A brief response to Wayan’s top 5 ICT4D countries in Africa

In response to Wayan’s post 
ICT4D, certainly in an African developing country context, is supposed to *embrace* the lives of the most disenfranchised people – inevitably those who lack even the most basic of amenities, let alone ICTs! If you are linking innovation to an economy of scale, then sure, I agree that countries like Rwanda and Mauritius, even Egypt and South Africa, have clearly shown good their intent to develop even the most rural and underdeveloped parts of their countries. HOWEVER, when I continue to see vast majorities of populations in the parallel universe of ICT4E suffer the absence of electricity and *meaningful* 4E (!) communication infrastructure at 40 – 70% of schools nation-wide, then I cannot see how “innovation” relates to ICT development in such countries. What I see is proprietary giants locking middle-management, decision-making, government officials into systems which have been determined to be too commercially costly to deploy at the scales we would like them to – to meet even fundamental MDGs in ‘good time’.
Wherever there’s been an innovative effort to embrace effective and affordable long-term total cost of ownership models in primary and secondary education sectors using Free/Libre and Open Source software (FLOSS) and Open Educational Resource solutions, they have been marginalised by greed. A few countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand, Brazil and (parts of) Spain can be seen as exceptions to this rule, but I can’t think of a single country in Africa which has managed to overcome mind-numbing and largely outdated cost calculations leveraged by commercial ICT salesmen to “put computers in the classroom”. Hence the delays in development, which no amount of innovation will alter until such countries adopt platform neutral ICT acquisition policy, open minds to shifting ICT form factor, and then some – SITA, South Africa’s government ICT buying agency has such (even FLOSS) policy to guide their purchasing decisions, but we still wait for implementation of this policy, several years after promulgation!
I’m afraid that until we see altered states of reality – more money spent on school electrification than on a President’s new jet, state house, hero’s monument or church – ICT4D in Africa will still be around when my grandchildren’s children graduate from university… even though I hope to see some closure to the ICT4D we’ve been forced to practice (with short-term local volunteerism = 2 decades:-)) in my lifetime.
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Posted in #Idlelo6, africa, assistive technologies, bandwidth, EduNet Namibia, FOSS, ICT4D, Ict4e, innovation, investment, total cost of ownership, Wayan's EdTech Debates

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