ICT4Africa 2014 – Yaounde Cameroon

Proceedings Address

The foreword address of this conference highlights the potential role of ICTs in improving the socio-economic status of developing countries in general and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in particular. As argued this has led to growing attention of academics, practitioners and governments to make this potential a reality. Evidence exists to show that there has been substantial increase in the penetration and use of ICTs including the Internet in developing countries since the 1990s. The International Telecommunication Union reports that as of 2007 there were more than 4 times as many Internet users in developed countries than developing countries as compared to the more than 11 times which existed in 19971ICTs in developing countries is gaining more academic attention with the introduction of a number of new information systems journals which give priority to developing countries; Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries in 2000 and the African Journal of Information Systems in 2007.

However, I echo that despite this apparent growth of ICTs and attention by academics, there is still much to be done in Africa. As of 2006, Africa accounted for 14% of the world’s population, but for only 5.6% of all fixed and mobile subscribers worldwide2. Further, in the light of the dynamic nature of ICTs applied in the volatile context of Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a need for new research to redefine existing knowledge to offer more practical frameworks which can help sustain and reap the benefits of these technologies. In that regard, the research contributions in this proceedings proposes to break new ground.

The proceedings detail abstracts of ICT research in six themes, namely, business, education, public sector, healthcare delivery, society and development. To outline a few, let us begin with ICT in Business. Dili Ojukwu examines how cost, trust, security and culture affect the level of small and medium sized enterprise (SME) participation in electronic business transactions. Findings show that while security and trust are primary in e-business adoption decisions, SMEs in Sub-Saharan Africa are willing to embark on collaborative arrangements whereby they share some of the facilities in order to participate in online activities. The study tends to be a starting point for future research on the role of social-business networks in online/Internet strategies of firms in developing countries. Another research question is how these strategies of SMEs compare with large firms in developing countries vis-à-vis the relative resource poverty of SMEs.

In ICT and Education, Ulf Larsson addresses the research question: what are some important aspects necessary to consider when adapting a IS undergraduate curriculum for the SSA region? Larsson proposes a model for Curriculum Adaptation which includes four areas of priority. Two of these areas – Local Identity and Societal Situation area, and Current ICT Status area – areas are inputs to the curriculum content. These in turn provide the base for the Evaluation and Sustainability areas, that address the need of making the IS curriculum sustainable over time, and flexible to emerging needs and opportunities. Future studies exploring the applicability of the model over across a number of higher educational institutions in the SSA region are welcomed.

In ICT in the Public Sector, Ephias Ruhode and Vesper Owei, question e-government initiatives that only focus on improving front-end electronic services without integration and collaborative functionalities in the back-end. The authors, in exploring the concept of connected government in developing countries indicate that the poor collaboration and interoperability and lack of standardization of information systems create a poor information sharing culture. Public administrators, knowledge workers and academics need to think beyond traditional e-government since a poor information sharing culture is a major setback to diffusing connected e-government applications. The study paves the way for future studies on building information sharing models in government agencies and related institutions.

In ICT for Healthcare, Sameul Kingue and Victor Mbarika lead a team of medical practitioners and researchers to examine impact of telemanagement on the efficiency of arterial hypertension (HTn) control, using home BP measurements, as compared to the conventional approach in an urban setting. The study details how mobiles, through text messaging, facilitate a direct interaction between the patient and medical personnel in a manner which substantially improves blood pressure control, at least on a short term basis. These innovative initiatives echo the opportunities of telehealth and mobiles in development and the need for research collaboration across academic and professional disciplines foster such ICT innovations in resource poor environments.

In ICT, Internet and Society, Julius Nganji draws attention to disability exclusion in ICT implementation in Africa. From a case study of ICT initiatives in Cameroon, Nganji notes that “there appears to be no consideration of the needs of disabled people during most of the implementation stages of the projects. There is therefore the need to anticipate various disabilities and to incorporate the needs of such people in ICT implementation even when those disabilities are not yet obvious”. Njanji’s study brings to light a topic of necessity (given the relative resource poverty) which has received less attention when issues relating to ICTs, Society and Development in Africa are discussed.

Finally, in ICT and Development, Tambe Agbor and Stephen Eno-Tambe investigate how farmers in Cameroon presently receive marketing information, compare these against SMS educative messaging, and evaluate which mode of messaging would be most beneficial to enable farmers improve their economic situation, and promote responsible farming practices in areas not readily accessible by agricultural field workers. Findings indicate that farmers expressed their willingness to pay for SMS services and opined that SMS messaging could help them make decisions that would positively affect their profession and economy. The authors note that “African farmers stand to gain if their governments should partner with local telephony providers to make this possible”. This draws attention to how technologies which offer a path of least cost of adoption can enable developing countries develop sustainable development initiatives.

In effect, I ask that, are we breaking new ground? This is a question for you to answer during the track sessions and panel presentations. However, the outlined contributions indicate possibilities of future research in a number of areas including social-business networks in online strategies, ICT innovations in mobiles and development, and developing a information sharing culture in the public sector. Considering the resource poverty in the SSA region, these research issues are further pronounced. Sustaining the current growth of ICTs and obtaining the related benefits partly depends on what you and I do after this year’s conference.

On behalf of the Conference chairs and program committee members, I express our appreciation for your participation in this year’s conference and look forward to meeting you, next year at, ICT for Africa 2009, with more challenging insights and research contributions.

Dr. Richard Boateng

Editor, ICT for Africa 2008 Conference Proceedings
Conference Lead Track Chair
Associate Director, ICITD, Southern University

 
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