[AfrICANN-discuss] Re: [africs-ig] Africa report

Ben Akoh me at benakoh.com
Wed May 29 17:26:13 SAST 2013

Hi Mawaki,

On 5/28/13 3:33 PM, Mawaki Chango wrote:
> Ben, and all:
> Could you please provide a link to the web page of the organization
> you're referring to? There are many pages that respond to the name
> "Research in Africa" a link would help disambiguate the search results.

Research ICT in Africa does not only provide primary data, but analysis 
of primary data. See http://www.researchictafrica.net/data.php. Data is 
also available at the world bank and ITU data sites. Few Project based 
and Program funded research exists on the sites of the institution you 
work for - APC, and as are the regional policy institutes such as CIPACO 
and CIPESA. As it concerns internet governance, substantial amount of 
research data exists on Afrinic sites. I have conducted a few research 
available on www.iisd.org. Ken Lohento does substantial amount of work 
on ICTs and Agriculture. And there are numerous others sites to mention 
with research work of may Africans local and in the Diaspora (rigorous 
search would help). Not to mention reports that have been written for 
publications in Academic journals, some of which you have written but 
may never be available to us in Africa. The kind of reports that Nnenna 
mentions may be possible if a blogger takes this as his/her task to 
report on such global international arrangements. But not all bloggers 
have the luxury of physically attending these events. Perhaps those that 
do could capture the data and make them available to researchers like 
you and I for "proper" presentation to a wider audience.

> Clearly we agree on the root of the problem being in the mindset you're
> describing rather than the simple lack of data (after all that very
> mindset might well be one of the causal factors why data may be lacking
> on some issues.).

Agreed. Still speculative though but generally a fair assumption to 
begin from.

> Having said that, we need to go beyond publishing reports commissioned
> by international/external donors as part of their programs/projects.

There is nothing wrong with commissioning reports as a part of a 
program/project or as I would put it, a strategic focus. It is besides 
the point if a program's strategic focus, be it local or international, 
is commissioned by a donor. What is most important is that it  generates 
useful data and analysis of data, it is conducted in a rigorous, 
systematic and empirical manner, that bias and other factors are 
declared and stated, and that the report recognizes the nuances of the 
local context. You would agree that these are more important than a mere 
brush stroke painting of internationally funded programs or project.

> seems to me the intended or natural audience for those reports are,
> or in any case their audience is most of the time limited
> to, policy-makers and other policy-driven actors.And unfortunately,
> unless another round of activities is funded to package the
> findings help launch advocacy or campaign efforts, etc. they are likely
> to die on the shelves or worse in the office drawers.

In most cases (anecdotally) yes, but there remain very good projects 
that have taken research outcomes to the grassroots in the form of, for 
instance, role plays and theaters, that change belief systems and 
attitudes about for instance, climate change and adaptation, finance, 
reproductive health, and rights. I have researched some of these in the 
past 3 to four years and have funded those sorts of projects in West 
Africa for about six years. Certainly, successful grassroots initiatives 
like Mpesa did not hit the ground without some research. The point is, 
policy makers are a part of a research audience, but the mechanisms are 
required by which such reports/researches can reach a wider audience 
base. The point about my earlier email is that there is first, a 
fundamental difference; and second, a gulf between the 
commissioning/dissemination of reports and the implementation of report 
recommendations.  Linking those two is the "will" (or if you like, 
mechanism) that must be developed to transition from the one to the 
other. That is what we are missing. That gap needs to be bridged.

> While we should keep making those efforts and pushing policy-makers to
> embrace evidence-based policy making aided by those reports, it is in my
> view crucial to invest also in academic research on those issues --not
> just studies and reports, but sheer scholarly research.


  Because there is
> a wider array of questions that academics are prepared to tackle and
> demonstrate the relevance thereof (as opposed to studies that are
> designed as part of, say, a charity or development organization-funded
> program).

I wouldnt disregard these ll together (although some needs to be 
questioned). They provide useful sources of data from which academic 
research papers can be written. Not all researchers are ethnographic or 
willing to situate themselves in their research context for a long 
period of time. However, these reports seen through the eyes of the 
research participants help academics to provide research useful for 
academic debate and knowledge.

There are two points here, that I would like to conclude with:
1. Producing critical, empirical, rigorous, systematic research useful 
for contributing to knowledge and for academic debate. Research of this 
form have a place in our African societies and context. The capacities 
for these need to be created. These include: developing the human 
research capacity; creating the necessary research departments and 
faculties in academic institutions; commissioning and providing the 
necessary funding for such research by African governments, private 
sectors,  economic commissions, and institution communities (i.e. 
Afrinic); and creating a space for wider policy debate of research in 
our countries and regions.

2. Linking research to grassroots development. I mentioned in my 
previous email that research should not just be for the sake of it, but 
that it should make meaning in the lives of people. We should be able to 
say that, "this policy or government program was influenced by this or 
that research". I can however, not substantially assert that  policy 
makers and governments can say so. These mechanisms need to be developed 
and systematized within the African governance structures.

I would add finally, that African based institutions with funding should 
step up to the plate and provide the necessary supports that creates a 
space for African research on internet and digital futures. Apart from 
Research ICT in Africa, and other open access journals, few or none else 
provides any support for the telling of success stories of African ICT 
grassroots initiatives. Perhaps you can initiate an African Journal for 
this sort of research, Mawaki, my friend. I, and I am sure, a few others 
would gladly provide articles.


Because research leads to an orderly accumulation of
> knowledge, and research generates more research. Students and peers read
> the outcomes and seek to critique it and to add their contribution (and
> this ripple effect doesn't require that much additional funding.) And
> because once research findings are recognized as valid by the community
> of peers, it is more likely that they will raise questions wherever they
> apply, eg, to policy-makers, and sparkle debates, which can in turn
> drive the public attention, etc.
> So this is my impassioned call ;) for all practitioners and all those
> already in this field to make particular efforts to associate
> researchers, particularly social science researchers (and further
> particularly the younger ones who might be interested in new areas to
> specialize in), to your relevant activities and proceedings. We could
> wait for them to come to us but we are the ones closer to the field, so
> we can afford to be more proactive and reach out to them knowing that to
> date there's no subject area labeled internet governance in university
> curricula.
> Mawaki
> On Tue, May 28, 2013 at 12:28 PM, Ben Akoh <me at benakoh.com
> <mailto:me at benakoh.com>> wrote:
>     Some organizations, eg Research in Africa are producing reports from
>     primary data (because of the challenges of accessing both primary
>     and secondary data) such as mawaki describes. A substantial amount
>     of data and analysis of data already exists, although more needs to
>     be done. However, the fundamental question pertains to a mindset
>     that fails to read these reports or to associate research findings
>     with policy action. It shouldn't be a report just for the sake of it!
>     Sent from my iPhone
>     On 2013-05-28, at 6:27 AM, Dandjinou Pierre <pdandjinou at gmail.com
>     <mailto:pdandjinou at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>     Mawaki,
>>     You said it all ! collecting the information and documenting those
>>     relevant events as the ones Nnenna alludes to should be the focus.
>>     But this calls for resources (human and financial resources). The
>>     way some parts of the world do this is through regional
>>     organizations such as the European commission who commissioned
>>     (!!) appropriate studies and white papers.
>>     Our challenge here is how to get the Africa Union commission and
>>     other RECs interested.
>>      Pierre
>>     On Tue, May 28, 2013 at 12:42 PM, Mawaki Chango
>>     <kichango at gmail.com <mailto:kichango at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>         All,
>>         There is a lot to be done in Africa. So one might think it
>>         is even more crucial here to bring in all segments of
>>         the society which can help improve our understanding and
>>         practice. I totally agree that academia should be invited in
>>         what we do at all levels. It doesn't matter how much you slice
>>         this, you can't avoid education, training, research without a
>>         serious loss. As recently as last year I was doing a survey in
>>         an African country and one of my respondents working in a
>>         public research agency told me once she asked to consult a
>>         document (which was not a government classified document but
>>         has to do with some development issues in one sector of
>>         activity) at another government agency, then after asking what
>>         exactly she was looking for her colleague opened the
>>         corresponding pages for her to make note of, while concealing
>>         the non-related contents. That's the mindset we're up
>>         against. In many places, it is the very notion of collecting
>>         information and making it easy to retrieve later on which is
>>         lacking. Believe it or not, in some countries ICT-related
>>         policy documents are said to exist but cannot be easily found
>>         by the public. For the medium and long-term there is a need to
>>         educate and train information specialists, librarians, people
>>         who are prepared to identify relevant data gathering
>>         opportunities and sources and people who are prepared to
>>         systematically gather and curate information, index it and
>>         make it easy to find and retrieve at any point in the future.
>>         This can only help all researchers, academic or practitioners,
>>         to do their job better as well as decision-makers, for that
>>         matter.
>>         In any case, and particularly for the short term, the best we
>>         can do is to gather raw data whenever possible, I agree with
>>         Nnenna on that (Reports are just a means to build reference
>>         repositories for such data and there may be other ways). The
>>         most important (and urgent) is to make sure the data (as per
>>         the data points she just indicated) is available somewhere for
>>         the public to access. Otherwise, how is one to debate cogently
>>         about the geopolitics of the Internet in Africa without
>>         knowing which African countries were there during relevant
>>         proceedings, which ones contributed language, what their
>>         rationale was, what the different positions among African
>>         countries are and which ones took which positions and why,
>>         etc. A handful of people may be able to find out with a
>>         reasonable time investment but most people, who might use that
>>         information for useful things that we cannot even
>>         predict, won't be able to find it. Not to mention that the
>>         more aware the public, the greater the benefits of the debate.
>>         So yes, we need to demonstrate more awareness for the
>>         necessity to collect information and systematically document
>>         what we do and relevant events, to associate academia and
>>         other researchers and work with them in order to facilitate
>>         data collection and information retrieval for research and
>>         policy analysis as well as for decision-making, policy-making
>>         and public information.
>>         Best,
>>         Mawaki
>>         On Tue, May 28, 2013 at 9:40 AM, Nnenna Nwakanma
>>         <nnenna75 at gmail.com <mailto:nnenna75 at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>             SM, all
>>              I am talking about an Africa report directly in relation
>>             to the:
>>             WCIT - World Conference on Information Technology
>>             WTPF - World Telecommunications and ICT Policy Forum
>>             WSIS+10 - World Summit of Information SOciety + 10 meetings
>>             It is not about "what worked in a country" but rather the
>>             sum total of:
>>              1. Which African countries contribted content
>>              2. In which areas/domains were African countries
>>                 working/interested in
>>              3. Which Countries had delegations
>>              4. What commissions/committees of the policy rounds did
>>                 they chair/work on
>>              5. What Ministers were present? What panels did they
>>                 feature on? What content did they contribute?
>>              6. What engagements, what plans, what future..
>>                 All of that in the framework of global Internet/ICT Policy
>>             Best
>>             Nnenna
>>             On Tue, May 28, 2013 at 8:28 AM, SM <sm at resistor.net
>>             <mailto:sm at resistor.net>> wrote:
>>                 Hi Nnenna,
>>                 At 00:04 28-05-2013, Nnenna Nwakanma wrote:
>>                     I honestly do believe that if we have an "Africa
>>                     report" after each of these meetings, such will
>>                     come in handy when we are planning for the future.
>>                 Replicating what worked in Country X does not work
>>                 well.  The quality of reports are in my opinion
>>                 relatively low.  That might be due to research
>>                 constraints.  The reader would expect an Africa report
>>                 to include as many countries as possible.  Reports
>>                 generally cover a few countries as case studies and
>>                 are extrapolated from there.
>>                 There isn't a breath of expertise as input; either the
>>                 expertise is not there, or it is untapped, or there is
>>                 lack of interest.
>>                 Regards,
>>                 -sm
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>>     --
>>     Pierre Dandjinou
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