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Building national ICT/education agencies

Michael Trucano's picture

one model of evolution -- in practice it looks much messier! | image attribution at bottomMany developing countries have embarked upon – and others are seriously considering – large-scale roll-outs of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in their education sector.  Similar processes began in most OECD countries 10-20 years ago, in many middle income countries more recently. Structurally, education systems organize themselves in various ways to fund, implement and oversee these sorts of initiatives, which are typically quite expensive – and complex – and the related organizations evolve, in ways incremental and radical, over time.

Despite the highly varied local contexts, in most countries, a single institution is core to the implementation of ICT/education initiatives.

What do we know about how such institutions work, and what suggestions might we have for governments creating such institutions for the first time, supporting these sorts of agencies over time, and/or restructuring such organizations to meet future challenges?

These ICT/education institutions take various forms.  Most prominent in the global consciousness are probably the quasi-autonomous ICT/education agencies under the general direction or guidance of the ministry of education (examples include KERIS in Korea, Becta in the UK, NCET in China).  In other countries, foundations or NGOs serve some similar functions, in coordination with units at the ministry of education (examples include the Omar Dengo Foundation in Costa Rica and the Pilipinas School at FIT-ED in the Philippines).  In yet other places, related responsibilities are assumed almost entirely by a special department or division of the MOE; in still others, universities (or even the private sector) assume such roles. 

A study of such institutional arrangements over time is complicated by the fact that formal place of such institutions can change within the structure of a country’s education system.  Examples of this mutability can be found in Chile, where the Enlaces program began as a university-centric initiative and was later folded into the MOE in Chile; in Thailand, where the MOE assumed the schoolnet-related functions originally performed by NECTEC, which operated under the general direction of the MoIT; in Uganda, where the staff of the independent Schoolnet Uganda were absorbed into the MOE; and in Jordan, where the Jordan Education Initiative was rolled out of its home in the MoIT to become a separate NGO.

In addition to taking various forms, such institutions can assume different formal and informal roles and responsibilities integral and vital to the success of ICT use in education.   Most commonly, such institutions oversee the roll-out and maintenance of the technical infrastructure (hardware, software, networking) upon which ICT use in schools depends.  In addition to fundamental responsibilities around technical  infrastructure (including procurement of equipment, installation, tech support, development of technical specifications, and maintenance of educational networks and portals, to name just a few) many institutions slowly accrete additional responsibilities over time – sometimes by design, often by default.  These responsibilities can include delivery of (or oversight of) the training of technical staff; technical training for students, administrators and/or teachers; the development of education content (digital learning resources); pedagogical training for teachers; research and development, including piloting of new approaches and practices; the management of community ICT resources and outreach; educational and/or ICT strategy or policy development; and monitoring and evaluation. 

Independent or quasi-independent institutions can have complicated relationships with government departments, which act (variously) as their key clients, overseers and/or, in some cases, even their 'competitors'.  The staffing of such institutions can be challenging, especially as they may be populated by a mix of employees, civil servants, seconded staff from other organizations  and (especially in very technical areas) private contractors.  In some instances, organizations are established independent of existing government structures expressly to be able to employ people with certain skills not typically found within government agencies – and to pay these people salaries out of sync with existing government civil service guidelines.  Leaders of such organizations can be drawn from various specialties, possessing a variety of skill sets. 

Institutions can draw on a variety of funding and financing mechanisms, such as dedicated or discretionary government budgets or earmarks; contracts; user fees; special revolving funds (sometimes made possible by dedicated monies from universal service provisions); philanthropic donations; revenue-sharing arrangements with private companies; and subsidies from sponsoring or partner organizations.

Managing relationships with vendors can be an important – and difficult role – for such institutions. In some cases, such institutions are deliberately set up at “arm’s-length” from existing government units or agencies to allow for a greater flexibility in dealing with the private sector; in others they are expressly established as a special public-private partnership.

The enabling legislation and governing regulations for the activities of such institutions vary by country, as do models for institutional oversight.  Over time, such institutions typically evolve, sometimes quite dramatically, in form, function, size and legal identity.  A common challenge for many institutions occurs when their responsibilities shift from providing mainly technical support services related to ICT infrastructure to assume additional responsibilities related to pedagogical training, content development, R&D and impact evaluation.  The staff – and leadership – at the core of such institutions in the early years may not be well-suited to delivering, managing or planning for a broader range of such activities.  In addition, by slowly accreting a variety of new responsibilities over time(whether desired or not), such organizations can experience existential challenges when political leaders question the suitability of the institution to deliver on an expanded set of responsibilities (the public hullaballoo in the UK in fall 2009 about the role of Becta – considered one of the model global agencies of this sort – is one such example of this phenomenon).

With all of this in mind, the World Bank, together with a number of its development partners, is investigating how it might play a useful role in (1) documenting and analyzing real-world experiences; (2) bringing together leaders and key personnel to share lessons and challenges across countries; and (3) providing useful input into policy decisions going forward in which such institutions play a critical implementation role.

Some key questions related to the development of ICT/education agencies (and their functional equivalents) in developing countries include:

  • How should an education system structure itself to met new challenges in this area, and what roles and responsibilities could/should a dedicated ICT/education agency or unit play?
  • What global and regional models for ‘good practice’ exist?
  • How should such an institution be organized and staffed?
  • What funding mechanisms exist for such institutions, and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
  • How have such organizations evolved over time, and what implications might there be for the future?

 
We are currently talking with numerous countries to assess the usefulness of such work, and how to make it immediately relevant and actionable to current problems and challenges in various contexts. We are most happy to hear from key people at such institutions (whether through the comments below, or through other channels) and to receive suggestions for places and organizations for whom such work might be especially relevant.


Links to some prominent (and not-so-well-known) national ICT/education agencies (or their functional equivalents):

 
Back in 2005, UNESCO-Bangkok published a series of useful reports on 'schoolnets', based (mostly) on experiences in Southeast Asia.

 


Event reminder: Next week the World Bank kicks off a new seminar series called EduRadicals: Education Innovators & Thinkers.  The first discussion, featuring Roger Shank, will take place on 25 March in the World Bank main complex building from 3:30 - 5pm.  It is open to the public, but space is limited, so please see the event web site for more information and to register.  For those not in DC: Video from the event will be archived and published on the World Bank's education web site in a few weeks.

 
Please note: The image use at the top of this blog post comes from László Szalai via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of of its Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Comments

Submitted by Peter on
Informative! Is there somewhere to get a list of these agencies? It's very nice to see that there is actually in interest in making policies "immediately relevant and actionable", which I'm assuming means "relevant to teachers and students, instead of politicians". For one thing, all of the teachers I've come across in the UK are complaining about the lack of high quality resources to use. Most of them are pulling videos from Youtube - extremely time consuming!

Hi Peter, Thanks for your comment. I don't know of such a list ... and so I'm putting one together. I'll post it here on the blog once it is semi-comprehensive. If anyone has such a list, or knows of one, please let us know! -Mike

Submitted by Gerry White on
I read your article with some interest and disappointment. It would appear to not include the intricacies of national ICT agencies or government bodies that have been about for some time. At least since 1997. I refer to a basic piece of research in this area: Lonsdale, M. (2002). Global Gateways: A guide to Online Knowledge Networks. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research. In nominating gateways the research located all of the then international ICT government/agencies that led such work in education. This was then followed up in 2005 with an updated version to monitor changes that had occurred. In fact, many of these agencies now meet twice each year in a group called the Global Exchange of Networks in Education (GENIE). What makes this article so disappointing is that the international groups have met several times in the World Bank Conference Room with the support of the World Bank itself. I see no mention of such important groups as Canada SchoolNet (disbanded), Education.au responsible for EdNA), the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) in Washington, European Schoolnet (Brussels) or Learning and Teaching Scotland. All of these have become landmarks in education through their influence and leadership over a long period of time. The work of national ICT government and supported agencies is very important in education and should not be trivialised by poorly researched and ill-informed writing, even more so online. The perspective in the above article is quite unique in that it does not include any criteria for inclusion that is consistent, misses a number of the major influential bodies in the world and ignores over a decade of substantial work done by such bodies. I would hope that in any future contributions in this area that some rigorous and methodical research is undertaken before publishing.

Submitted by Martin Rodrigues on
Hi Gerry, I read "Gateways" several years ago and it was a very interesting work concerning the use of different types of online services, how they were used, the user patterns, etc. However, despite the valuable information it provides, I don't really see the relevance of this work for the establishment of an agency/ institution to manage the complexity of introducing ICT into a national Educational system, which seems to be the point here. I was very interested in the GENIE group though, but couldn't find references about it on the net. Are there any documents available reporting on these meetings? Any further information would be much appreciated. Best regards, Martin

Submitted by Joe Nutt on
This is a very valuable and balanced account of the difficult issues surrounding these organisations. I would add one more which is their "research" role and the issue of trust. A good example is Becta’s, "Harnessing Technology, Next Generation Learning, 2008–2014." There is only one place in the entire paper where the authors’ refer to research which suggests technology has had a positive educational effect, here: "In addition, links between the use of technology and improved learning outcomes have been identified in an increasing body of evidence (Harnessing Technology Review, 2007)" Not only is the reality that Becta cite their own previous Technology Review as “an increasing body of evidence,” but when you then read that Review, you discover it references a single research paper…which Becta itself commissioned…and which was anything but conclusive.

Hi Gerry, Thank you for your comments. I must confess that I am a bit perplexed by them, and the tone you have adopted. We seem to be talking by each other. I am quite familiar with the research you cite -- and have long been an admirer of your work as well, for what that's worth. I am certainly well-acquainted with the work of the institutions you list in your comments (with the Australian experience being the one that I know least well). Near the start of my post, I note that "Similar processes began in most OECD countries 10-20 years ago, in many middle income countries more recently." We are not ignorant of such processes here at the World Bank. The point of a blog post like this is certainly not to be exhaustive in its consideration of a given topic, but to point to interesting developments and raise questions. It is also meant to help catalyze conversations of various sorts (like the one you and I are having now in public, and many more that spring up 'off-line' as a result of our blog postst). This is not an academic article, or a World Bank policy paper. It is a blog post of about one page. The very short list of 'agencies' provided as a courtesy at the end of the blog post was certainly not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to hint at the diversity of institutions that we are talking about here. It is quite easy to put together a list of such agencies from OECD countries. Key figures involved with the institutions you mention could no doubt do it off the top of their heads -- for others, five minutes with Google should do the trick. But how about a similar list for Africa? For Central America? What do we know about experiences in those places? The references to the UNESCO publications were purposeful: To my knowledge (and I certainly admit that there are gaping holes in my individual knowledgebase) these are the only major publications that examine experiences in this area within the specific context of the information needs of middle and low income countries. (The Commonwealth of Learning did a Schoolnet Toolkit for Africa, but this was largely an adaptation of the work that UNESCO sponsored.) Based on my interactions with emerging schoolnets and similar agencies over the past decade outside the OECD, *very little* of what has been learned from the development of ICT/education agencies in the countries you cite seems to have had any real impact with the development of similar agencies in developing countries. (There are of course exceptions to this in a some individual cases -- some of the work of Industry Canada in the 1990s immediately springs to mind -- but I think the general point holds.) I have received numerous emails since this piece was posted last Friday. They basically fall into two camps: people from OECD countries saying, essentially, that these are questions for which we already have answers; and people from non-OECD countries saying that 'work in this area would be tremendously useful for us'. There seems to me to be a disconnect here. This gets to a larger challenge in writing a blog like this. Our primary audience here are people working on these issues in what are called, for better or for worse, 'developing countries'. Frankly, I do not like using the term 'developing countries' as often as I do in this blog, but I do this intentionally, if reluctantly, as an attempt to subtly reinforce the context of the comments and questions we include on the blog. One memorable academic commenter on one of the early posts on this blog (about the use of mobile phones) said basically that 'there is nothing new here, we've been aware of all of these issues for some time'. I am sure this was true -- if you were sitting in Cambridge or Helsinki. However, these are very new discussions (and often very different discussions) in other, less economically privileged parts of the world. I participated in the international day at this year's CoSN event, which was (as it usually is) excellent. I participated in the European Schoolnet's excellent annual EMINENT event in 2008 (a prior commitment did not allow me to attend in 2009). The perspectives and conversations at these events, in many cases, have little *immediate* practical relevance for many of the clients with whom we work at the World Bank, as they were presented at the conferences. This is not to say that the events themselves are not quite enriching and engaging -- they certainly are. And it is not to say that these conversations can not be made more relevant to World Bank client countries; they certainly can, which is one of the points of this upcoming exercise, and one of the reasons why we encourage many countries to attend EMINENT (for example). But to my mind, there is also tremendous value in mining the experiences of organizations in middle and low income countries in this area as well -- experiences that World Bank client countries tell us are more relevant to them. The six representative questions I posed at the end of the blog post come directly from the heads of emerging ICT/education agencies with whom we are interacting here at the World Bank. Are the answers to these questions the same for CoSN and EdNA as they are for Schoolnet Namibia and the National Center for Educational Technology in Armenia? I am not so sure. Let's look specifically at one of the more-studied examples: KERIS in South Korea. The World Bank partners closely with KERIS, as part of a very productive broader relationship with Korea in a number of areas. What from the KERIS experience is relevant to emerging institutions with ICT/education responsibilities in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Mongolia, Colombia (all countries, by the way, where KERIS is beginning technical assistance activities)? We certainly know a lot about the experience of Becta -- but what parts of this experience are relevant and actionable for countries in Africa, and what are not? Staffing dynamics in such institutions in Australia and the USA may not be the same as they are in Tunisia or Paraguay. Or they might be -- but to me the research literature is largely silent on such topics. The constellation of interest groups around the use of ICTs in education in the United States or Scotland with which CoSN and LTS interact -- and in some cases represent -- are simply not there in many of the countries in which the World Bank is actively engaged in this area. (In some countries, the ICT/education agency is itself the primary "interest group" in this area.) Vendor relationships are particularly problemmatic in many developing countries in ways that aren't at hand in the countries involved in the European Schoolnet. All of that said, we are most happy to work with institutions like the European Schoolnet, Becta and KERIS to explore how the lessons elarned from their experiences might be relevant to similar institutions forming in various emerging economies -- and indeed we have been talking with these very groups for some time about how we might most profitably do this. We would be most happy to include Australian institutions in this conversation as well. You conclude your comments by stating that "I would hope that in any future contributions in this area that some rigorous and methodical research is undertaken before publishing." Indeed, this is exactly what we are proposing to pursue. However, a one-page weekly blog post is most likely not the best venue for 'publishing' such work in its entirety, with all of the nuance and comprehensiveness that is required if we are to do useful work that has any real impact. Our goal in such work is clear: to inform upcoming investments in the creation and development of ICT/education agencies in low and middle income countries. This blog can help, we hope, catalyze -- and insinuate us in -- useful conversations that contribute to such work. Thanks again for your comments. -Mike

FYI The resource referenced in the comment by Gerry White above can be downloaded from the following URL: Global Gateways: A guide to Online Knowledge Networks http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/41784/20051114-0000/www.educationau.edu.au/research/global_gateways_v3.pdf

Submitted by Ron Canuel on
I have had the privilege of leading a public school board in Canada provide free wireless laptop computers to all children from Grades 3-11. In 2003, when we began our wonderful journey, the lengthy list of "must do's" presented by educators, politicians, media, policy makers, etc, stated that we needed to prove the impact of providing technology in our classrooms. (oh, by the way, the School Board indebted itself to realize this vision) Well, we have succeeded, after seven years, in proving the worth of ICT in our classrooms. Yet, we still have the same circular debates being put forth regarding the legitimacy of ICT in the classroom. I can state to you, unequivocally, that ICT presents the "soft underbelly" of education, specifically, issues of evidenced based pedagogical practices, issues of poor leadership, issues surrounding the fact that Best Practices is much spoken but poorly practiced, issues surrounding the notion that for some, ICT is part of the plumbing/electrical systems of a school/classroom, issues surrounding data generation and proper analysis, issues surrounding the "Human Factor" (10-15% of people resisting change), issues surrounding political processes more focused on testing and less on learning, issues surrounding transformational change in the classroom, to name a few. One major issue to retain: The Human Factor and how beliefs, ideologies and philosophies prevail before pedagogy. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting a delegation from eastern Africa, very much interested in hearing our experience and how we proceeded. First simple piece of advice: Proper Planning. We took over 20 months before implementation. We have shared our experience with many districts, provinces, states and countries. Second piece of advice: Listen to what works and what doesn't. I am puzzled when I see deployments occurring around the world, and where the deployments are not going well, simple mistakes were committed and the desire to "do it our way" overrides common sense. Hope this helps, Ron

I enjoyed reading your response Michael and was a bit humbled by your broad knowledge and goals on this topic. As you can imagine having been engaged in this exercise for the last 14 years, I am perhaps a little over-passionate about the enormous amount of positive influence that many of these agencies have had although their work is rarely acknowledged by national governments. That is certainly the case here in Australia where Education.au and its flagship online service EdNA was one of the most influential and sustainable national educational endeavours that I can remember, at least over the last fifteen years. However, that work is largely unknown, is poorly appreciated and scholarship in the area is minimal. As well, beginning the work of establishing GENIE was not a simple exercise and took some persistence, but it eventually paid off because now GENIE is a robust international exchange and does some great work through networking, dialogue, sharing and mutual support. It is no accident that education in the Western world, especially in schools, moved to adopt digital technologies in education at more or less the same pace and times. Although KERIS is the only body that has been studied (although much of that is technical as well as educational) and information publicly released, I have spent the last three years studying what happened here in Australia. Information from my research is expected to be released later in the year and perhaps could be useful for your endeavours. However, the broad purpose of your intention to study or focus on government and government supported national ICT agencies is a very wise idea because there is so much to learn from them and their work which could be useful, especially for countries that are perhaps not as advanced. Unfortunately, we have just seen the demise of Education.au here in Australia because other national agendas have come to the fore. Perhaps it was time to move on although I am not really convinced because although the infrastructure (hardware, software, middleware, interopability standards, content standards etc) for using digital technologies is nearly in place, the real work on pedagogy, learning, teaching and assessment is only just beginning. (I left Education.au in 2006, after ten years, to go back to academic and research work.) There are some good theories upon which to base such a study of national agencies that I have been able to use in my own research. The theories can be easily adapted for international definition, classification, comparison and analysis from which to draw some valuable lessons. And I don't think that it would be a hard job. I think that your idea is a great project and I would be happy to help you where I can. I am sure that research and study of what has happened in education to draw out the lessons from national agencies would be of immense use to education, now that there is a pause in technological market innovation. Best wishes and I hope the project goes well. Cheers Gerry

Hi Mike, Gerry, and others, Nice to see this issue being raised again, and I think it is an important one. Also, thank you for the references to the UNESCO Schoolnet research, I think the lessons learned from that project were really interesting. Actually, much reference is made to Education.au and European Schoolnet in the UNESCO study - paticularly thanks to the input obtained by my working at European Schoolnet, and turning these lessons into usable material for the 'Lessons Learned Volume 3' with my colleagues Dr. Cher Ping Lim and Ellie Meleisia. Not to neglect of course the activities in partnership with Education.au, CoSN, and the GENIE network mentioned by Gerry White above. Indeed, members of European Schoolnet and the other networks mentioned gave informal input in that research, particularly on more 'historical' elements. It was also useful for my work in European Schoolnet, to help to compare our activities to others, as well as having a better theoretical framework for understanding how such bodies can evolve, and models that they can follow in terms of financing and sustainability. Nonetheless it is somewhat old now, and as Mike points out, very SE Asia centric. The work done by education.au is a much more comprehensive global overview, covering a wider range of 'gateways' than the Schoolnet but is also now 7 years old. Thus I really welcome this research, announced by Mike, particularly in terms of getting a current, up to date overview. From my perspective, a global approach would be useful, as models in different parts of the world vary greatly. It would be interesting to look at the impact of web 2.0 on such organisations, and how they have responded to that challenge. Perhaps, to ensure it's relevant in both developed and developing countries, it would be interesting to include a section on long-term evolution of such bodies (including future visions/perspectives, response to emerging tech, financial sustainability, etc.), rather than simply 'how to set them up'. For information: - we published a paper last year on school networking in Europe specifically: http://bit.ly/cj7pfx - we publish, on an ongoing basis, news and information coming from national ICT/ed agencies on our Insight portal http://insight.eun.org/ Finally, European Schoolnet will shortly be publishing a compendium of international networks and national bodies in ICT in education (non-exhaustive), as a result of the International Symposium for global networking on ICT that we held last June in Rome. I hope to share that with you all soon!

Thanks so much Gerry, Ron and Alexa for these excellent comments. There is so much to respond to here. Quickly (and I'll follow up 'off-blog' -- not sure if that's an actual word or not -- as well): I fully agree that studying this issue of the evolution of such institutions -- not just how to start them and keep them running in the short-term -- is an area worthy of keen attention. Most of what we have to learn from this area will come from learning from the experiences of subnational bodies (like what we have in teh Eastern Towships of Quebec), national bodies like EdNA, regional networks like European Schoolnet, and networks of networks like GENIE. We have no desire to reinvent the wheel here, but to build on the excellent work that UNESCO-BKK and GENIE published a few years ago, the ongoing work that Alexa is helping to lead, and Gerry's forthcoming work on the Australian experience. From the World Bank's perspective, we would want to do this in a way that is explicitly relevant to the partner countries with which we are currently working, and to examine many more recent experiences from middle and low income countries (noting, of course, that programs like Enlaces in Chile and Fundacion Omar Dengo in Costa Rica, to cite just two examples, have been around for about two decades!). Should governments plan for these insitutions to have a limited life, pursuing specific objectives for a limited number of years, and then allowing them to slowly fade away (or spin them off as private entities) once initial objectives are met? Should capacity for such institutions to evolve over time be an explicit consideration in resourcing and strategic planning discussions? I think that a lot of very interesting answers to these questions can be put forward in 2010 drawing on the experiences of organizations listed here, and others. The research that Gerry is leading would appear to me to be *very* relevant to such discussions, and this is something that will be eagerly *consumed* here at the World Bank, and in many of our partner countries. (I would also recommend that people interested in this topic have a good look at the resource links that Alexa has passed along above, if they haven't already clicked on them, and bookmark the general page for the INSIGHT reports.) One last thing (for now): All of the institutions mentioned here were born in an era where large-scale implementations of ICTs in education were centered around the use of PCs. If, as it is fashionable to speculate (and not without reason), the future of ICT use in education will be increasingly 'mobile', how might this impact the functions and roles of such institutions going forward? If you had to start such an organization today from scratch (or, alternatively, fully re-consider the role of an existing organization), what parts of our collective recent history in this area are most relevant -- and what might we consider to be largely only of historical interest? Thanks again for everyone's comments. This is a very rich discussion. -Mike

Hello Mike, this is an excellent piece about an important topic. I did some research about 2-3 years to answer the questions that you raised in this blog because these issues/ questions kept coming up. I developed two guiding notes, that we have shared with the countries we work, with based on analysis of approaches the more developed countries were adopting and my own experiences working with Ministries of Education in Africa. 1. The IT unit in the Ministry of Education- http://www.gesci.org/assets/files/THE_IT_Unit_in_the_MoE-_functions_and_organization.pdf 2. Institutional Management of ICT4E- http://www.gesci.org/assets/files/Insitutional_management_of_ICT4E_programs.pdf Discussions with senior ministry officials revealed that were often frustration with their IT department's inability to develop appropriate policies and strategies etc.Our subsequent investigations revealed a problem indeed. Ministries of Education were tasking tasking the wrong people with the work. Their IT departments of 1 or 2 IT technicians- responsible for the minister or PS's computer and other senior managers' computers literally(these IT technicians are usually on 24 hour standby to fix the minister or PS's computer!) - were being converted into ICT4E departments responsible for policy, strategy, procurement and deployment for ICTs for schools. The results were usually disastrous and not surprising. ICTs in Education require educational professionals leading, advised by IT professionals (and preferably educational technologists) to think through the educational needs, implications and solutions. Its about education and not ICTs after all. The IT people in these "traditional" IT departments on the other hand were focused on the technology and were likely to develop IT-centric policies and on buying and deploying hardware and software. And they shouldn't be blamed- things like curriculum, pedagogy and teacher training are alien to them. Whenever I brought this up with senior ministry officials after our investigations, I could see a light bulb go off in their heads. So Mike and colleagues, a most important topic to discuss. The papers I have referenced above provide some answers to the questions you raised and I hope they contribute to the discussion.

Submitted by Laura on
Thank you for a valuable and thoughtful post. The comments are enriching too. Briefly I would like to support Joe, above, who reminds us how research falls off the agenda, I would imagine probably because of the organic way that such structures tend to emerge. My additional point is about the policy contortions which frame and constrain such structures. Indeed, they exist at the nexus of quite different policy imperatives at times, even contradictory ones where the right hand in government structures does not know what the left hand is doing. Because of the complex and cross field nature of such structures they are shaped and informed by a wide range of policies emerging from different government departments: education, science and technology, communications, labour, human resources development,...to mention just the obvious. There may be quite different or opposing priorities, views or partnerships. Examples include the use of open source software, principles of open- ness versus closed content re both production and dissemination etc. I suggest that a project of this nature should include a component which maps all the policies and regulations which shape the work of ICT/ Education agencies.

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