The Ministry of ICT (MICT) has come up with a draft ICT Policy to replace the one launched by the government in 2005. In between these documents, a Strategic Plan for 2010 to 2014 was also put in place by the MICT. Having gone through both policy documents (ICT Policy 2005 and 2012) and the Strategic Plan for 2010 - 2014, it is clear that there are glaring inadequacies in both the policies and the process used in formulating them. In this article, a review of some of the issues addressed in the Draft 2012 ICT policy is conducted, together with an analysis of the process used in its formulation. It is the author’s belief that such a scrutiny of policies and processes carried out by government ministries is important not only in order to evaluate the performance of public bodies but to enable the nation to move forward in an enlightened way. There is no benefit in producing and glorifying policies and grand-standing their launch if the people entrusted with the responsibility of implementing them are lacking the necessary ability, capacity, or power to do the job.
The MICT produced the first National Information and Communication Technology Policy Framework in 2005. This framework set out policy statements on: e-Government/Governance, Education and Training Sector, Commerce, Agriculture, Tourism and Environment, Health, Mining and Manufacturing, Transport, Gender, Youths, Disabled and aged and Human Resources Development. This was followed by a Strategic Plan five years later (MICT – Strategic Plan 2010-2014) in which explicit goals, targets and milestones were set. Whether the MICT Strategic Plan 2010-2014 was based on the 2005 MICT Policy is unclear. There was also a list of ‘quick wins’ which included for example setting up ‘interactive databases enhanced websites’ for ministries, establishment of pilot information centres, establishment of an
and e-government among others. Some of these had already been set out in the
mission statements of the 2005 Policy (for example setting up ministry
websites). This brings us to the latest draft ICT Policy which has been
produced citing the need to continuously review the policy. This is despite the
fact that the launch of this policy is only two years after the same ministry
came up with a strategic plan which covers 2010 to 2014. ICT
When setting out to review a policy, an examination of the existing policy should be made in order to identify gaps, the need to revise or rescind and to enable consistency. A research process for review is carried out to investigate whether the policy is still consistent with new developments, strategic directions of the country and changes in other government policies and legislation. This should include an assessment of the level of compliance by the various stakeholders with the existing policy and whether any related policies need to be revised or rescinded. New policies develop from past practices – good or bad. These past practices can have an influence on government decisions, in other words the leadership cannot ignore them. It is therefore important for the policy maker to present a clear record of past practices regarding the implementation of the previous policy.
According to the MICT, the 2012 policy is based on a review of the 2005 Policy. There is also need to consider the Strategic Plan for 2010-2014. It is therefore logical and reasonable to expect that a full detailed review of the 2005 Policy and the Strategic Plan for 2010 – 2014 should precede this document with a clear record of the achievements and failures against the objectives. The relationship between the 2005 policy statements and the 2012 policy statements must also be documented. Are some of the 2012 plans completely new or continuations of those from 2005? The 2005 Policy for example promises the establishment of a National ICTs Authority and National ICTs Regulator – has this been achieved? If not – why? What progress has been made in setting up Pilot Information Centres? Where is the documentation of achievements in the areas of ICTs in education, e-Governance, e-Health, Human Resource Development etc? Is it unreasonable to expect the MICT to produce proper statistics regarding computers in schools and what it has actually achieved in human resources development and raising awareness. How can the government be expected to endorse the current policy if it does not know what the last policy achieved and where it failed? Is this information available anyway?
Both the 2005 Policy and the 2010 Strategic Plan have one of the aims as the establishment of decent websites for ministries; but the most remarkable thing about the MICT is the poor quality of its website. For a ministry that is supposed to be spearheading the development of ICT, the website does not inspire confidence or hope, that is, when it is available. The content on the website is antiquated, and has not been updated for a long period. It is also populated by blank links. The reader is invited to visit the website (www.ictministry.gov.zw) and click on the contacts link for example! The striking image that greets the reader is the picture of the ‘Hon Minister’, and beyond that nothing much of substance. A survey of the Zimbabwe Government Ministry websites (http://www.zim.gov.zw/index.php/ministries) will show that this is among the worst; if not the worst website. It stands out as the only one among those surveyed where you have the picture of the minister on the header. In contrast, the website for the Ministry of Science and Technology Development (http://www.mstd.gov.zw) is of quite a good standard, very interactive and informative. Some of the websites, with the MICT topping the league, are disgraceful for national websites, would be better removed until they are improved to a standard befitting national institutions.
If the MICT is to be taken seriously in this technology age, it should up its game and put a little effort in maintaining a respectable website. How much does it really cost to maintain an up-to-date website? This is not even about building a website – simply updating the information and making sure simple information like contacts is available! However the point here is, it is a waste of money and effort producing policies on paper and using them for electioneering if there is no visible action on the ground, and then dusting them off when it is time to produce another policy. It also brings to question the capability of those afforded the responsibility of developing this important technological area; an important cornerstone of the development of the nation.
A scrutiny of the 2 policies’ sections on ‘Status of ICTs’ in Zimbabwe in 2005 and 2012 brings up some interesting revelations. One is left wondering whether there has been any significant progress made in the ICT sector except for the obvious increase of mobile phone users and internet subscribers (quoted in both policies) – a natural growth world-wide. Alternatively one can be left wondering if it is just blatant inefficiency or evidence of shoddy work? For example, both policies mention the progress in the ICT sector as deregulation, massive computerisation of government ministries (2005) compared to ‘computerisation of government ministries in the main centres of the country’ (2012), establishment of Cabinet Committee on Scientific Research, Technology and Applications and establishment of regulatory framework for the ICTs sector. In fact, comparing the two sections, the only difference in terms of progress is that in 2005 electricity is mentioned positively with an acknowledgement of rural electrification and in 2012 there is mention of electricity shortage curtailing progress. The only significant difference in the status of ICT between 2005 and 2012 according to the two policies is the removal of duty on ICT hardware and software. The same repetitions are observed in the policy objectives; which may of course have some similarities, if they reflected a continuation of policies; but these should be clearly indicated. On a lighter note, the policy objectives for 2012 start from (f) in the circulated draft; leaving one wondering what happened to (a) to (e)! This can be viewed as a clear indication of a recycled policy, lack of adequate effort and lack of careful attention which is a prerequisite for a document of national importance.
A further look at ‘challenges facing the ICTs sector’ will yield similar results to the above. The challenges outlined are exactly the same; such as inadequate communications infrastructure, ICT facilities, skills, limited institutional arrangements etc. Strangely, the only addition on the 2012 policy is ‘insufficient awareness campaigns’! Now whose challenge is this, and who is supposed to carry out these awareness campaigns? What has the MICT been doing in the past 7 years if they could not carry out this basic task? The main policy statements regarding the ICT sector are exactly the same (compare section 3.5.1 – 2005 Policy and Section 4.4 – 2012 Policy). The only difference is in the numbering (letters vs numbers); a textbook example of trying to mask a copy and paste job. Although it is reasonable to have similar policy statements, if nothing has changed, that is; the drafting of the 2012 policy is based on changes that have occurred, and therefore the new policy should reflect these changes.
A scrutiny of the different policy statements on e-Government, Education, Tourism etc will also reveal that there is little or nothing new. As evidence of manipulation of the 2005 policy, attention is drawn to the conclusions of both policies; instead of trying to analyse them for the public; both conclusions have been pasted below. It is acceptable and entirely reasonable that the drafting of the 2012 document could not be done from scratch, and that this is a review/revision of the 2005 Policy. What is not acceptable is when sentences are re-arranged and deliberately tweaked to mask a duplication or copy and paste job leading to plagiarised policy documents. The reader is left to judge on the amount of work done in trying to come up with the ‘new’ 2012 policy; and the justification in all the funding consumed and meetings held in coming up with a document of such poor quality.
In conclusion, the draft 2012 policy does not present any significant new ideas. It is inadequate, of poor quality, and not based on a clear review or documentation of what has been achieved or has not over the 7 years of its existence. As revealed, documented and evidenced above, calling this policy ‘new/revised ’is offensive and an insult to the public’s intelligence as it can clearly be seen as a manipulation of the old one. Moreover, as pointed out, there is evidence that the implementation of the existing policies is poor – as can be seen on the MICT website. The Draft Policy should therefore be ditched and re-written with meticulous care and attention which reflects its importance as a national document. It is a public document which reflects on
Zimbabwe as a
nation. A call is also made for a clear documentation of achievements over the
past 7 years for public scrutiny, not only for accountability purposes but to
enable the ICT agenda to move forward. It is from such a point that a clear-cut plan with
a clear vision on moving forward can be envisaged. A good policy will preserve
the MICT’s ability to serve the public and reach its objectives through logical
and consistent decision making. If the same aims and objectives are set again
without addressing previous failures and successes then the success of the
current policy is greatly compromised.
In the next article, the author will discuss and make recommendations on what the Policy should include in the area of e-Government; which refers to the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for delivering government services, exchange of information communication transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems and services between Government and Citizens. Through e-Governance, the government services can be made available to the citizens in a convenient, efficient and transparent manner. The article will include a discussion and recommendations on how the MICT can implement ICT policies that facilitate the electoral process, security and law enforcement, among other areas.
ICT Policy Framework 2005 and the MICT – Strategic Plan 2010-2014 can be
downloaded from: http://www.ictministry.gov.zw/index.php?option=com_phocadownload&view=category&id=1&Itemid=171
The 2012 Draft National ICT Policy Framework can be downloaded from:
Alternatively, if the site is not available, the reader can contact the author for electronic copies.
- PLEASE NOTE THAT THE CONTACTS LINK REFERRED TO IN THIS ARTICLE HAS SINCE BEEN UPDATED
- THE MICT WEBSITE HAS BEEN FACE-LIFTED AND LOOKS MUCH BETTER NOW - EVEN THOUGH I BELIEVE THEY COULD DO MORE. BUT WELL DONE.
- A NEW REVISED POLICY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED - A MASSIVE IMPROVEMENT FROM THE DRAFT - AND IT IS AVAILABLE ON THE WEBSITE
- I AM SURE THIS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS ARTICLE!!!!!