Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Building Leadership in the E-World

Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Building Leadership in the E-World

Article excerpt

The worldwide penetration of the mobile phone confirms that we are living in an e-World--a world in which electronic and digital communication play an increasingly important role. The International Telecommunications Union estimates that the number of cellphone subscriptions worldwide reached 5.28 billion at the end of 2010. The number of Internet users is just over two billion, with 57 percent of them in developing nations. The English language now contains such words as eGovernment, eHealth, eCommerce, and eEducation. Other languages have made similar adaptations. '1 If you need further confirmation, note that each of these "e" terms is now found in Wikipedia.

Since the 1990s, there has been widespread recognition of the increasing importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the everyday lives of people across the world. A major thrust came from the eight major industrial nations (the G8) who acknowledged that information and communication technology is one of the most potent forces in shaping the 21st century, and its revolutionary impact affects the way people live, learn and work, and the way government interacts with civil society. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held first in Geneva in 2003 and then in Tunis in 2005, underscored the role of ICTs in promoting social change and especially for helping meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It presented a vision of Connecting the World wherein 800,000 villages across the continents would have digital access by 2015.

There are two major challenges in the enthusiasm surrounding ICTs. First is the inescapable message emphasising the importance of bringing disadvantaged and marginalised people across the "digital divide"--or as the G8 said more than a decade ago: "establish the principle of inclusion: everyone everywhere should be enabled to participate in and no one should be excluded from the benefits of the global information society." Much of this has to do with building the digital infrastructure, ranging from broadband towers to village knowledge centres. Many nations have taken up this challenge. Thailand, for example, under its 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan, has developed five national ICT-related strategies (eGovernment, eCommerce, eIndustry, eEducation and eSociety) and a public-private sector programme for establishing more than a thousand telecenters to serve rural communities. (1)

The second challenge is to build a leadership structure that can deliver the potential of information and communication technologies for development (ICTD). The Action Plan of WSIS called for creating a critical mass of skilled ICT professionals and experts dedicated to development-related issues and institutions. The Asia and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technologies for Development (APCICT) recognised the importance of people in gaining benefit from ICTs. It has noted that in an increasingly digital and inter-connected global environment, policy makers and many other government officials are indispensable in creating and sustaining the type of environment that promotes the use of ICTD. The organisation recognises that policy makers set priorities, procure and allocate funds, facilitate alliances and partnerships, and enact policies that promote the ICT industry sector and other important uses of ICTD. Furthermore, government officials can use ICTs to create and maintain ICT-based systems that enhance government efficiency, promote access by diverse ICT users, and deliver important services to the country's populace. "Therefore," APCICT officials say, "it is imperative that initiatives and ICT policies are structured and implemented strategically within a broader perspective on how ICT can best address the MDGs while being pegged against specific national development needs and strategies." (2) This paper explores actions by APCICT to strengthen human resources and advocacy for ICTD in the Asia and Pacific region. …

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