries (Boudchon, 2002). However, just as technology and knowledge gaps need to be bridged between countries, the increasing information and technology gap within countries also requires critical attention. There is, perhaps, a directly attributable link between growing inequality within nations and the intra-national digital and information divide.

The debate on ICT has permanently shifted from “why” ICT for development, to “how” comprehensive and holistic ICT policies can unleash human potential and enhance people’s capabilities to improve their lives. Sound ICT policies that are truly pro-poor must be an indispensable part of national development strategies. But:

  • How to introduce ICTs in national development planning at every-level (national, district or regional, local and community)?

  • How Tunisia and Africa can organize, plan and marshal resources to best meet the needs of their constituencies using ICTs?

  • How measure the benefits and outcomes of using ICTs in human development term?

This chapter proposes that the universal provision of a broader vision of policy of ICTs is an essential first step in reversing this exclusion and stimulating sustainable development. Its objectives are to explain the nature of people focused ICT policy formulation and strategy development. Using practices drawn from Tunisia and around Africa, it discusses the role of ICT policy- making in human development. In particular, its potential contribution in the fight against poverty, advocacy for management and sustainable development, advancement of good governance and the achievement of MDGs is highlighted.

The chapter focuses on the strategy required in developing ICT policies. Also discussed are questions that need to be considered in developing an ICT strategy, the sectors that ICT policy-making needs to deal with, and the approach to ICT action planning. Related topics covered include strategies for various sectors: ICTs applied to learning and management, ICTs for local and community development as well as the development objectives and outcomes sought through an ICT strategy. Some of the principles of implementation that need to be considered from a human development perspective are outlined and discussed.

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Background

Information technology (IT) is “a fancy name for data processing”, according to Newton (2002). It means all equipment, processes, procedures and systems used to provide and support information systems (both computerized and manual) within an organization and those reaching out to customers and suppliers (Newton, 2002). The term information and communications technology (ICT) was coined to reflect the seamless convergence of digital processing and telecommunications.

ICTs include hardware, processes, and systems that are used for storing, managing, communicating and sharing information. These tools can be either manual or computerized (digital) (Duncombre & Heeks, 1999). This definition of ICTs extends to older non digital devices such as analogue radio and television. Beyond hardware, i.e., computers, wireless devices, telecommunications towers, etc. ICTs include computer software and associated systems such as management methods and practices, or the so-called application layer.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Midrand: Is in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was established as a local Municipality in 1981, but was incorporated into Region 2 of Johannesburg during the late 1990’s and as of 2006, when the number of regions where reduced to seven, it forms part of Region 1. Midrand officially ceased to exist in 1998 when Act 15 of 1981 Town Council of Midrand Act was repealed by Act 10 of 1998 Rationalisation of Local Government Affairs Act.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Endorse by governments at the United Nations in September 2000. Its aim is to improve human well-being by reducing poverty, reducing child mortality rates, ensuring education for all, tackling gender disparity and ensuring sustainable development and pursuing global partnerships.

Human Development Report (HDR): S document published by United Nations development programme (UNDP), lauched first in 1990. Its goal was to place people at the center of the development process in terms of economic debate, policy and advocacy.

Information technology (IT): Refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, the internet or the people that work with these technologies. IT jobs include computer programming, network administration, computer engineering, web development, technical support, and many other related occupations. Since we live in the “information age”, information technology has become a part of our everyday lives.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT): Design a set of technologies that includes any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning. ICTs are often spoken in a particular context, such as ICTs in education, health care or libraries. The importance of ICTs lies less in the technology itself than in its ability to create greater access to information and communication in underserved populations.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs): Include not only colleges and universities but also professional schools in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music and art. They also include teacher-training schools, community colleges and institutes of technology. At the end of a prescribed course of study, a degree, diploma or certificate is awarded.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMSs): Are companies whose headcount or turnover falls below certain limits. Different countries use different parameters to define SMEs. Some use the number of persons employed, amount of capital invested, amount of turnover or nature of the business.

Open Source Software (OSS): It’s a computer software for which the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software license that is in the public domain. This permits users to use, change and improve the software and to redistribute it in modified or unmodified forms.

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