Friday, May 26, 2006

Information Age dilema

We are consumers and producers of information through formal and informal communication. How a party consumes and produces information is another thing all together. However in this Information Age, information, misinformation, and disinformation are being consumed and produced enormously - thanks to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTS). Information literacy - the skills of knowing how to create, locate, evaluate, organise and use information - becomes a paramount skill to wade through vast amounts of information. The Information Age's maze and ICTs presents a different kind of challenge all together.

ICT is a luxury fast becoming a necessity in the Information Age. ICTs, also one of the most lucrative business ventures of our era is taking centre stage in leading humanity into the Information Age.
In Uganda, the Ministry of ICT is now only awaiting formalities. The Ministry of ICT has been mentioned and passed by the 8th Parliament of the Republic of Uganda and its likely Minister could be Dr. Ham Mulira, an ICT expert here in Uganda. An ICT expert!? Who is an ICT expert!? What are the qualifications for one to become an ICT expert!? Who needs an ICT expert anyway!?
Of a Computer scientist, an Information Technologist, a Telecommunicationist, an Information / Informatician Scienctist, UNESCO and the International Telecommunication Union, who should spearhead the agenda for humanity in the Information Age and with what mandate!?

The Information Age needs cadres who are primarily information literate. Literacy - the ability to read and write though vital is not good enough. The communication aspect of information is dearly needed. Then can knowledge of ICT skills kick in. A combination of Literacy, Information literacy, communication skills and ICT literacy is the better option for this information age.

I posted an article titled ICT Minister for Uganda to this blog and got the following comments / feedbacks:
Comment # 1. Tue May 09, 03:36:47 PM EAT
1. I find that the info about your storm centres has not come out clearly - reading it, some Ideas come but I do not get what you really mean.
2. The story about Ministry of ICT or Ministry of Information!?
Who is the author of this story? if it is you, your presentation does not depict that the ideas are yours. If its another persons work, please indicate so vividly
If you are reviewing a story, please state that its a review and please take time to work on your presentation (your arrangement of facts and words, your flow of ideas). I think that's one reason why you try to mix colours in your text, to me they are a distruction.
There are good ideas in the story but I think you could make them flow in much better way.
My reply to # 1:

You comments are definately very interesting! It is a piece for thoughts!!

Comment # 2.
Thu May 25, 03:23:33 PM EAT
This is very interesting content here. I will continue to read. Although I was interested in knowing if the work here is of your own ideas or are they article critiques of sort?
My Reply to # 2:
Thanks Stiltwalker.
I happen to be following the development of Uganda's ICT sector and "movement". I understand your fears but more importantly I hope to provoke an indepth analysis of ICT for Development Programmes in Uganda and other LDCs. ICTs seem not to have disadvantages here! Article critiques can not be ruled out on this blog! I hope to do so soon. How ever that article was a critique of a picture of Uganda's drive to meet the MDGs through promotion of ICTs.

I must add that, these articles are merely my opinions and at worst let them be my grumblings and your information. I am happy to share thoughts and experiences with you through this blog and your feedbacks are very welcome.
And i
n the words of Abraham Lincon, If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

Monday, May 08, 2006

ICT Minister for Uganda

Ministry of ICT or Ministry of Information!?
ICTs are Technologies for Communication of Information. . Lets juxtapose and analogise the relationship between ICTs and Information - an abstract unique commodity, in a pipe and water scenario: ICTs are like pipes! Information is like water!

Now we consume water to survive, clean water is paramount! Ask Water Aid. Water is best delivered to us, modern human beings through a network of pipes of water. However water can also be delivered through other means, in rural Africa, we draw water from springs, wells, dams, rivers, lakes, oasises, and rain water without use of pipes!
We need information to realise holistic human development, moreso relevant timely quality information. Information is best delivered today through use of vessels called ICTs and more so its network. In rural and even urban Africa, information is being delivered through non ICTs means such as words of mouth (oral tradition), drums, signal, print media, cinema, and dramas! ICT has never been a prerequisite to access and consume information.

We therefore have alternatives to access and consume water just as we we have alternatives to access and consume information. The means, ICT management and policies are not the critical issues! The critical issue for holistic human development is Information management and its policies. ICT issues compliment information and communication commodity issues!

The Government of the Republic of Uganda is at the verge of setting up a full Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). To the ICT enthusiastics - Your editor equally quilty, - it is such a big sigh.
I don't wish to wink about this not for one second! Ministry of ICT!?
How does the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) come in!? If ICTs are Technologies for Communication of Information and they are Technologies, then won't it be more appropriate to have atleast UCC and UNCST under a new Minstry of Science and Technology in Uganda!?

This Ministry, all but about the means of information delivery - ICTs and not the cherised commodity -Information, stinks so unfortunate!

It is official, the Information Act of Uganda is in place! The Department of Information (DOI) in the President's Officer recently passed the Information Act of Uganda. Where does this ICT minsitry leave this noble Department of Informationin in the Office of the almighty President of Uganda!? Should that department remain under the discretion of the Office of the President of the land!? What powers has this DOI got!? And if Information and Communication - not ICT- is a human right would it be so unjust if it were under another relevant minsitry say the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development which already exist!? In any case media freedom can best be guaranteed by these ministries!

That commodity and abstract called "Information" is being sidelined by a consortium of information technology enthusiastics, power struggles and dollars! $! What good is ICT when freedom of information, communication, expression, speech, association and privacy hasn't been adequately guaranteed by what so ever specific policy and Ministry in this Pearl in Africa!? In Uganda's context which Ministry or Presidential department again formulates and guarrantee these policies and noble rights with regard to Information!?

Will the Ministry of ICT really guide us throught the maze from DATA to Information to Knowledge and Wisdom and what justification if any needs Uganda such a Ministry as a Ministry of ICT when Uganda hasn't even a Ministry for Science and Technology neither has she a Ministry for Information!?
And to any sane person, which issue has more concern for the common man: Data issues like connectivity, Digital Divide, internet governance or Information issues like freedom of speech and expression, right to access of information! Therefore needn't it be that the Ministry of ICT and Department of Informtion be merged and perhaps call it Ministry of Information!? A Ministry of Information is more inclusive of Information policies and Information Technology policies and would definately have to cater for ICTs issues! This is an Information Age!!

Has the US Government or the Japanese a Ministry of ICT!? Ok! Thailand has a Ministry of ICT! I mean are there best ICT mainstreaming practices out there in the world!? ICT and Society!? Is there such a thing as Sociology of ICT / information - Social Informatics!? Are we in a Telecommmunication Society or are we in the Information Society!? What was International Telecommunication Union (ITU) doing spearheading the Tunis 2005 World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS)!? Wasn't she hard pressing her "telecommunication Issues" at the expense on critical information issues!?

ICT issues in Uganda need be well thoughtout, internalised, researched and well documented before being included in Uganda's Ministerial structures otherwise it is could be a duplication of work by government agencis like the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), Uganda National Council for Science and Technolgy (UNCST)! And worse still Uganda might never ripe dividends out of the said ministry.

Perhaps its about high time the Ministries in Uganda are systemised to make them more inclusive and avoid duplication and waste of taxpayer and donor funds!
Below are the Numerous ministeries in Uganda (Source: The Monitor Business Directory, 2005 Page 266):

  1. Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries
  2. Ministry of Defence
  3. Ministry of of Education and Sports
  4. Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development
  5. Ministry of finance, Planning and Economic Development
  6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  7. Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development
  8. Ministry of Health
  9. Ministry of Internal Affairs
  10. Ministry ofJustice and Constitutional Affairs
  11. Ministry of Lands water and Environment
  12. Ministry of Local Government
  13. Ministry of Public Service
  14. Ministry of Works, Housing and Communication!