NEPAD’s ICT for Africa Summit and Community Informatics

Posted on May 13, 2010

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NEPAD, the “New Partnership for Africa’s Development” http://www.nepad.org/
is hosting a second ICTAfrica Summit 2010 http://www.ictafricasummit.co.za/
August 10-13 in Cape Town.

NEPAD has had something of a mixed history but recently has been integrated
into the African Union (AU) structures and processes. The NEPAD Secretariat
was recently transformed into the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency
(NPCA) of the African Union.

To date NEPAD has operated primarily as a high-level talk shop for
politicians, government officials and the corporate sector. The ICT Summit
rather unexpectedly however, has included Community Informatics as among
four stakeholder groups (along with Health, Government, and Business
Informatics) which they are looking to “mobilise” and I, with African CI
colleagues, have been invited to manage and present this theme over the
course of the conference.

As part of this invitation we have been given a plenary slot (15 minutes) to
present Community Informatics as a stakeholder in ICT in Africa, and two 90
minute breakout sessions to showcase CI activities or whatever else we think
would be of value or interest.  As well, we have been invited to provide
information and make displays of CI related activities, publications,
organizations and so on within the context of the display booths.  Finally,
the results of the CI theme at the conference will be part of the “reporting
back” process in the final plenary.

My colleagues and I see this as a unique opportunity to promote for the
inclusion of community/grassroots concerns and voices in the broader
framework for ICT4D within the AU/NEPAD. We do not want this to be simply
another set of sessions giving 10 minute snapshots of interesting
activities/academic papers/government promos/product descriptions leading to
effectively no on-going follow-up or impact. Rather we would like an
on-going multi-sector (grassroots/community, NGO, government, private sector
and academic) network developed under the auspices of NEPAD.

We recognize that as a colleague wrote “almost by definition NEPAD level
stuff is driven from the top, and rarely touches ground exactly because of
“whose reality” is reflected in the notion of development; and that ‘the
ground/communities’ will remain underserved as long as the development
agenda is driven by a single story of who the ‘underdeveloped’ are and what
their needs are – told in the third person.” Thus the objective of this
network would be to ensure that the communities/grassroots story is told so
that this can be heard by the other stakeholders and thus (hopefully)
influence “the development agenda” and the related policies and programs.

With this note, we are opening up the discussion on this to the larger CI
community and we would welcome comments, suggestions, volunteers, offers of
support etc.etc.

At this point (as with the other themes of the Summit) there is no funding
or even promises of funding although efforts are being put in place to find
some initial resources to support the CI participation in the conference.

Mike