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How to identify and locate national ICT and education policies

Michael Trucano's picture

they come in many shapes and sizesAs part of our advisory work here at the World Bank on ICT and education topics, we are often asked not only for advice, perspectives and information, but also for strategies on locating various types of information.

For example, we often get asked by countries for examples of 'ICT and education policies' to help inform their own planning processes in this area.  We get this request so often that we have decided to (more) systematically document and catalog these sorts of policy documents in the coming months, with the assistance of some of our partner organizations, and make them widely available as part of a global ICT/education policy database. We'll provide periodic updates on this work on this blog. 

Until then, and it case it might be useful to anyone looking for such things, we thought we'd post some thoughts on how others might locate and retrieve these sorts of documents themselves, as we have done previously for topics like Tracking ICT use in education across Africa and Finding (useful) research on ICT use in education in developing countries.

1. Search

If you are looking for policy documents from a specific country, your best first step in 2011 is usually to use Google (or Bing or Baidu or [insert favorite search tool here] -- we are quite open in our choices of search engines).  Vary your search terms (and be sure to search for words in multiple languages) and you may be surprised at just how successful you are.  In this area, a notable number of policy documents are available in English translation, so it is always worth searching for English versions, but online translation tools should help with making sense of policy documents in languages you don't read. 

2. Different types of policies in different places

It is important to note that policies that touch on issues related to 'ICT use in education' actually take many forms.  Some places have formal, official, 'national ICT/education policies'.  In other places, the operative policy is to be found as a the 'ICT' component of an education policy, or conversely in the 'education' component of a national ICT (or its equivalent, e.g. ICT4D, IT, e-society, etc.) policy or some related field (like workforce development). Some places have specific policies for certain sub-sectors -- a common one is a 'policy on ICTs in higher education'.  Often times, to the extent that there is a 'policy' in this area, is it actually to be found by cobbling together information from policies in many of these areas (it should be noted that these sometimes conflict).

3. What's old may be new to others (and what's in 'draft' may be the de facto policy)

We also note that a policy developed by country X in 2001 may be relevant to country Z in 2011, both as a marker for historical policy development over time, and because the context of country X in 2001 may more closely correspond to the context of country Z in 2011 than whatever policy is in place in country X in 2011.

In some countries, 'draft' ICT/education policies are widely circulated and function as de facto policies themselves.  There are many reasons for this, but one common explanation is that policies in this area need to change quickly, and the process for formally ratifying policies of this sort through existing, formal channels may be so slow and cumbersome that the groups in charge of implementation don't have time to wait. Sometimes de facto policies do not take the shape that one assumes -- I know of at least one place where, in practice, the policy is actually a PowerPoint file that is regularly shown by the Minister!

4. Start with those who have already collected lots of policy documents

Currently, the most complete list of policy documents in this area is maintained by GeSCI.  If you want pointers to lots of policies, I would definitely recommend starting with the GeSCI list [link is to PDF].  As part of its work related to the policy planning process in India, GeSCI archived some policy documents from multiple countries on the web.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the ICT/education policy section of the UNESCO-Bangkok site is your best first point of call.  In Europe, the Insight knowledgebase maintained by the European Schoolnet is probably the best place to start.

5. Resources that can provide useful clues and pointers to policy documents

It is often profitable to begin by first looking for documents that identify the names of individual policies (you can then search for them).  The country reports contained in the regional surveys of ICT and education in Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia sponsored by infoDev are often quite useful in this regard.  (Most of the resources listed in a similar regional survey for Asia published many years ago by UNESCO-Bangkok are linked to from the UNESCO site mentioned in #4 above).

Other useful regard are the web sites of Comminit (especially good for national ICT4D policies, many of which contain ICT cmponents),  Eldis and the the e-learning section of the Zunia portal.

6. Ministry of education web sites

In a perfect world, ministry of education web sites themselves should be the first place to look for the policy of a given country.  While these should be consulted, attempting to navigate them can often be exercise in frustration.  Where links to policies on MOE web sites are broken, you might want to consider using the Internt Archive's Wayback Machine.

7. The old fashioned route -- read a book

In some cases -- presumably because people with ICT skills and sensibilities are involved in producing them -- ICT/education policies may exist on the Internet in electronic formats, but related larger education policies may not.  Even in 2011, not everything is online.  If you can locate a copy, Cross-National Information and Communication Technology Policies and Practices in Education is a great source of information about individual country policies; while focused on OECD countries, some middle income countries are included as well.

8. Personal appeal

Here at the World Bank, we benefit from having close working relationships with many governments, and this makes it easier (although, it should be noted, not always easy!) to locate existing policy documents, as we can just call or write someone and ask for copies.  For what it's worth: Given the state of document management in some places, we sometimes we find that consultants, NGOs or donor groups involved in the policy drafting process are better able to help quickly locate the documents in question than trying to navigate government bureaucracies to find the latest version of a document.

If you have any other good sources or strategies for locating these types of documents, please feel free to list them in the comments section below.

Note: The public domain image used at the top of this blog post comes via Wikimedia Commons.

Comments

Via email, we have received feedback from various quarters that, by making available large numbers of policy documents like this, we will increase the likelihood that some people simply cut-and-paste from one country's policy on ICT/education when drafting their own new policy. (For what it's worth, this was a criticism leveled at some early national ICT4D policies -- i.e. that they were simply rehashed versions of neighboring country policies. This was perhaps not too surprising in some cases, given the newness of the topic, and the fact that some international consultants played similar influential roles in multiple places.) While acknowledging (and lamenting) that this sort of activity does occur from time to time, especially in new and fast-changing areas like technology use in education where there is often little first-hand experience among senior policymakers to help guide such efforts, as a general practice we would prefer to 'err on the side of transparency'. For those watchdogs interested in 'policing' such activities, the ability to quickly compare the language and structure of proposed draft policies in this area will make it easier to pinpoint where this sort of 'borrowing' is occurring (what happens as a result -- and indeed whether this sort of practice is a good thing or not -- is another discussion). More importantly, however, it is hoped that such a database will aid countries in benchmarking their own policies and policy objectives against those of comparator countries, and, as relevant, provide inspiration to those policymakers looking for ideas and guidance on alternative ways to conceive of policies in this area.

Another good source of pointers to policy documents can be found in the new FOSI GRID web site. While focusing on issues related to online saefty, most country profiles include a small overview paragraph on the state of ICT use in education. http://www.fosigrid.org/ (Unfortunately, you currently have to register for access to the site.)

FYI Following up on this blog post, we have now uploaded a related document, in case it might be of interest to anyone: Preliminary draft: Master list of ICT/education policy documents (version 0.2), 23 April 2011 [pdf] http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EDUCATION/Resources/WorldBankMasterICT-EdPolicyDocumentList-Draft_April2011_for-external-site.pdf Please feel free to suggest additional resources and/or correct us where we are wrong. Thanks, Mike

Submitted by Fabiano Cruz on
Hi Mike, I have put together a collection of national ICT in education policies and plans in the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC), by mashing up the data compiled and publicly available in an open database with Google Maps and it turned out pretty cool. This work is based on the GeSCI publication you mentioned "ICTs in Education (ICT4E) Policies and Plans worldwide" by Roxana Bassi. The result is an outlook of the current policies and plans on ICT in Education in the region that would help us better understand how LAC countries are trying to use ICTs to enhance the relevancy and quality of education. The open datasource is available here: http://bit.ly/l0riel (see "LAC ICT4E Policies and Plans" worksheet in the bottom) Interactive Map - view LAC ICT/Education Policies and Plans in a full screen map here: http://batchgeo.com/map/8936a5adac3066538a68cfc25c48fb43 This inventory is by no means exhaustive; it’s a working in progress. Any feedbacks and suggestions are welcome. Some background info here: http://bit.ly/ff7Z21 Mike, please let me know if you and/or the SABER-ICT team wants to adapt / reuse / extend this work. That would be great! Just let me know. Best, -Fabiano

Thanks Fabiano for the information and links. This is great stuff! We should have more policy documents from LAC (and everywhere else) to share shortly. I'll send over the full document cache to you as well so that you have all of the source materials. Eventually we'll just put everything online so anyone can do with these materials as they wish -- we expect this would be useful in many ways for researchers, policymakers, and others interested in the topic. I'll be in touch separately about areas of possible collaboration related to all of this. Cheers, Mike

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