Uganda’s Rural ICT Policy Framework: Strengths and Disparities in Reaching the Last Mile

Uganda’s Rural ICT Policy Framework: Strengths and Disparities in Reaching the Last Mile

Carol Azungi Dralega (Western Norway Research Institute, Norway)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-012-8.ch018
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Abstract

This chapter investigates the Ugandan ICT policy approach to promoting access to and the empowerment of the poor majority, remote and “under-accessed” communities in Uganda. The chapter highlights the strengths of the policy framework while at the same time draws attention to it’s weaknesses. For instance, while the chapter acknowledges the fact that the ICT policy framework recognises and has pursued strategic approaches to expanding access to remote areas, a closer scrutiny indicates disparities that may delimit its pragmatism. These disparities, it is argued, mainly emanate from the fact that the policy framework is not entirely holistic nor forwardlooking in its outlook, not only because the processes (of policy making) left out the rural users, it also fails to address the gender dynamics and most urgently, the media convergencies notably between broadcasting and telecommunication. In addition to divorcing itself from political and democratic aspects imperative for development, the policy framework seems shorthanded on sustainability fundamentals that are conjectured to restrict its propitiousness at the grassroots.
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Background

Africa, ICT Policy and Development

“With the physical boundaries that separated nations melting off due to the emergence of a boundryless Information Society, any people-group, nation or region that does not line up with the expectations of the New Economy – which is primarily driven by Information and Communication Technologies – will experience lonely moments on the island of insignificance” Dr. Phillip Emeagwali1

Africa’s active participation in the Information Society started with the establishment of the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) later adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa 1996 and the subsequent endorsement by high level Ministerial and Organizational of the then Organization of African Union (OAU), Heads of States and Governments’ meeting including the 1997 G8 Summit. The role of AISI was to serve as a mechanism for achieving the Millennium Development Goals2 in the AISI framework document3 which also recommends the mainstreaming of Information and Communication Technologies. This informed the strong support that the AISI gives to the development of National ICT policies and strategies through its National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) plan, which helps nations link to national, regional and global development goals – including MDGs (Chiumbu, 2008; Sesan, 2004).

Although today, most African nations have developed a NICI informed ICT policy with national specific considerations, the AISI/NICI continental policy framework has come under heavy criticism for being driven more by foreign actors and ideas to the detriment of an local and grassroots participation and pragmatism (Chiumbu 2008; Dralega 2008). With an exception of a few countries (like Uganda and Kenya), who have adopted grassroots policies, several countries are still struggling to come to terms with the market driven strategies that tend to exclude marginalized and peripheral communities (Gillwald & Stork, 2008; Etta & Elder, 2005; Ogbo 2003) a matter I take up in this chapter.

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