Ethiopia is situated in Eastern Africa and shares boundaries with Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti. It has a surface area of 1,104,300 square kilometres and is a federal state with nine regional states and two city administrations. Its population is estimated at 108.39 million inhabitants (July 2018, CIA World Fact Book) with a literacy rate of 49.1%. Ethiopia is Africa's oldest independent country and its second largest in terms of population. Almost 54% of the total population is between 15 - 64 years of age. Addis Ababa, the capital city, has a population of 4.4 million (2018 CIA World Factbook). Although Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia; English and Arabic are widely spoken.
Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic society. The climate is tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation due to its terrain. In terms of natural resources, there are small reserves of gold, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas and hydropower.
Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing non-oil economies in Africa. It is heavily dependent on agriculture (accounts for 34.8% of GDP and 70% of total employment), which is often affected by droughts (2018, CIA World Factbook). Coffee is its major export crop.
In terms of ICT infrastructure, Ethio Telecom provides telecommunication services. There is an open-wire, microwave radio relay, radio communication in the HF, VHF and UHF frequencies. Two domestic satellites provide the national trunk service (2011). There is 14,000 km optic fibre cable infrastructure starting from central Ethiopia to all directions of the country and connected all cities with a capacity to transmit 40 Gbps along with the national backbone.
According to Ethio Telecom as at November 2018, there were 1.23 million fixed telephone lines in use, 65.7 million mobile phone users and 17.87 million Internet users with 85% wireless coverage across Ethiopia. MCIT has established 300 Community Information Centres and 12 community radio stations to date in remote areas of the country to provide information on new ICT technology transfer and implementations, healthcase, agricultural information and education issues. There is a Government call centre that citizens can ring via a toll free number and discuss their queries in relation to Government Ministries and Departments. The framework for the National Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is completed and has now moved into the implementation phase.
There are 45 public universities and 45 private institutions of higher education across the country. The Government introduced the 'ICTs in Education Implementation Strategy and Action Plan' in 2010 as one of the pillars of the ICT4AD Plan to address the rural-urban divide in Ethiopia in terms of access to computer in education.
In line with its ambition to become a middle-income country by 2025, Ethiopia has embarked on a number of national programmes and views its ICT policy, which was revised and endorsed by the Council of Ministers in 2017, as an integral part of the country's larger development goals and objectives.
The Ethiopian ICT Strategy proposes that the country advances its ICT Research and Development by putting key enablers in place such as building a state-of-the-art broadband network that supports academic and research networking, improving the incentives for academic institutions and the private sector to promote ICT research and development and addressing key cross-cutting challenges such as coordination, collaboration, women empowerment and financing. The success of Research and Development for the ICT sector requires private public partnership, commitment by the Government to provide the appropriate legal framework and conducive environments for Research and Development. The Government, universities and research institutions need to actively engage in the implementation of the strategy by availing the necessary human and financial resources and embracing partnership.
Ethiopia's National ICT Policy was first drafted and submitted to the Council of Ministers in 2002. The key vision was to improve the social and economical well-being of the people of Ethiopia through the exploitation of the opportunities created by ICT, for vitalising and ensuring the establishment of a sustainable democratic system and good governance as well as for achievable, sustainable and rapid socio-economic development. It was subsequently revised in 2017.
The Ethiopian ICT Development Authority (EICTDA) was established in 2003 with a primary goal of completing and implementing the ICT Development Policy. One of the main pillars of the policy was the e-Government Strategy, which implemented 211 eServices (75 informational and 133 transactional) over a five-year period. Priority Services include: eAgriculture, eEducations, eHealth, eTrade, Employee Management, eTransport, Social Benefit Management, eTourism, eTax, eCourt, eMunicipality, Unified Billing System (UBS), Passport and Visas.
The National ICT Policy and Strategy 2009 planned to leverage knowledge and information as a tool for socio-economic development as well as promote and enhance the ICT sector and its contribution in Ethiopia's political, social and economic transformation. Its key objectives were to:
- Build an accessible ICT infrastructure throughout the country;
- Create the necessary skilled human resources requires for the proper development and application of ICT and expand the society's basic knowledge and usage of it;
- Develop the necessary legal framework for the application of ICT and design and implementation appropriate security systems for the prevention of unlawful practices
- Promote the use of ICT for modernizing the civil and public services to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness for service delivery; so as to promote good governance and reduce wastage of resources; and
- Expand and strengthen the role of the private sector to ensure the rapid development of ICT
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) was established pursuant to Proclamation No.691 in October 2010 to strengthen the institutional framework for undertaking policy planning, development and implementation of ICT initiatives in a coordinated manner. MCIT is a result of the merger of three previous agencies: The Ethiopian Information and Communications Technology Development Agency (EICTDA), The Ethiopian Telecommunications Agency (ETA) and the Communication wing of the former Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The Ministry was responsible for promoting the expansion of communication services and the development of Information Technology; setting and implementing standards to ensure the provision of quality, reliable and safe communication and information technology services; regulating the rate of telecommunication service charges; Licensing and regulating telecommunication and postal service operators; facilitating the creation of institutional capacity for the effective implementation of information technology development policy; assigning and monitoring government domain names and coordinating all stakeholders for the creation and proper utilization of country code top level domain, and facilitate the proper implementation of same; facilitating the creation of fast and affordable information access; follow up, and provide necessary support for the implementation of modern information network between and within federal and regional government institutions and ensure mission critical systems and services in public sector are computerized and online services are gradually available to users.
The Ministry consisted of the following Directorates: Capacity Building Directorate; E-Government Directorate; Standard and Regulatory Directorate; ICT Private Sector Development Coordination Directorate. The Capacity Building Directorate among other responsibilities is responsible for supporting ICT Research and Technology Development and guiding, supporting and coordinating national ICT HR and ICT RTD in line with national socio-economic development priorities.
As a result of a government overhaul, which commenced in July 2018, there were discussions to reduce the number of members of the Council of Ministries and merge some Ministries. In October 2018 the Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Communication and Information Technology were merged into a Ministry of Innovation and Technology.
The National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy (2012) was formulated by the Ministry of Science and Technology to support rapid learning, adaptation and utilization of effective technologies by 2022. It aims to create a technology transfer framework that enables the building of national capabilities in technological learning, adaptation and utilization through searching, selecting and importing effective foreign technologies in manufacturing and service providing enterprises.
The major objectives of the STI policy are to:
- Establish and implement a coordinated and integrated general governance framework for building STI capacity;
- Establish and implement an appropriate national Technology Accumulation and Transfer (TeCAT) system;
- Promote research that is geared towards technology learning and adaptation;
- Develop, promote and commercialise useful indigenous knowledge and technologies;
- Define the national science and technology landscape and strengthen linkages among the different actors in the national innovation system;
- Ensure implementation of STI activities in coordination with other economic and social development programs and plans;
- Create conclusive environment to strengthen the role of the private sector in technology transfer activities sustainably.
The key policy issues include technology transfer, human resource development, manufacturing and service providing enterprises, research, financing and incentive schemes, national quality infrastructure development, universities, research institutes, TVET institutions and industries linkage, intellectual property system, science and technology information, environmental development and protection, and international cooperation.
The ICT Policy was revised in 2017 with financial support from the World Bank. The scope of Ethiopia's ICT policy covers knowledge and information as a tool for development & ICT as a sector or industry. As an enabler of socioeconomic development, ICT also supports Ethiopia's on-going process of democratization and good governance. The major areas of ICT application in the area of democratic governance include on-going programs such as civil service reform, justice reform and decentralization. ICT promotes democratic governance by enabling all citizens to participate in the political process as well as have access to global knowledge and information. Thus, the goal of the government is to ensure that all citizens have equal and equitable access to government services and to knowledge and information. Hence, the Government has a commitment to accelerate the development of ICT in order to strengthen the on-going process of sustainable development and poverty reduction as well as good governance and democratic system.
ICT is also a key element in achieving the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 9, and its targets, places an emphasis on the role of technological progress and bridging the digital divide to find lasting solutions for both economic and environmental challenges. The revised ICT Policy articulates policy guidelines and describes critical strategic issues for the development of ICT in Ethiopia. The first chapter highlights the status of ICT development in Ethiopia and also expresses the Government's keen interest in the exploitation and application of ICT. It explains the basic principles of the national ICT policy, in terms of ICT vision, mission, goals, objectives and strategies. Hence, the revised ICT policy is focused on the following policy foundation and strategic pillars that are considered the success of ICT development.
1. ICT Policy Foundation: The following foundational elements are essential to underpin all other aspects of the ICT policy a) ICT infrastructure development, b) Human resource development and c) ICT's legal systems and security,
2. ICT Policy Pillars: With the foundation in place, Ethiopia will be in a better position to exploit the potential of ICT in the country, boost ICT-related industries and leverage ICT to usage in the country.
The following key sectors, industries and cross cutting issues constitute the pillars of this policy and are intended to highlight and guide the use of ICT in the transformation of Ethiopian economy and society
a) ICT for governance /E-Government/; especially ICT in the education sector, ICT for improved health and ICT for agricultural modernization
b) ICT industry and private sector development
c) ICT for research and development
d) Computer and related services
e) Entrepreneurship and innovation
f) Youth and Women
To implement the ICT policy foundation and pillars identified above, designed goals, objectives as well as strategies against each of the sectors are well articulated in the revised ICT policy.