The third West African francophone e-Atlas meetings were held October 26 to 28, 2011 in Cotonou, Benin. The theme was “Territorial Communities and Appropriation of ICT’s for Local Governance and Development”.
One of the special features of building “information societies” in Africa is based on the fact that they greatly exceed the role of public state stakeholders. The wave of decentralization in the 1990s put local African communities in a specific context of: transferring knowledge, lack of infrastructure, scarcity of human and financial resources, dependence on the ODA and local multi-stakeholder governance.
The decentralizing process will involve a dual movement of modernizing and democratizing local communities. It is in this context that African cities and territorial communities are positioned as major stakeholders to build local information societies.
In Africa, most of the analysis done on communication policies reveal a momentum that, on the whole, aims to promote the various scopes of stakeholder intervention, image and reputation of local elected officials. Research has also shown a fundamental difference according to the internal and external aspects of this communication.
Internally, those responsible try to federate the populations around community values that create or reinforce the sense of belonging in the territory. Externally, communication aims to attract economic stakeholders, highlight the territory’s distinct assets, promote tourism and enhance the image of the territory and its inhabitants.
If the traditional size of territorial communication remains, it will have strong competition from new forms of communication that have appeared in the last twenty years which are linked to the development issues of the digital age, namely: e-governance, e-administration, e-citizenship, e-inclusion, e-learning and others.
The originality of new forms of communication is based on the fact that they seem to consider territorial communication as much a central point as a final one. Therefore, they raise questions about mobilized resources, set targets and tested approaches. Debate is built on extremely diverse experiences of African territorial communities who are in contact with ICT’s.
How does the positioning of these territorial stakeholders work when dealing with information societies (equipment, connectivity and infrastructure access, content and adapted uses, training and retention capabilities)? What are the kinds of partnerships that develop around ICT’s? Who are the organizers? What is the logic that guides their contributions? What types of uses are devoted to ICT’s?
The three West African FAO francophone e-Atlas meetings strive to highlight these new territorial communication issues. Their objective is also to debate the emerging challenges of the new issues of territorial communication struggling with technical transformation for the last twelve years or so.
These meetings will combine the perspective of university researchers and local development stakeholders around economic, political, cultural and social factors that condition or support ICT appropriation for the purpose of West African territorial governance. They will bring together two kinds of knowledge texts from articles that respond to commonly accepted scientific and university standards on the one hand, and stakeholder accounts and experiences on the other.
In this way, the meetings will help people understand the new “territorialization” processes and the re-territorialization” challenges of African information societies in connection with choices in digital development policies made by public authorities at the local level.