«ANNUAL REPORT 2010 / 2011 Towards Evidence-based Policy Research ICT Africa (RIA) was launched in 2003 with support from the International ...»
2010 / 2011
Towards Evidence-based Policy
Research ICT Africa (RIA) was launched in 2003 with support from the International
Development Research Centre (IDRC) to address the research gap that existed in the
area of ICT policy and regulation, and to develop the data and analysis necessary
for informed and evidence-based policy formulation. RIA seeks to fill a strategic gap
in the development of a sustainable information society and network knowledge economy by building the ICT policy and regulatory research and capacity needed to inform effective ICT governance in Africa. It does so by conducting high-quality research to facilitate evidence-based ICT policy formulation that will improve access to, use and application of ICT for social and economic development. To achieve this, RIA has focused on building a sustainable network of research excellence in Africa that facilitates knowledge sharing and capacity development and contributes to global discourse on ICT policy and regulation.
Through the development of an Africa-wide research network, RIA aims to build an African knowledge base in support of ICT policy and regulatory processes, and to monitor and review policy and regulatory developments on the continent in terms of public policy objectives. The primary focus in this past phase (2008–2010) has been on the supply side of the supply and demand research cycle. In this phase RIA conducted ICT sector performance review and the telecommunications regulatory environment surveys in 17 African countries and analysed them comparatively. In addition, a number of case studies identified important developments or innovations within the ICT sector requiring documentation and analysis.
RIA’s research objectives are:
• to conduct public-interest research on the state of ICT to respond to national, regional and continental needs;
• to develop indicators to assess policy and regulatory outcomes; and
• to work with state agencies to gather the necessary data and information required to conduct the research and analyses mentioned above.
We continued to develop and consolidate the applied research that underpinned the network’s development over the last five years. Core research was developed through two parallel thrusts. The one was to prioritise and refine the dissemination strategy, through more targeted interventions in the policy and regulatory processes within countries, and at regional, continent and international meetings, in order to optimise the rich research findings of the core research programme as it matured.
At the same time the integrity and credibility of the core programme depends on the recognition of the research being undertaken in peer-reviewed publications and conferences, and on a sustainable source of research capacity being developed to undertake such activities.
ACADEMIC RESEARCH ADVO
LIRNE.NET LIRNEasia / DIRSI / Communica Alternative Regulatory Strategies While such longer-term projects contribute to capacity development on the continent, funds were also set aside for short-term, rapid-response technical assistance to regulators or policy makers or to institutions wishing to participate in public processes in the country. While a large portion of this was originally budgeted for Namibia, the Namibian Communications Commission ultimately funded the technical assistance provided by RIA, thus leaving a considerable budget for use by others. Unfortunately only a small project reviewing Rwandan ICT policy was undertaken for our RIA nodal partner to contribute to the public policy process, since no other countries responded to the call for expressions of interest in accessing technical assistance. The website and publications continue to be a widely used source of ICT developments on the continent and the development of a separate public domain database has spurred considerable interest in different aspects of research.
The research problem that unites the various projects relates to determining the effectiveness of policy and regulatory interventions. This is done by examining the current status of the ICT sector in terms of the progress made in realising universal public policy objectives. These include: affordable access to information and communication;
the penetration of ICTs to increase productivity in the economy and reduce costly transaction costs; and as a vital input cost into other businesses and enterprises and government services. The various projects seek to gather current indicators on this dynamic sector, identify the underlying drivers of stronger performance and innovation on the continent, and establish any linkages between policy and regulatory environments and improved performance as indicators of policy outcomes.
Capacity Building One of the strategies to enhance the quality of research and increase the contribution to public policy and regulatory processes has been to stimulate the very low levels of original high-level research being conducted in the area of ICT policy and regulation.
A two-pronged approach to this was adopted. The one was to nurture PhD candidates in this area at African universities. The other was to create a regular forum for academic engagement in the area of ICT policy and regulation in which African researchers could collaborate and test and develop their research.
• CPRafrica RIA organised and hosted the first Communications Policy Research Africa Conference in April 2010 (CPRafrica 2010). The review panel consisted of: Alison Gillwald, Rohan Samarajiva, William Melody, Keith Weeks, Helani Galpaya, Kammy Naidoo, Arsene Kouadio, Laura Recuero Virto, Heloise Emdon, Leo van Audenhove, Willie Currie, Khaled Fourati, Andrew Rens, Roxana Barrantes and Lishan Adam.
The young scholar seminar and conference took place over four days in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference welcomed 52 people over these four days. The countries represented at the conference included Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Peru, Swaziland, Cote d’Ivoire, the United States of America, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The top ten evaluated papers were submitted for review to the journal Info for a special Africa issue, eight of which will be published in the first quarter of 2011.
• Training In April 2009 and 2010 RIA, together with its LIRNE.net partners, ran its now annual regulatory training (through the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business Management of Infrastructure Reform and Regulation Programme) on ‘Alternative Regulatory Strategies’. The programme was combined with the IDRC sponsored programme for Asian regulators conducted by LIRNEasia, and a very animated discussion took place between African and Asian regulators and journalists.
Drawing on South Africa’s resources and data and on the relationship with the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, RIA was commissioned by the head of South Africa’s parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication, Ismael Vadi (MP) to conduct training for the new Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications of South Africa sponsored by operators and service providers in November 2009. Of the 15 members in the committee, 14 attended and 13 of them attended 100% of the course, often staying late into the evening. The benefits of the course were immediately evident in the rigorous way MPs took up issues in parliament and have continued to do so.
Dr Alison Gillwald, together with RIA’s Ethiopian partner, Dr Lishan Adam, also provided training for the new board of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, organised by Dr Tusu Tusubira, RIA’s Uganda partner, in March 2010.
• Scholarships and Bursaries As part of the initiative to build African ICT policy skills, and in remembrance of RIA partner Amy Mahan, seven students were awarded scholarships to undertake PhDs in the area of ICT policy and regulation or indicators.
Building a knowledge base and repository of information
The intention of this component of the project was to:
• establish a repository of information for further research and policy formulation;
• build a knowledge base and repository for the members and disseminate a information for policy formulation, effective regulation and further research; and
• filter, process and manage knowledge for the members, and disseminate it via its website.
The website and publications continue to be a widely used source of ICT developments on the continent, and the development of a separate database has spurred considerable interest in different aspects of research. In the Namibian and South African media, RIA staff are regularly quoted, and RIA research findings regularly referred to.
Research ICT Africa’s website is at the core of its operations. The website had an average of 2,340 visits, 1,280 of which were unique, during the period analysed, with
47.44 percent of them returning.
The Research ICT Africa website is the first hit when searching Google for ‘Africa ICT’.
The website takes second position with the key words ‘Africa ICT policy and regulation’, after ‘ infodev.org’.
Policy and Regulatory Influence An external evaluation confirms that the outputs of the country studies are uneven.
From the outcome mapping it is clear that there is little correlation between the assessed quality of the report and the influence on policy makers. Far more important it seems is, firstly, the ‘embeddedness’ of the in-country member or members in the policy and regulatory processes within the country, and secondly, the receptiveness of decision-makers (sometime as a result of a policy and regulatory vacuum) in the country. Of course, having the data collected and a report written enables those members to exploit their position better and to have a basis for their interventions.
Though it is clear from the outcomes recorded below that there have been gains in Kenya and Ghana, tracking policy influence has only been undertaken by the southern African regional coordinators.
• Botswana There is little evidence of influence and the ‘embeddedness’ of the Botswana research partners in the policy and regulatory process. The research is undertaken by the university in a competent manner, but there is little evidence of it being used as a reference point by the regulator and policy maker. There is probably more engagement externally with regulators/parliamentarians/permanent secretaries through CRASA and other SADC and ITU fora than within the country.
• Mozambique With the regional co-ordinator for southern Africa appointed to head up the Mozambiquan regulator the network lost this function, but gained an important foothold in Mozambiquan policy and regulatory circles through the appointment of someone with a personal experience of the important role of research in evdiencebased policy formulation. He has a fine understanding of the regulatory bottlenecks in Mozambique and was able to lend weight to the workshop, organised by Francisco Mabila with senior decision makers, that launched the Mozambiquan SPR.
• Namibia Availability of RIA indicators and research and extensive media exposure allowed Namibian nodal partner Christoph Stork to conduct press briefings and engage the Ministry and regulator (NCC) on high prices over a number of years. This led to the NCC engaging RIA to conduct a termination rate benchmarking study. Other African regulators that had conducted termination rate studies were approach for data and support. The policy and legal vacuum in the country was exploited to provide Namibia with a method of setting termination rates outside of a full-blown LRIC costing process, and alternative regulatory strategies were deployed to reach agreement amongst operators. The results saw a dramatic drop in termination rates in Namibia with a knock-on effect in South Africa.
• Rwanda Nodal partner in Rwanda, Albert Nsingyemvu, was one the only one to use the rapidresponse facility to provide technical assistance to countries. He requested a legal review of the proposed Information Communications Technology Act. A RIA submission was subsequently made into the public process, identifying some weakness and contradictions in the process, that was well received by the government. However, as no Sector Performance Review had been done for Rwanda, these gains could not be optimally leveraged.
• South Africa The new Parliamentary Committee on Communications in the South African parliament demanded that South Africa’s rates be dropped to the same level. This coincided with a training programme conducted for the Portfolio Committee by RIA with a special session on interconnection, in which RIA was asked to make a concluding presentation. The committee called a public hearing on the matter in which it was able to engage authoritatively, demanding that regulation resolve the drawn-out costing of termination rates. This led the Ministry to take up the issue, reaching a gentlemen’s agreement on a reduction. As this was known to all to be way above cost, ICASA continued to conduct its cost study and finally made a determination, amidst much dissent from operators. RIA supported the regulatory process by commenting in the media in support of cost-based pricing and the positive effects it would have on the market, using the RIA data that had been collected for the pricing portal.