From: "JamesMikeDuP...@googlemail.com" <JamesMikeDuP...@googlemail.com>
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2009 07:21:34 -0800 (PST)
Local: Mon, Feb 2 2009 12:21 pm
Subject: Why we need a national IT strategy by Roberto Carlos Mayer

Here is a nice paper from one of our guests, Roberto Carlos Mayer from Brasil.
As you know, Brasil has been a great supporter of free software and open source, we are working to get Mr. Mayer to come and speak at the conference.
I am reposting this with his permission, this is a good example of the papers and speakers we need for this conference.

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Why we need a national IT strategy

Nobody doubts that the usage of IT has evolved significantly over the last decade. If you look at the number of PCs in use, at the number of Internet users, at the number of available websites, or at any other indicator, they all seem to go only upwards. However, at the same

time, we have an ongoing process of mergers and acquisitions (which brings the risk of new monopolies, according to some), a significant use of free software in some countries and/or environmentes, a great variation in the number of IT professionals who work for governments, an increasing level of IT outsourcing by large corporations, etc..

Obviously we can not summarize the whole picture in just one article. My goal here is to call attention to an issue that is not being adequately addressed: as a country, what are our goals with IT? 15 years ago the World Bank started to encourage LDCs to establish IT national strategies as a way to shorten the distance that separates them from developed countries.

When we state this simple question: "what's the goal?", we normally get answers falling into one of these two following types. There are those beautiful answers, but which are far too generic (eg "we want to improve the level of digital activity of the population”), and there are actions whose goals end up being scattered (eg when programs get created to help with specific points, such as creating local infrastructure).

I believe it is essential to find answers to hard questions: normally these are stated in private, in the corridors, but get silenced when we sit at those tables where big decisions are made. I will mention only some of these questions, as examples. But obviously this list needs to be completed!

What is the country’s role in terms of production of IT goods and services, either for the domestic market or for export? In which of these the country is already competitive on the global scene? Or are there some where the country could be competitive globally with a relatively small effort (and should therefore be the focus of grants, applied research, etc.)?

What is the profile of the IT professionals that we need to be available within 10 to 15 years? The modification of curricula in higher education is slow, as everyone knows. But if we do not know what to change, we’ll just guarantee that the dissatisfaction reigning between businesses, graduate students and most of their professors continues to exist.

IT should be used to turn the life of all citizens easier. This includes facilitating their relationship with the state. Which infrastructure will be needed? Who will pay for access devices (computers), communication backbones? Which of them should be state-owned or be in private hands?

The above questions are just some examples of questions which should be answered clearly when planning the future for IT for a country. With a clear, long term strategy, the results of applying the (mostly scarce) resources available (whether the public budget, the time of the volunteers involved, etc.) will improve significantly. The country should write its own history, instead of just operating in response to problems that arise (as stones we find on our jorney). Only then will the promises of IT yield the fruits that every national society wants and deserves.