How to identify and locate national ICT and education policies

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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.


Michael Trucano

Visiting Fellow, Brookings, and Global Lead for Innovation in Education, World Bank

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