Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.
The challenges are distressingly familiar—persistent and often deepening poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, gender inequality, environmental degradation, wars and conflicts, a dire lack of public infrastructure, political instability. The potential is far less well-known: Africa has abundant natural resources, an increasing pool of skilled, educated workers infused with energy, commitment and an appetite for innovation, strong communities, and vibrant cultural diversity. But how can these strengths be channeled into equitable and sustainable development?
A key part of the answer is information and communication technologies (ICTs). ICTs have the potential to allow Africans to quickly connect to the opportunities created by an increasingly globalized economy, and to efficiently meet critical needs in education, health care and community development.
But for Africans to achieve self-directed social and economic development through leveraging ICTs, an essential precondition is required: national and regional e-policies and strategies that encourage and support ICT-based innovation and transformation.
"Ready access to Canadian policy expertise has helped us move very quickly on developing an e-government strategy for the East African Community. Moving quickly is critical: if we move slowly, we miss opportunities and we lose ground."
Andrew Gakiria Nderitu, Senior Policy Analyst, e-Government Directorate, Office of the President, Kenya
This is where the Canadian e-Policy Resource Centre (CePRC) comes in. Created in 2003 as part of Canada's commitment to the G-8 Africa Action Plan, CePRC draws on e-policy expertise within Canada's federal government departments and agencies—and beyond to the private sector—to help African countries rapidly develop national e-policies and strategies. CePRC-sponsored Canadian policy experts are working with African countries on a wide range of strategic initiatives, from developing a regional government strategy for East Africa to creating baseline Information Society statistics in Ethiopia, to mapping malaria risk in sub-Saharan Africa.
"ePol-NET Africa leverages the comparative advantages of three partners: the ECA, CePRC and Industry Canada. This unique partnership has resulted in ground-breaking projects across Africa. What really makes a difference is that this relationship transcends the usual donor-client relationships in ICT for development programs in Africa. From helping the East African Community formulate an e-Government strategy, to increasing awareness of ICT for development issues among African Parliamentarians, to building strong regulatory environments in African countries, what makes the partnership work is an open, transparent and mutually fulfilling process for building Africa's Information Society."
Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director, Development Information Services Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
All of these diverse projects share three key characteristics. First, to ensure they have a significant impact, they address strategic development needs such as reducing poverty, promoting gender equality, and fostering sustainable economic development. Second, they apply Canada's internationally recognized expertise to help African countries rapidly develop effective policies and strategies. Finally, they build relationships and networks that continue to support African development beyond the span of individual projects.
The ICT revolution has already begun in Africa: for example, the continent has more than 82 million mobile telephone users, making it the fastest-growing mobile market in the world.
In fact, mobile telephones have unleashed African imagination and innovation—Africans use them for everything from advertising to delivering health services to getting better prices for agricultural products, to buying and selling credit. Other ICTs—such as VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellites, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), and wireless broadband (WiFi and WiMax) technology—also hold the potential to rapidly change how millions of Africans work and live.
"I went to Nairobi to make a presentation to the East Africa Community E-Government Working Group and others on how Canada has coordinated adjusting its laws to address e-commerce at an international,
federal and provincial level. It's been gratifying to see the follow-through—to see how Canadian expertise is really helping developing countries achieve their goals."
Joan Remsu, General Counsel, General Public Law Team, Justice Canada
But for ICTs to effectively tap into African skills, knowledge and inspiration, national and regional e-policies and strategies must create an environment that encourages investment and innovation and that channels development towards national priority areas, such as education, health, reducing the gender gap, and bringing ICT access to rural and remote communities.
Canada is internationally recognized for leadership in developing and implementing e-policy in areas such as health, education, commerce and government. Through CePRC's government-to-government approach, Canadian e-policy experts help African countries and regional organizations develop policies and strategies far more quickly and at much lower cost than they could on their own. And by helping Africans sidestep pitfalls and benefit from hard-won Canadian "lessons learned", CePRC helps shape policies that focus scarce development resources on initiatives that will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of poor and disadvantaged Africans.
"My role with the East Africa Community E-Government Policy process has been to help stimulate thinking about issues, questions, ideas and practicalities. I've focused on lessons learned from Canada's e-government experiences—what we should have done earlier, what are the impacts on government, what kinds of people do you need, how do you use new infrastructure, what services do you offer first—drilling through the whole process. Interacting with such well-informed, creative people was exciting. I think I learned more than I gave."
Barry Nesbitt, e-Government Strategist, Foreign Affairs Canada
CePRC's projects are driven by African-defined needs and priorities. In partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), CePRC responds to requests for policy assistance submitted by national or regional governments, selecting projects that will have maximum impact. Key criteria include a project's ability to be sustainable, to help African policymakers and regulators increase their expertise and body of knowledge, to connect effectively with policy decision makers, and to help foster gender equality in Africa's public sector.
To increase the scope and impact of its projects, CePRC has partnered with the governments of Great Britain and France and with international organizations including the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (INTIF). CePRC is the Canadian node of the Global e-Policy Resource Network (ePol-NET) and is funded through the Canada Fund for Africa. ePol-NET, a network of global partners launched at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Phase 1 in 2003, works with developing countries to formulate national e-policies and strategies.
Here are some recent examples of CePRC-led projects.
The word that best characterizes the East African Community (EAC) Working Group on e-Government has to be “speed”. Within a year, the Working Group— comprised of high-level representatives from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (the EAC's three member states), plus the EAC itself —developed a EAC e-government strategy originally slated to be completed in 2013. The strategy was unanimously approved by the EAC Council of Ministers in 2006, merely 2 years later after the development process had begun and 7 years earlier than the planned date for completion.
"When our countries came together within the East Africa Community, we were able to move quickly and decisively by learning from one another's experiences and from the Canadian experience. We can draw on one another's strengths, and that will bring in other partners to create a critical mass. In fact, other regions, in Africa and beyond, are telling us that they also want an e-government strategy."
Constantine Bitwayiki, Director, Research, Monitoring and Innovation, National Planning Authority, Uganda
Why was progress so rapid? One key factor was help from Canadian e-policy and e-government experts. The Working Group interacted with Canadian experts on e-government issues such as information management, ICT security and privacy, legal and regulatory frameworks, surveying the public's priorities, raising awareness of e-government services, implementing a “one-stop” or gateway approach to e-government services, gaining buy-in from senior government officials, monitoring and evaluating progress, and selecting appropriate technologies and content.
The Working Group has developed knowledge and expertise that can now be shared with other African countries at similar stages of e-readiness to help them quickly develop harmonized regional e-policies. As a vehicle in promoting collaboration on cross-border political, economic, and social issues, benefits of regional e-policies cannot be ignored in any region in Africa. By touching virtually every area of people's lives—including education, health, business, and customs and immigration—the implementation of these regional policies will help generate new economic opportunities, make Africa more competitive internationally, and ultimately raise living standards for millions of people.
With the unanimous approval of the framework, one of the Working Group's first priorities is the development of a regional e-Customs policy. Work on this initiative will begin in the summer of 2006 with a Stakeholders' Workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In other news, Rwanda and Burundi have now joined the East African Community. This will become official in July 2006 and the Canadian e-Policy Resource Centre will be working with policy-makers and regulators from those two countries to enable them to integrate their policies into the regional framework and participate as full members in the Working Group.
"Some people suggest that Ethiopia is too poor to afford investing in ICTs, but I believe the truth is we are too poor to afford not investing in ICTs. We can't afford to be left behind. It's about survival. Without basic information, how do you plan? Development without information, without reliable data, is unthinkable. Working with Statistics Canada as we migrate to ICT-based processes is very valuable. They have come a long ways and we can learn from their mistakes as well as their successes."
Yakob Mudesir, Head, ICT Development Division, Central Statistical Authority of Ethiopia
When a country lacks baseline statistics, developing targeted development policies and measuring progress is difficult, if not impossible. Canada is recognized as a leader internationally in collecting and analyzing statistics on the use of ICTs in the Information Society, and a recent CePRC project is transferring Canadian expertise to the Central Statistical Authority (CSA) of Ethiopia. Experts from Statistics Canada will soon begin training CSA statistical officers in ICT statistics policies and techniques. The project is just one component of a major initiative to migrate the CSA from paper-based survey methods to ICT-based methods, ultimately enabling "one-stop" electronic access to the full range of Ethiopian statistics.
"Canada was a pioneer in developing Information Society statistics, on the premise that you need to understand where you are today to get to where you want to be tomorrow. You can't build in the dark. I'm proud that through CePRC I'm able to help African countries create the conditions for measurable progress in reaching their development goals. I believe that Canada's experience shows that statistics can change culture, and that information opens minds."
George Sciadas, Chief, Information Society Research and Analysis, Statistics Canada
How do you help create a critical mass of expertise on addressing e-government issues in Africa? One highly efficient way is to give African policy-makers and regulators an opportunity to interact and network with their Canadian and international peers at the unique GTEC Conference for leading edge e-government expertise held in Ottawa October 22-27, 2006.
CePRC designed an e-Government Study Program around GTEC that exposed 56 delegates from 25 African countries to technology, best practices and strategies that are driving government on-line solutions across Canada and around the world. The CePRC e-Government Study Program, now in its 2nd year, is a popular event for African policymakers and regulators.
What did delegates take away from GTEC 2005 and GTEC 2006? Here are typical quotes:
"This was the most rewarding opportunity for e-government learning that I've ever been involved in."
Andrew Limo, Senior Information Officer, Directorate of e-Government, Office of the President, Government of Kenya
"The presentations were very interesting, but even more valuable was the opportunity to interact directly with the presenters, other members of the audience, and the exhibitors. These personal discussions enabled us to explore topics beyond those in the agenda while building relationships for the future.”
David Sawe, Director of Management Information Systems and e-Government, President's Office for Public Service Management, Government of Tanzania
"This has been an invaluable study tour and should have a really significant impact as we take back the experience to our respective countries and also continue to link up with the many useful resource persons we met."
Dorothy Gordon, Director General, Information and Communication Technologies, Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, Accra, Ghana
"Canadians ask us what we need, tell us they share our problem and work with us to solve it. Many other governments tell us what do to and how to do it. This [latter] approach doesn't develop sustainable capacity in Africa".
Manhica Salomao, Director, ICT Policy Implementation Technical Unit, Mozambique
"The Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) offers easy on-line access to the full range of Canada's geographic data, applications and services, supporting both government decision making and business planning. We're delighted to be able to share Canada's experience and lessons learned in developing the CGDI with Africans who are deeply committed to using this technology to benefit the people of their countries. For me, it's been a great opportunity to learn and to contribute. It's inspiring."
Denis Haché, Natural Resources Canada, Earth Sciences Sector, International Division
Africa accounts for 90% of the world's three million deaths from malaria every year. To effectively combat the disease, governments need to know which regions have the highest malaria incidence rates and how these rates are affected by different kinds of eradication programs. To fill this knowledge gap, in 1997 the MARA/ARMA project was launched to develop an electronic atlas of malaria risk in Africa. The project, led by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), produced its first, groundbreaking malaria risk atlas in 1999. In 2005, the MRC asked CePRC for access to Canadian expertise to assess whether remote sensing satellites could be used to add substantially more data points to the MARA/ARMA atlas and to keep it up to date.
Canada is recognized as a pioneer and global leader in developing and applying geospatial systems and recently helped the government of Tunisia develop a national framework for coordinating and standardizing the collection and application of geospatial information. Canada's CePRC-sponsored team will help the MRC develop the policies and standards required for a geospatial framework, which will form the basis for a continent-wide malarial information system that supports evidence-based decision-making to guide effective malaria eradication policies.
"The objectives of the recent workshop in Dakar—which brought together regulators, legislators, policy makers, suppliers, end users and other representatives from the francophone West-African countries—were achieved. Now Senegal intends to ask for assistance from CePRC in developing national ICT policies and strategies."
Massé Touré Niass, Technical Advisor, Office of the Minister of Public Service of Senegal
What are the best ways to bring economically viable and sustainable ICT access to rural communities in francophone West Africa? This question was the focal point for a recent two-day workshop in Dakar, Senegal, co-sponsored by CePRC, the Government of France, la Francophonie, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Attended by telecommunication regulators, operators and rural community leaders, the workshop provided an opportunity to begin developing a West African universal access strategy by discussing issues and challenges and sharing ideas and best practices.
Attendees felt that the workshop was a powerful catalyst; it inspired the governments of Niger, Mali and Senegal to ask CePRC for access to Canadian telecommunications policy and regulations expertise. Building on the successful outcome of this event, similar workshops will be offered in other regions of Africa in 2006.
CePRC resources cover Canadian expertise in the following areas:
African government organizations can access this expertise through seminars and workshops, conference presentations, and on-line resources.
In partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, CePRC sponsors a wide range of topic-specific seminars and workshops across Africa.
CePRC sponsors presentations by Canadian experts at regional and Africa-wide conferences. CePRC-sponsored speakers have presented at conferences in Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.
CePRC offers African policy-makers a wide range of information, including strategy papers, reports and surveys on this website.