by Moses Karanja**
This week CIPIT launched an Africa ICT Policies database available online here. The interactive database provides users with laws, policies, regulations, constitutions and background information to all 54 African countries while creating an opportunity for meaningful public participation in policy making processes. This is a critical resource for policy makers, governments, researchers, human rights defenders, telecommunication companies and virtually anyone interested in ICT policies.
What is the database all about?
ICT policy making processes in Africa – and by extension general policy making processes – are characterized by two main features; scare information on existing legal documents and limited opportunities to participate in making new ones.
As a research institute focusing on ICT policy in Africa, we thought of how we can improve this situation, at least for the African region.
“As information technologies penetrate more and more into our lives, it is necessary that we participate in shaping the policies and laws governing them. To participate effectively, you have to start at a point of ‘what is currently there?’ before you move to ‘how do I want it to look like?’. It is this need that led to this database that we are launching today.”
We have sourced the latest constitutions, conventions, Acts, regulations and other legal documents that have a direct bearing on the expansive Information technology ecosystem in Africa’s 54 countries. This in itself is a very ambitious undertaking and will involve extensive partnerships with governments, civil society and libraries to ensure the database is up to date.
Public (s) Participation
Connected to this, and responding to the second challenge of limited opportunities for public participation in policy making, we have designed an open tool for aggregating public comments on bills or proposed regulations. We are calling this platform Jadili – a Swahili word for discussion, debate or conversation. The platform uploads a bill as received from the sponsor, sets a time-frame for public comments as stipulated by drafting authorities and once complete, a report is sent to the bill sponsor and all those who participated in the commenting. This supplements existing public participation avenues like physical meetings (barazas).
We look forward to interesting times ahead as we help craft and avail better laws and policies for the African ICT ecosystem. Subscribe to our newsletter here to follow through with new developments or contact us here for more information or inquiries.
**Moses Karanja is Research Fellow at CIPIT. Follow him on twitter at: @mose_karanja. This article was first published here.