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Leadership Key to Unlocking the Promise of ICTs in Africa
Source: Money Biz http://www.moneybiz.co.za/african_business_and_technology/african_business_and_technology.asp?african_business_and_technology=224
Source Date: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Zimbabwe
Created: Sep 24, 2010

“The responsibility to exercise ethical leadership rests with every sector of society and a new architecture of leadership has to evolve if developing countries are to take their place in the rapidly evolving future.” This was the view expressed by international leadership development expert, Dr. Noel Woodroffe, President and founder of Trinidad-based nonprofit Congress WBN (C-WBN) in Zimbabwe last week.

His remarks came at the “C-WBN Forum for Ethical Nations Development” hosted by C- WBN in Harare. The unique Forum focused on strategies for economic development & social transformation through Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The team from Trinidad and Tobago presented practical models and examples from the Caribbean and across the globe to an audience of over 120 persons at the two-day event. The C-WBN event coincided with the ICT Africa 2010 Exhibition but was held at a separate venue from the Ministry of ICT’s organized sessions and Exhibition.

The high-profile delegation from the Caribbean included Permanent Secretary in the Trinidad and Tobago Government’s Ministry of Public Administration, Arlene McComie; Chief Executive Officer of the Trinidad & Tobago ICT Company, Cleveland Thomas; Managing Director of Teleios Systems and Deputy Chairman of the T&T e-Business Round Table, Ronald Hinds; and the Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Bernadette Lewis.

The Caribbean delegation, led by Dr. Noel Woodroffe, joined C-WBN Executive Directors Marlon Jameson and Bevil Wooding, both international specialists from Congress WBN.

In supporting the C-WBN forum, Sam Kundishora, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, said in his remarks at the opening of the Forum that the Zimbabwe Government was looking to the Caribbean experts to share experiences and draw examples on which Zimbabwe could benchmark its activities. Last June, Zimbabwe’s Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa, Kundishora, and a team from the Ministry of ICT visited Trinidad and Tobago to examine the Caribbean nation’s award winning ICT development initiatives.

Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, in declaring the Forum open, encouraged participants to “grab the generational obligation” and, like the cheetah, be swift, strong and agile in adopting ICTs in Zimbabwe. His statements were consistent with the general leadership development tone of the Forum.

Participants noted that even though the Forum did not include any other local presenters or Government officials as speakers, the topics and international references were all extremely relevant to the local context. In fact, the C-WBN Forum focused on the requirements for “ethical” and “values-based” leadership in every sector as a platform for development.

In his keynote address, titled ‘Core Imperatives for Successful National Development’, Dr. Noel Woodroffe used the biblical account of David and Goliath as a metaphor to inspire new leadership approaches to, as he put it, “overcome the challenges posed by international systems that have historically disadvantaged developing nations.”

The team of Caribbean experts also shared practical experiences from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. Their presentations highlighted considerations, policy, and lessons learnt from ICT projects and initiatives in the Caribbean. It also included international research done by C-WBN’s Global Communications and Technology sector, exploring the link between ICT and National Development.

Ms. McComie and Mr. Thomas drew lessons learnt from Trinidad and Tobago’s ICT experience to extract principles relevant to the African context. One example that resonated with participants was the use of retro-fitted buses to take technology and government services to rural communities. Their session also showcased initiatives transforming the relationships between the state, the business sector and citizens.

Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU held up the inter-governmental agency’s successful Caribbean ICT Roadshow as a model for engaging and educating communities. She described the Caribbean ICT Roadshow as “a vehicle for creating sustainable multi-sector initiatives to support innovation and the creative use of ICTs across all sectors of society.”

The importance of ethical leadership and multi-stakeholder collaboration were recurring themes throughout the Forum. The approach taken by Dr. Woodroffe and his team created a seamless, consistent flow between practical ICT topics and underlying philosophical considerations. The presenters stayed clear of local political issues, while presenting principles that spoke redemptively to the core leadership challenges facing Africa.

Trinidad businessman Ronald Hinds looked at the issue of “Technology Facilitating Transformation”. Hinds used his background in the private and public sectors to provide practical strategies for getting different interest groups together to advance development goals.

C-WBN representatives, Dr. Woodroffe, Marlon Jameson and Bevil Wooding approached the role of leadership-vision and values-based considerations from different angles, but came to similar conclusions - the success of national ICT initiatives is dependent on leadership commitment. Jameson spoke of the emerging “Ethical Divide” in the global ICT development agenda, while Wooding dealt with factors hindering the successful achievement of the promise of ICTs. Wooding went on to provide practical recommendations for securing the national ICT agenda.

Many participants described the conference as thought-provoking, relevant and highly practical. In his closing remarks, Kundishora recognized the unique approach to treating with the issues of ICT and National Development. At the end, he said to his Caribbean guests “we value the philosophical and spiritual dimension you have brought to Zimbabwe.” He was not alone. Delegates from neighboring nations openly asked the Congress team to consider bringing the event to other African countries.

The team from the Caribbean has provided an enriching, very fruitful intervention in Zimbabwe with implications for the entire continent. The faith-based Congress WBN expertly delivered a unique, inspirational perspective on the core surrounding ICTs and National Development. Through practical examples and international models, they put the focus squarely on the issue of leadership as the key to unlocking the potential of ICTs in Africa. There is now a new hope that Zimbabwe and the wider region will seize the opportunity to build upon both the values and platform that was laid.
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