Role of Information Policies in developing countries

Shadrack Kipchirchir Kimutai Moi University 4/10/2012

Introduction and definition of terms According to Marie Webster (2012), the term „policy‟, originates from the French word „policie‟. This term has been defined by various stake holders differently but seems to imply a common set of activities. For instance Dictionary.com(2012) defines policy as “…a plan of action adopted or pursued by an individual, government, party, business…” on the other hand, Marie Webster (2012) defines the same term as two ways firstly it terms it as being a “…a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions …” then it also redefines it as“…a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body …”. Based on the definitions given by the two dictionaries, policy can be summarized as being a set of strategies, plans of action or guideline that an individual, organization or a government(s) to attain a common desired goal and also aid in managing decisions in such a way that decisions that may hamper the attainment of the desired goals are not made.

There are various types of policies that govern the desires of developing countries. These range from food security policies, security and stability policies, self sufficiency policies, trade policies health policies, information policies amongst many others. In this respect, individually, information policy has been defined by Montviloff (1990 p;12) as guidance or a set of

guidelines that define strategies to be followed and programmers to be set up so as to foster development and proper management of information resources. These resources are information resources, information services and information systems respectively (Montviloff). Information as an abundant, however mismanaged resource in most developing countries. Therefore, a national mechanism is needed to take into account the information needs of different groups within a country. Since, 1970‟s many third world countries such as those in sub middle east, Saharan Africa, South America and south east Asia have been actively pursuing methods and alternative to improve their access to information. This progress has been boosted by various organizations with the primary ones being UNESCO and UNISIST (United Nations International Scientific and Information System). According to UNESCO (2005) most Asian countries perceive that having an appropriate information policy can affect growth in three areas namely connectivity, 2

content and competence. These three core areas according to Montviloff (1990 p;11) translates to development in telecommunication infrastructure, a wider access to appropriate information and improving overall efficiency, hence, lead to economic growth and technological advancement of a nation.

Goals of information policies in developing countries Various researchers have defined the goals of information policy with respect to developing nations and have explained these goals in their differently. Despite this, the ideas regarding he policies goals tend to overlap for instance the goals . Montviloff () and, Ayoo and Otike () both do identify four core goals of information policy as being a) Provision of information to contributors of other national development goals of the developing nation. He further points out that this information has to be relevant, reliable and timely (Montviloff). This concurs with harmonization on information services to foster ease of access and make information services more effective (Ayoo and Otike) b) Preparation and implementation of strategies that aid in development and implementation of national information policies based on infrastructure available in these developing nations and identification of gaps and errors that require to be worked on the policies and undertaking the measures of alleviating such shortfalls (Montviloff). This is further expanded by Ayoo and Otike (2002 p; 350) when they point out that, an appropriate information policy will eradicate duplication of information hence making the available resources more effective in handling the information requirements of the developing nation. The observations of Ayoo and Otike (2002) is also shared with Moore () who points out that there needs to be a properly coordinated information management initiatives and avoidance of duplication for information and knowledge access. c) Ayoo and Otike (2002) further add that information policies ensure that other resources belonging to the developing nation are fully managed. a society to attain advanced levels of

Information policy in developing countries According to Adhikari(2007), information in most developing countries is not evenly distributed and thus tend to be more easily accessible by the few privileged individuals while the masses are 3

entirely ignored. This observation was also echoed by the attendants in the conference regarding Zambia‟s information policy (UNESCO,1988). Role played by information policies in developing countries While some of these goals may seem farfetched, many developing and newly developed nations (such as Korea and Japan) have achieved them to various levels. These roles include  Spur growth and development The driving force behind adoption of information policies by the third world countries was mainly to foster rapid socio-economic growth and attainment of „developed‟ status. For example in the case of Zambia as presented by (UNESCO) Zambia, which was predominantly an agrarian society like most of the developing countries, saw that information can be used as a tool to support development plans and in this case role of information in attainment of the „Economic crusade 1985‟ was discussed and it was found that indeed if policies are in place to foster the use and management of information resources, a much considerable stride would have been attained since farmers would have had more exposure on how to make use of their resources efficiently and also get good returns in progress. In the same conference, the participants discovered that information policy was no longer restricted to library and information scientists but to all

participants in various sectors of the economy. The same also is observed in Asia and the Latin America which according to Moore (2005) has been as a result of lessons learned from newly developed nations such as China, India, Korea and Japan.  Fast tracking equitable access of information for the masses One of the major cornerstones that have to be laid in an information society is connectivity. Connectivity translates to establishment of well distributed communication network. These networks include telecommunication and internet networks, print, radio and TV broadcast. Moore (2005) observes that immediately after the world war, Japan looked to modernize itself and considerable strides where attained as a result of establishment of modern communication networks through the nation. 

Guidance in establishment of development plans in information related sectors Most development plans in nations which have a predetermined information policy are molded around the policy so as to raise the efficiency of utilization of information in the 4

respective sectors that the policy is applied in. Besides this, since each arm of the government is reliant on information, a good development plan that isolates doesn‟t cater for use appropriate and effective use of information in the beneficent sectors of the society always takes long to mature or fails entirely. An example of development plans which have realized the core need of information include Kenya‟s Vision 2030,  Guidance in establishment of related acts, policies, orders and laws The Information policy also aids developing nations in development of enforceable and non enforceable instruments. These will further define the developing nation‟s information needs and also offer a mechanism of how to regulate use of information resources, information services and information systems appropriately.

1. Adhikari, Muna. "Information flows and Policies in developing countries." INFOLIB III.3 (2007): 17-19. 2. Ayoo, Paul and Japhet Otike. "Factors hampreing National information policy in kenya." Emerald 51.7 (2002): 350-357. 3. Dictionary.com. policy. 18 3 2012 <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/policy>. 4. Montviloff, Victor. "National information policies:a handbook for formulation,approval, implementation and operation of national policy on information." 1990. 12-151. 5. Moore, Nick. Information Policies in Asia:A review of information and communication policies in Asian region. Bangkok: Communication and Information in Asia, 2005. 6. UNESCO. "ZAMBIA:National Information Policy for Zambia." National Information Policy for Zambia. Paris: UNESCO, 1988.