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Formulation of A Strategic Action Plan for the Implementation of the National ICT/Telecommunic ations Policy

SUBMITTED BY: KOLUBAHZIZI T. HOWARD


DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY LIBERIA TELECOMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY

Table of Contents
Table of Contents.........................................................................................2 1.0 Introduction...........................................................................................3 2.0 Basic Concepts.......................................................................................3 3.0 Guiding Principles for Developing a National Strategic Action Plan.........4 4.0 Elements and Contents of a Strategic Action Plan..................................7 5.0 Developing the Action Plan....................................................................8 6.0 Conclusion...........................................................................................11 References.................................................................................................12

3 Formulation of a Strategic Action Plan for the Implementation of the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy

1.0 Introduction
On June 9, 2011 the Cabinet of the Government of Liberia endorsed the National ICT & Telecommunications Policy for the Republic of Liberia. This document outlines Liberias Vision and Policy on how to utilize Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for economic growth and development. The goal of the National ICT & Telecommunications Policy is to integrate the deployment of telecommunications and ICT services into the overall developmental objectives, priorities, and programs of the Liberian Government. The National ICT Policy aims to ensure that ICT/Telecommunications services and systems are people-centered, universally accessible and cost-effective. The Government of Liberias vision for the ICT/Telecommunications sector is the integration of ICT and telecommunications technologies within the Liberian society through the deployment of national infrastructure that can enhance the process of national reform (National ICT/Telecommunications Policy, 2011). However, it is important to note that while the Government of Liberia has developed and endorsed a National ICT & Telecommunications Policy, it has yet to develop a Strategic Action Plan for the implementation of the national policy. The purpose of this document therefore, is to provide for the consideration of the Board of Commissioners of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, for onward transmission to the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications, a framework for the development of a Strategic Action Plan for the implementation of the National ICT & Telecommunications Policy. In this connection, this document presents some basic strategy concepts and principles; considers key steps employed in developing the action plan; provides prerequisites, elements and content; and presents some of the major issues to be considered in the development of a strategic action plan for the effective implementation of the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy.

2.0 Basic Concepts


The Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia (2011a) defines strategy as a plan of action that is designed to achieve a particular goal. This is achieved by building on strengths, resolving weaknesses, exploiting opportunities and avoiding threats (DiploFoundation, 2011). The implementation of a strategic action plan may introduce new threats and unveil new opportunities. As such, strategic action plans should be accompanied by periodic SWOT assessments and allow for the monitoring and evaluation of risks and risk mitigation strategies.

Adegboyega (undated) notes that strategic planning involves the determination of the required actions required to achieve a desired vision, bearing in mind the current state (or e-readiness) of a country. This process then results in the development of a strategic action plan which enables a country to create the proper institutional framework for the implementation of an ICT national policy by mapping out development paths for programs, projects to sustainable and scalable outcomes (DiploFoundation, 2011). However, the focus of a strategic action plan must be to integrate the use of ICT and telecommunications technologies within the overall development objectives of government and not the development of ICT as an end in itself. Therefore, an ICT Strategic Action Plan is a documented plan for the implementation of the vision, goals, objectives, milestones, and concrete initiatives established for identified areas of focus within the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy. This plan would lay out the priorities, risks, challenges, and means of attaining the necessary enabling environment for the national ICT agenda for Liberia, based on the initial ICT assessment. Because the implementation of an action plan signifies that changes will occur, this therefore requires the development of a change management strategy and plan in order to ensure successful implementation. In this regard, a prerequisite for a successful action plan is to obtain support from the relevant stakeholders to successfully implement the change. Accordingly, a key to obtaining support from stakeholders to successfully implement change is for the leadership to acknowledge the concerns and challenges that may exist at all levels and appropriately respond to these concerns through an applicable change management process (DiploFoundation, 2011).

3.0 Guiding Principles for Developing a National Strategic Action Plan


The following guiding principles to be followed in the development of a national strategic plan of action have been developed by Dzidonu (2003), which are applicable within the Liberian context: 1. ICT strategic action plans should recognize and contribute to the achievement of the stated socio-economic development goals of a country and its relevant vision and mission. 2. The plan should, as far as possible, address the cost, budgetary and resource requirements, allocation and mobilization implications of the programs and initiatives identified for implementation under the Plan. 3. There should be a structure in the national plan which divides the Plan into sub-plans, each addressing specific thematic areas such as

5 human resource development; infrastructure development; developing and facilitating the private sector among others. 4. It should ensure that the various programs, initiatives and packages identified for implementation under the sub-plans are practical, realistic and implementable with clearly stated time-bound measurable targets as necessary. 5. Targets should be set for the various programs and initiatives of each sub-plan, as required, based on Baseline Study data on the status of relevant key socio-economic and ICT-related indicators. Four assessments of Liberias ICT/Telecom sector have been conducted between 2007 and 2010 which would be helpful in this regard. They are: SURVEY OF ICT AND EDUCATION IN AFRICA: Liberia Country Report - ICT in Education in Liberia prepared by Kofi Mangesi in May 2007 and published by the World Banks InfoDev Post-Conflict Communications: The Case of Liberia, prepared by Michael L. Best et al, as a communications of the ACM and published in International Perspectives October 2007/Vol. 50, No. 10 Liberia Improved Budget and Assets Management Project ICT Infrastructure Assessment Report for the Government of Liberia (GoL), prepared by Ahmed El Sayed, for IBI International through the USAID Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) Liberia Improved Budget, Assets and Mining Management (LIBAM) Project. 2010 E-Government Survey, a DPADM/UNDESA Presentation to the Government of Liberia, prepared by Richard Kerby, Senior Inter-Regional Adviser, E-Government and Knowledge Management

6. The action plan should take into account the fact that the Liberian Government will continue to formulate and implement its short- tomedium-term socio-economic development and budgetary plans during the life-span of the plan. The plan should therefore serve as a point of policy-reference and a framework for complementing and supplementing these socio-economic objectives within the context of the governments long-term goal towards the development of an information and knowledge-based economy and society. 7. It should incorporate elements of risk analysis that takes into account the socio-economic development risks involved in partially implementing the action plan and provide details of each of the subplans.

6 8. The action plan should incorporate a monitoring and evaluation mechanism that allows for adequate intervention procedures and actions with clear guidelines on how and when they can be activated and by which agency or authority. 9. As far as possible, it must be flexible enough to allow for its modification, revision and adaptation as the need arises during its implementation timeframe. 10. The action plan should avoid going into specific implementation details relating to its programs and initiatives in order to build flexibility into its implementation. These details will be developed and worked-out during the actual implementation of the plan for each program or initiative, to take into account specific circumstances, constraints, opportunities and developments operating at the time. This approach will also allow for the fine-tuning of the program details as the need arise during the actual implementation process.

4.0 Elements and Contents of a Strategic Action Plan


In the development of a national ICT strategic action plan document, the thematic areas of intervention specified in the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy become the primary focus. Therefore, the purpose of the strategic action plan is to specify precise actions, the extent of those actions, the targets of the actions, and the timeline for the actions (DiploFoundation, 2011). Therefore, the strategic action plan is implemented through programs and projects outlined in the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy. As such, a typical sector-based ICT strategic action plan should contain the following elements identified by DiploFoundation (2011): Overall Policy Justification: The plan should indicate the reasons and justification for developing the strategic plan and how it is related to the overall policy direction of government. This strategy should complement other government initiatives; therefore this section should create the national Liberian context for the plan by indicating how the specific sector-based plan fits into the overall government development vision and goals. Results of e-Readiness Assessments and Benchmarking: One of the prerequisites for any strategic action plan is to identify the current state of affairs and compare them with the vision targets and goals stipulated in the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy. The results of this assessment should be indicated in the plan. The results of any benchmarking exercise should also be included in the plan. This section identifies the starting point and how the sector compares to key countries of interest. As mentioned earlier, four such assessments have been conducted between 2007 and 2010. These assessments provide a wealth of information that can be used to benchmark Liberias present achievements against the achievements of other countries in the subregion and what Liberia hopes to achieve as contained in the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy. Policy Objectives and Desired Outcomes: The plan should contain the detailed policy objectives and the desired goals. This is a detailed list of the intended results of the implementation of the ICT strategic action plan. This section specifies the desired end state that the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy envisions following the implementation of the policy. Programs and Projects: Programs are intended to achieve explicit goals derived from objectives contained in the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy. This creates the basis for specific projects and specific actions which are the key deliverables in the plan of action. This section therefore identifies what needs to be done

8 to get to the desired end state, based on the country's starting point as identified in the ICT assessments conducted. Programs and projects must be constructed so that they are implementable and manageable. Milestones and Targets: These are the project completion timelines deliverables and targets. This section provides the information needed to monitor implementation and to take corrective action if and when needed. Pathfinder Projects and Initiatives: Pathfinder projects are pilot projects or quick-win projects to kick start the implementation by creating short-term beneficial deliverables and therefore serve as motivation to proceed with other plans. The basis for pathfinder projects is the realization that innovations using ICT cannot be introduced through a single initiative, but through small achievable steps which can build success and credibility. The criteria for identifying priority projects include available resources; potential value; sustainability and social, economic and governance impact. Priority projects must be people focused, development centered, and consistent with the Liberian Government's development vision and objectives. Implementation Arrangements and Funding: The strategic action plan should include the implementation arrangements, funding and prerequisites for the success of any project.

5.0 Developing the Action Plan


The assessments conducted and the benchmarking exercises will identify the gaps and challenges confronting Liberia with reference to the achievement of the policy goals stipulated in the National ICT & Telecommunications Policy. The next stage then would be to formulate the methods and actions required to achieve the vision of the national policy. Bikha (2010) has proposed the following steps which would be helpful in this regard: Evaluation and selection of options and possible solutions: this entails the formulation of possible solutions through the evaluation of the feasible possibilities, bearing in mind the specificity of the Liberian national situation and the availability of financial and human resources. It is also important that this process should involve consultations with a wide range of stakeholders and incorporate their views in the process. Formulation of recommendations based on linkages to challenges: the solutions selected should then be presented to stakeholders and should demonstrate how their adoption will address the challenges identified. Justification should then be provided for the choices made

9 with clear linkages drawn to specific recommendations that were considered. activities and other

Design of programs for each recommendation: in view of the specific recommendations made, a program comprises of projects that should be completed within a specific period of time to accomplish specific policy objectives. These projects generally take several years and at times can be ongoing into the future. Projects, on the other hand, would have a well-defined scope, specific time frames and established start and finish dates. Notwithstanding, programs and projects can be linked together based on natural dependencies, with each delivering outcomes that must contribute to the incremental realization of the recommendation that addresses the challenges identified. The outcomes of both programs and projects must be measurable qualitatively or quantitatively, and must be implemented with the support of stakeholders to ensure that ownership is created and sustainability achieved. Creation of the action plan itself: An action plan is a road map which ensures that the vision and goals of the National ICT/Telecommunications strategy are accomplished. It describes the way Liberia can use its strategies to meet its objectives and consists of a number of action steps or changes which must be made within a system. In this regard, the action plan should contain the following information: What actions or changes are expected will occur: Who will carry out these changes; When these changes will take place, and for how long; The required resources that are needed to implement these changes; and, Communication - who should know what? Additionally, a good action plan must be complete, clear, and current and satisfy the following three criteria: 1. It must provide for all the actions to be taken and the changes to be made in all relevant thematic areas. 2. Must be clear as to who bears the responsibility for a particular action or change and when such responsibility would be discharged. 3. The action plan must reflect the current Liberian realities within its application area and anticipate newly emerging opportunities. It must also anticipate barriers that may be created in an attempt to implement the plan. In the process of developing action plans and generating recommendations it is important that other countries within the sub-region be considered that have implemented similar plans and faced similar challenges as opposed to

10 reinventing the wheel. Careful consideration could be given to Ghana and Nigeria, which have successfully implemented national ICT policies and achieved greater integration of ICT in their overall national development. However, care must be taken to ensure that the action plans of other countries are not fully copied because the national political, social or economic conditions may not be the same. These action plans should only be used to serve as a guide in the development of a national action plan that takes cognizance of the peculiarity of the Liberian society. Following its finalization, the Strategic Action Plan for Implementation of the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy should be presented in a strategy document accompanied by a complete narrative that thoroughly explains the scheduling of activities and the linkages and scheduling of programs and projects for future implementation. Schilder (1997) has provided some lessons on factors for consideration that the examination of some planning processes in various countries have provided: 1. Successful efforts at developing strategic action plans involve stakeholders and gain their support. Strategic plan development requires consideration and articulation of values and priorities; as such the plan should reflect the views expressed by all those involved in the process. States that have successfully designed and adopted plans included all those interested in the strategic planning process. For example, in the formulation of the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy processes were developed to involve service providers, stakeholders, and the general public in the articulation of visions. Inclusion of key stakeholders can take many months and requires that resources be devoted to the activity. However, it is essential to the success and sustainability of the effort. 2. Prioritizing goals is an essential step in developing a strategic plan for a Result Based Accountability (RBA) system. Strategic plans are not merely laundry lists of goals; rather they should reflect the priorities of those participating in the planning process. The most useful plans are succinct and easily translated into useful action points that are simple, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. Inclusion of too many goals causes states, agencies, and programs to become overwhelmed with the details of data collection and reporting. 3. Successful public strategic planning processes address conflicting mandates and goals. State officials and managers of public programs are often faced with the need to negotiate between conflicting mandates and goals when articulating strategic plans. As government officials develop strategic plans, they should recognize that programs may have conflicting mandates and be explicit about what the agency can and cannot do in light of the mandates.

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6.0 Conclusion
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has made a major achievement in the development of a National ICT/Telecommunications Policy that has been validated by stakeholders and approved by the Liberian Cabinet. However, that is only the first step required to transform the vision of the Liberian Government into realistic programs and actions capable of promoting national reform, developing human capacity and accelerating sustainable socio-economic development to eradicate poverty and improve the quality of life for its people. The next step involves the formulation of a strategic plan of action that provides a framework for the implementation of the national policy. That framework must specify precise actions, the extent of those actions, required financial resources and timelines for the actions and the actors that will implement programs and projects that give life to the National ICT/Telecommunications Policy.

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References
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