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   Table of Contents  
Executive Summary
Acronyms and Abbreviations
1. Introduction
2. Strategic Framework - Introduction
--> Strategic Framework - Main Areas of Focus
--> Startetgic Framework - The Arab ICT Strategy
--> Strategic Framework - Action Lines
3. PROGRAMMES
--> Programmes - Programme Details
4. Projects
5. BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS IN ICT
  
   CHAPTER  
4. Projects

A.  Introduction

           While previous chapters discuss the strategic framework of the RPoA and propose regional partnership programmes, the present chapter is dedicated to the development of the RPoA into regional projects for building the information society.  The proposed projects are regional in scope, the majority has national components and some include specific pilot projects in selected ESCWA member countries.

           The structure of the RPoA is top-down, in that it focuses on key areas with regard to the information society and partnership programmes, whereas projects constitute the building blocks for the development of an integrated information society in the region.  From the identification of problems and alignment of intended results within the context of the strategic framework of the RPoA, projects establish a balance between bottom-up and top-down approaches by delivering attainable solutions to the short- and long-term problems associated with the process of building the information society.

           The present chapter highlights the importance of including regional projects in the RPoA.  It then lists criteria for attaining the maturity required in order to ensure a good start for project implementation and facilitate the participation of parties interested in proposing and/or implementing projects aimed at building the information society in the region.  A list of proposed projects for each of the programmes recommended in chapter three is presented in the final two sections of the chapter and the efforts expended by the Task Force on Implementation of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Strategy and the resulting list of regional priority projects for Arab Governments recommended for inclusion in the RPoA are reviewed.

 B.  Projects and the RPoA: actions and results

           Large-scale regional endeavours are often hindered by a number of challenges that arise, for the most part, from issues related to the holistic nature of these endeavours and the resource-related complexities encountered during implementation.  Proposing projects within the RPoA offers many potential advantages, including improved two-way communication between the stakeholders and horizontal communication among project initiators during the process of building the information society.  Engaging stakeholders in the adoption and implementation of regional projects sets in motion a process that builds incrementally upon the results of completed projects and paves the way for other, more elaborate, projects with higher visibility components and greater direct impact on society as a whole.

           The inclusion of projects in the RPoA offers the following potential benefits:

          (a)   Added on-the-ground activities leading to tangible results;

          (b)   Increased bottom-up articulation of development needs;

          (c)   Improved information flows through better-developed collaborative networks;

          (d)   Improved advocacy to policy and support to the RPoA;

          (e)   Broader scope and large scale for building solidarity by serving different needs and goals;

          (f)   Greater sense of appropriation among stakeholders;

          (g)   Enhanced partnerships with beneficiaries.

 C.  Project cycle: from conceptualization to implementation

           A typical project development cycle is described below, including the drafting of project concept papers, production of project documents, identification of funding agencies and potential partners and start of implementation.

          The objective of the present section is to identify the criteria for reaching the maturity required in order to achieve successful project implementation and facilitate the participation of parties interested in proposing and/or implementing projects aimed at building the information society in the region.  These criteria, which combine to form one of the distinctive characteristics of the RPoA,[1] namely, implementation upon maturity, are as follows:

          (a)   Production of a clear and complete project concept paper using a template that streamlines the exchange of information and perception of project objectives;

          (b)   Provision of a conducive environment in order to solicit collaboration and cooperation from stakeholders;

          (c)   Identification of a leading agency or champion for the project;

          (d)   Production of a comprehensive project document using the results-based management paradigm;

          (e)   Completion of partnership subscription based on the added value that each partner could contribute to the project;

          (f)   Allocation of necessary funds and required resources;

          (g)   Agreement on partnership model including implementation and monitoring mechanisms.

           The four phases of a project cycle with the associated outputs are illustrated in figure II, below.

 Figure II.  Project development phases

 

Source: ICTD, ESCWA.

          The present overview is intended to serve as a guideline to encourage contributions from stakeholders and further develop added value regional projects.

 1.  Preparation of the project concept paper

           During this initial concept phase, the leading agency addresses a topic of interest based on its mandate and scope of action.  Such topics coincide with one or more areas and partnership programmes described in the strategic framework of the RPoA.  Focus is on the regional nature of the problems and projects that can create value and progress towards the development of a sustainable information society would be proposed. A project concept paper is prepared based on a template (see annex II) and submitted in order to initiate a call for partnership.

 2.  Identification of funding agencies and possible partners

           Once the project concept paper is developed, potential partners and funding agencies can be approached.  There are several models for cooperation within any newly founded partnership and different stakeholders will address similar issues differently within the scope of their mandate and strategic development goals.  The scale of some projects makes it necessary to embark on multi-stakeholder partnerships involving the public sector, private sector, NGOs and other international agencies in order to achieve the desired objectives.  Specific partnership models such as the public-private partnership (PPP) model can be adopted in order to build on the individual strengths of these two sectors.

           The selection of partners should be made with empowerment and inclusion in mind.  In order to develop sustainable environments for growth and development, multi-stakeholder partnerships should include partners that can retain transferred know-how and, possibly, construct self-funding operational models.  The availability of different resources within any given project is essential to its continuity and sustainability beyond the time limits described in the project document.  Resource contribution can take many forms including in-kind and financial contributions and human resources.

           Funding agencies that have adopted a project document would look for transparency and accountability in meeting the desired objectives.  It is important to address budget constraints and account for hidden costs within very stringent rules in order to ensure that funding agencies understand the nature of the project partnership.  Such agencies would require well-defined indicators of achievement and progress milestones within the guidelines of results-based management methodology.  Funding agencies should also indicate the proper channel through which extra-budgetary spending is to be considered and impose their methodology for project selection as well as monitoring and evaluation of progress.

           As partnerships are forged and financing secured, stakeholders should jointly draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that clearly defines roles, responsibilities and contributions.  An MoU might diverge from the findings of the project concept paper and focus attention on a specific subset of objectives as dictated by partnership specifics.

 3.  Preparation of the full project document

           Once potential partners are identified through the call for partnership and initial approval to elaborate upon the concept paper is received, the lead agency would develop the concept paper into a full-scale project document that would also contain implementation and monitoring mechanisms and assign roles and responsibilities to the different partners.  Budget details and activity costs should be clear at this point, enabling the management team to set review points and report on progress.  Reference to partners includes lead agencies, beneficiaries, supporting agencies, funding agencies and the project management team.  These partners should achieve high consensus on vision, goals, milestones, management processes and financial requirements.  The choice of partners should be based on their ability to add value and lend sustainability to the project. New partners and funding agencies could also be included in the process described above.  Phase three could be launched in parallel with phase two.

           Projects would be adopted for implementation in view of the level of maturity attained, as this is the direct result of the level of commitment expressed by partners and the perceived impact on beneficiaries.  Perception of the maturity level is likely to differ between partners and projects depending on the beneficiaries and impacts.  Partners in the private sector might rate project maturity based on forecast market development goals and the impact of the project on expanding business possibilities and providing good rates of return on investment, whereas NGOs might address maturity from a development perspective and adopt projects with the highest impact on their areas of interest.

          Technical assistance should be sought in the formulation of project documents from experts who could add value to them and push them further along the track towards maturity.

 4.  Project implementation

           During the project implementation phase, the efforts and documents produced during preceding phases are transformed into palpable results.

           The implementation phase should be based on a model of continuous feedback that indicates conformity with the proposed budget and milestones of progress.  Indicators of achievement specified in the project document serve as the channel for feedback that supplies information on the impact of the project on beneficiaries.  The production of periodic implementation and progress reports to stakeholders and funding agencies in order to measure and quantify progress allows all concerned parties to monitor the project and deal with implementation challenges in the best way possible.

           During the implementation phase, activities should be developed in a manner that builds and enhances appropriate local ownership from the outset in order to mainstream ownership and assure sustainable operations.

           Upon completion of the project, an impact analysis report would be prepared by the leading agency and distributed to stakeholders and funding agencies.  The report should contain initial impact findings and issues, describe successes and optimum methods of achieving success and highlight challenges, means of addressing them and the best methods of attenuating their impact on the desired outcome.

 D.  Proposed projects for RPoA programmes

           In June 2004, ESCWA held a round table on Strategies and Plans of Action for Building the Information Society in Western Asia at United Nations House in Beirut.  A panel of ICT experts from ESCWA member countries attended.  Participants in the meeting agreed on the strategic programme framework for the RPoA and recommended a number of partnership programmes.  Proposed projects for each of the partnership programmes were discussed and project concept papers prepared for the projects for which champions or leading agencies were identified.

           This list of projects, presented in annex III with the programmes under which they are categorized, is not exhaustive but is based upon the work carried out by designated leading agencies.  It is envisaged that more projects will be added to this list, in particular those that would show reasonable rates of return on investment and so be more appealing to funding agencies and the private sector.

 E.  Projects recommmended by the Task Force on the Implementation of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Strategyy

          During the fourteenth session of the Executive Bureau for the Council of Arab Telecommunications and Information Ministers in January 2004, it was agreed to establish a Task Force on Implementation of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Strategy.  The Task Force, led by the representative of Saudi Arabia with experts from member countries within the Executive Bureau in addition to experts from other member countries, worked to formalize a number of regional projects, granting priority to projects for building infrastructure, human capacities, an enabling environment and e-commerce.

          Based on the recommendations and results of declarations adopted previously, chiefly the Arab ICT Strategy and the Global Plan of Action the Task Force formed two virtual committees.  The first of these committees worked on setting the criteria for project selection while the second surveyed projects in the region within the framework of a template for identification.

          The list of projects and project proposals underwent a long process of classification that culminated in the Third Meeting of the Task Force on Implementation of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Strategy held in Cairo, 27-29 September 2004.  As a result, a final selection was made taking into consideration the scoring process and priorities set by the Council of Arab Telecommunications and Information Ministers.  It was agreed that a model feasibility study would be completed for each of the projects in the final selection.  The proposed projects, listed in table ten and presented to the Second Regional Preparatory Conference for WSIS, held in Damascus, 22-23 November 2004 are included in the RPoA.  Arab governments are urged to cooperate in advancing the implementation of these projects.

          The list of projects proposed by the Task Force is described in table 11, below.  This list could, in the future, expand to include newly-recommended projects by the Council of Arab Telecommunications and Information Ministers.

Table 11.  List of projects proposed by the Task Force

Project title

Leading country

Participating country

Establishing a Digital Arabic Library

Sudan

Egypt and Tunisia

Connecting Arab Documentation Centres

Egypt

Sudan and Tunisia

Developing an Arabic Search Engine

Saudi Arabia

-

Total Access Points

Saudi Arabia

-

PC for Every Home

Egypt

Syrian Arab Republic and Sudan

Information Technology Clubs

Egypt

Syrian Arab Republic and Sudan

Source: Report and recommendations of the Third Meeting of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Strategy Formalization Taskforce (Cairo, 27-29 September 2004) (G 15-08/ 03(04/09)/02 - T(0440) (in Arabic).


[1]    A full list of the distinctive characteristics of the RPoA is provided in chapter one of the present document.

  
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