Thursday, 12 September 2013

CPRsouth/CPRafrica: Transforming Lives & Economies through Policy Research

Photo Credit: Christoph Stork

Once upon a time, there was an inquisitive girl named Nanna. She lived with her parents in the village of Beiyerunka and was an only child. One time when Nanna was seven years old, her father took her to his brother’s house in the city of Lagos for holidays. Nanna’s uncle, Dr Timothy, was a reputed computer science professor at the single research institute in the entire city. He had a Pentium I computer at home and always wanted to teach his children how to use it. However, none of them was fascinated by the machine so it was hardly in use. When Nanna arrived at her cousin’s house in Lagos, she took much interest in the machine and her uncle gladly taught her how to use it. After eight weeks of steady tutorials, Nanna fell in love with the computer. She had learnt how to use the DOS command prompt and was beginning to learn programming.
At that point, her cousins often joked that one day, they would marry her off to the computer and post both of them to Microsoft in USA. When it was time to return to the village, Nanna’s father sojourned to Dr Timothy’s house to retrieve his daughter to the village life. That day, Nanna wailed and begged to be left with her cousins in Lagos but her father simply listened with absolute deafness. Dr Timothy’s wife and children were moved with compassion. They knew that Nanna wanted to stay because of the computer and joined in the soliciting until Nanna’s father got annoyed and said, “Abeg, make una no intafair for dis situation. Abi na for wia una espekt make I get di kin moni wey Timothy sef stil dey hussle to pay ya skool fees?” Meaning, “Please, do not interfere in this situation. Or where do you expect me to get the kind of your money that my brother Timothy struggles to make to pay your school fees? Nanna became angrier and childishly insulted her father. Her father turned red with fury, lashed her sore and bundled her back to the village. That was the first and last time Nanna ever visited the city or moved near a computer. I do not think that she lived happily ever after.
It is true that nothing good comes easy and it is not all the best things in life that are free. Sometimes, a few good people just have to carry out informed research to help create or influence policies that will ensure that they happen. While reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers sometime ago, I was reminded that Bill Gates could have been a foreign version of the curious Nanna if an accessible computer had not been brought within his vicinity. In fact, no one would have brought the computer if the national ICT policy of the United States did not allow or encourage it. In every good story, there is always an element of fateful intervention or underlying factor that comes as an opportunity and catalyzes the achievement of human desires, thereby transforming possibilities into realities. Nevertheless, someone somewhere has to do something to trigger the required chain of positive reactions.
In support of this truth, two dynamic think tanks, LIRNE Asia and Research ICT Africa, collaborated with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Ford Foundation to hold a crucial conference on communications policy research in September 2013. The expository event which focused on Changing Asia & Africa through Innovation and Entrepreneurship in ICT was themed CPRsouth8/CPRafrica2013. It was held at the prestigious Infosys campus in Mysore, India and attracted tons of seasoned researchers, regulatory officials, young scholars, experienced academics, government representatives, dynamic entrepreneurs and other dignified stakeholders who nurture similar interests and expertise in fields that are relevant to the research of communications policy.
The entire event was initiated with the training of new young scholars from various parts of Africa and Asia-Pacific on how to carry out evidence-based research, create policy briefs and cause policy change. The papers that were presented at the event profiled research works that have been performed and are ongoing in the areas of financial inclusion & mobile money, gender in ICT policy regulation, drivers of policy change, gender and other divides, assessment of ICT policy regulation, what works and does not work for the governments of a few nations in communications policy, benefits of using ICT and challenges & other mobile applications. These presentations further spurred reflections and discussions by policy experts, regulatory officials and key researchers on the use of evidence in policy briefs and regional reflections on research priorities in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia-Pacific. 
This significant event has certainly honed the skills of researchers (especially the new and young ones) and influenced the thoughts of the regulatory and government representatives that attended. Perhaps, this would help end the miseries of countless unknown Nannas and discover the smaller and bigger versions of Bill Gates in various developing economies.
It is strongly believed that the yearly event will continue to foster the perpetual execution of quality communications policy research which is capable of transforming lives and reshaping economies to obtain national and intercontinental gains. Moreover, it is the hope of all young scholars and other beneficiaries that the team of experts at LIRNEasia and Research ICT Africa would receive incessant support from financial sponsors, NGOs and government bodies to annually and seamlessly organise the CPRsouth/CPRafrica forum and further promote the development of policy experts in both Africa and Asia-Pacific.

This article was first published on Omojuwa' website

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