ROLE OF INFORMATION IN THE REALIZATION OF MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS

20 Aug

BY: JAVAS ARAFAT BIGAMBO

INTRODUCTION
World economies share a lot in common in terms of aspirations, problems and approaches to issues affecting individual nations or regions. Countries generally
emphasize the process of economic development and target higher Gross Domestic Product as an outcome. Countries also want to see the environment stay healthy so that there is clean air, clean water, plentiful energy, and biodiversity. They also understand the importance of addressing education and health care, lowering unemployment levels, and reducing poverty. These goals may sometimes be seen as conflicting, where addressing one will complicate the other. Yet ways can be found to ensure that progress can be made on all goals. In developing comprehensive national plans, countries formulate strategies to achieve these visions. Examples include Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) and plans to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These strategies must then be converted into operational plans and budgets. The plans, strategies, and budgets must be comprehensive and be underpinned by rigorous quantitative analysis to ensure that resources are allocated effectively.

The developing countries suffer from common problems ranging from abject poverty to environmental degradation. They have realized that they share these problems and have, in agreement, concerted their efforts towards freeing themselves from these problems through collaborative partnership with developed countries. These efforts were being coordinated by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through international conferences and summits during the 1990s. The outcome of the conferences and summits were summarized into eight (8) goals at a Millennium summit in September 2000 attended by 147 Heads of state. During the summit they committed their states, by declaration, to achieve the distilled goals by 2015. These goals are the ones referred to as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The goals were aimed improving the lives of their citizens. Government budgets are prepared with a view to achieve these goals. For each goal, one or more targets were set with 1990 as a benchmark. The goals and targets include:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015; reduce the proportion of people living on less than one US dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education by 2015; ensure that boys and girls have access to primary education.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women between 2005 and 2015; eliminate gender disparities at all educational levels, employment, political positions etc
4. Reduce child mortality by 2/3 by 2015.

5. Improve maternal health by three quarters on or before 2015.

6. Combat HIV and AIDS, Malaria, and other diseases by 2015; stop and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS and other major diseases.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability by 2015; by integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and reverse the loss of environmental resources. Improve access to safe and clean drinking water and improve living standards of people in rural and slum areas.

8. Develop global partnership for development through open trade and good governance, address poor countries’ special needs, and deal with developing countries’ debts. Develop productive work for youth and, in collaboration with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies-ICTs.

These MDGs are the world’s time-bound and quantified targets for ensuring and guaranteeing conformity to the basic human rights, that is, health, education, shelter and security. Planning must take into account the interdependent and integrated nature of economic and other development processes. Economic growth, for instance, requires a healthy and educated workforce. A healthy and literate workforce requires adequate investment in social services. If planning does not consider the links between economics, society, and the environment, opportunities will be missed for yielding the desired results within real budget and time constraints. Unintended impacts may stifle progress and cause a country to move away from its vision rather than towards it.
Strides toward the achievement of these goals have been made. Between 1990 and 2005, poverty index reduced due to increased income. Child mortality has declined from 103/1000 to 88/1000 and life expectancy has risen from 63 to 67. access to basic essential services such as water and sanitation has improved (UNDP, 2005).

However, these gains have not been uniform amongst the partisan countries for various reasons, lack of information reigning supreme among other reasons. Information is a critical component in the realization of the MDGs because successful implementation depend on the knowledge level of the implementers as well as the beneficiaries, each must be aware of their roles and how each role relate to the others’. This gives information a catalytic role in the overall realization of the MDGs. Thus information systems and managers have an important role in putting in place infrastructures that can facilitate availability and access to information by MDG stakeholders in a form and manner that is most appropriate.
This paper evaluates the role information plays in facilitating the realization of the MDGs. It addresses the goal one by one.

GOAL 1; Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (2015)
According to Karamagioli (2006),Information offers opportunities that contribute towards bridging the socio-economic gap between the poor and the rich and supporting sustainable wealth creation. Efforts towards eradicating poverty and hunger are evident in many developing countries where majority of the world’s population is found. Here, access to information is a problem because education levels are low and access to information facilities such as libraries, media, internet is limited in spite of tremendous effort by respective countries. The progress made by less developed countries (LDCs) in adopting and adapting to the use of ICT is negligible as compared to the millions that live in these countries. This has led to millions missing opportunities to improve their living standards in form of employment opportunities or information on how to improve their state.

Information institutions such as libraries, media houses etc offers various services to a variety of their clientele. For example, a library could issue information, say, to a housewife who wants to start a confectionery business n book form or other media or she could also coincidentally read such article in a daily newspaper. Information professionals know what information is available. This calls for a shift by professionals from routine activities and focus their interest on the needs of their clients. In addition, information professional should market their services to prospective clients. Media houses, especially radio and television do broadcast programs on poverty alleviation while the print media publishes literature on the same for those who can read. The advent of ICTs has helped to speed up information delivery and access, not to mention the creation of employment opportunities, thus contributing directly to poverty reduction.
In Uganda, the government has instituted a poverty eradication action plan (PEAP) which stands on four pillars: fast and sustainable economic growth and structural transformation; good governance and security; actions that empower the poor to generate wealth; actions which improve the quality of life of the poor; and. In all these pillars, information is not mentioned but it is implicit because none of the pillars can exist without the stakeholders’ understanding and goodwill. The goodwill is the result of being informed of the benefits and the roles thereto. The undoing of the PEAP is lack of emphasis on the role of information as a catalyst cutting across the four pillars. In Kenya, things are not very different. The government has introduced the Economic Recovery Strategy (ERS) in which it has recognized agriculture as the sector that is critical in poverty alleviation and hunger. It has introduced the Strategy for Revitalization of Agriculture (SRA) and National food security (NFP).

GOAL 2; Achieve universal primary education (2015)
This is possible through having all boys and girls complete primary education. As many as 113 million youth world over do not attend school either due to poverty or lack of information. Some countries, Kenya included are doing well in this regard. In India, 95% of its youth are attending school, while in Kenya the General Enrolment Rate (GER) stands at 93% after the introduction of free primary education (FPE) in 2004. Gender parity was almost achieved in Primary schools. However there are regional disparities in boy-girl enrolment (Unesco,2005). This may be attributed to cultural beliefs, poverty and lack of information amongst parents. The government has through Sessional Paper number one of 2005 (MOEST, 2005) strategizes on provision of education to its citizens at all levels. Substantial financial allocation has been made to boost the education sector.
Information and media houses have the responsibility to market the need for information so that the people can appreciate the importance of information. The use of ICTs in education has come at the right time and should therefore be encouraged. The challenges facing its successful implementation include poverty, cost of installations, government censorship, etc. Projects such as e-learning should be encouraged should be encouraged for all gender

GOAL 3; Promote gender equality and empower women (2015)
Gender equality refers to the valuation by society of both the similarities and differences between male and female human beings and the different roles they play in the society. It is believed that men and women should enjoy the same status in the society in terms of access to resources and opportunities for realizing their full potential. This will enable them to contribute to national political, economic, social and cultural development ( Wagacha, 2007). In reality women are disadvantaged in this respect, hence the reason for championing such a goal. The gender gap that exists is mainly as result of cultural or traditional beliefs which view women as weaker compared to men.

In Kenya efforts are being made towards bridging the disparity between male and female. In primary education, the government introduced free primary education which has seen more girls enroll in public primary schools as compared to boys. But n secondary, tertiary and university education female enrolment is alarmingly low as compared to their male counterparts. The high enrolment in primary schools is attributed to the government policy abolishing charges in primary education in 2003 (Onsomu, et al, 2006). Most families in rural Kenya are poor and ardent cultural practitioners, unable to pay fees and would prefer to pay for male children and marry out the girls to raise fees from the dowry paid. High up in academic ladder fewer female are seen. In spite of the government policy to have 30% women in public formal employment in 2003, little success has been realized. In governance and policy making levels less than 13% women are represented as compared to Rwanda’s 48%. It is understandable that in Rwanda’s case, that many men lost ther lives in civil wars leaving more women than men.

However, with the expanded democratic space, access to information has been made easier. Pressure groups, NGOs, individuals and government have embarked on a spirited campaign to enlighten the masses about their rights, opportunities and challenges facing the society. This has given the power to fight for opportunities, not only to women but also to disadvantaged men. The government monopoly and power to censure information has further been reduced by the advent of Information Communications Technology (ICT) whereby public access to government and other information is possible with little government interference.

Bridging gender equality gap depends greatly on the availability and utilization of information infrastructures that can facilitate access to information. These infrastructures include information institutions (libraries, archives, data centers etc), media houses (TV, Radio, Newspapers etc), the internet and barazas. Information systems provide print and other forms of information materials supporting fundamental knowledge; Internet provides information on a wide range of topics , both local and foreign; Broadcasting stations and publishing firms provide news and documentaries on a variety of topics too.
Information is a great equalizer. Access to information on education leads to literacy. This means that one is able to read and write. It also means that one can read, understand and apply the knowledge acquired. Information acquired makes either gender aware of their rights as a basis of equalization. Information therefore is a critical component in the effort of empowering women and promoting gender equality.

GOAL 4; Reduce child mortality by 2/3 children under five years of age by 2015.
Every year, nearly 11milln youth die before their fifth birthday due to preventable diseases ad malnutrition. This can be attributed to poverty and lack of information. Governments, in collaboration with WHO and UNICEF, have concentrated on immunization and education of mothers on how they can prevent, manage and cure common ailments that threaten the live of the child. The major challenges facing this effort are:
1. Cost of access to healthcare services. In fact most of the cases are prevalent among the rural poor. If such can access information on how they could generate income, the idea of medical or healthcare costs will be a thing of the past.
2. HIV/AIDS threatens to reverse the gains made. Information about prevention and management of AIDS cases counts a lot in sustaining the gains.
3. Lack of human resource to deal with skills needed to deal with childhood illnesses. Education and training coupled with organizational innovative learning.
4. Poor and inadequate supply system.
5. Research into neonatal deaths.
Child mortality is prevalent in areas where most people are not educated ant do not, therefore have access to published and broadcast information. Besides they cannot use ICT to access information of whatever nature. Education and information are therefore inseparable. People need to be educated to be able to use ICTs Which have helped to speed up information access, delivery and dissemination. In fact the AHILA/AIBSA conference held in Mombasa in September 2006 resolved to:
1. The significance that access to health information plays in the realization of the MDGs. Public libraries and other information system should, along with stakeholders, disseminate health information to the rural population.
2. Endorse the campaign for Health Information for All (HIFA) by 2015.
3. Train health and information specialists so as to equip them with knowledge and skills for disseminating health information to the rural population.
4. Create partnerships in the creation, acquisition, organization and dissemination of health information. This is made possible through training in research, documentation, management and ICT.

GOAL 5; Improve maternal health by reducing the number of women dying in childbirth by ¾ by 2015.
In the developed world, the number of mothers dying at childbirth is negligible but I the developing countries. This can be attributed to technological developments and access to information. Most women in developed countries are aware of their rights, have access to information and are therefore more advantaged as compared to their counterparts in the developing world. The rate of deaths in developing countries may be because of low education rates which curtail their ability to access information. In collaboration with WHO most countries have reduced the rates through the introduction of safe motherhood programs in health facilities and through community-based organizations
In Kenya, immunization program e.g KEPI and access to low cost preventive measures e.g treated mosquito nets have helped reduce maternal mortality. The government has also increased funding to hospitals and other health-related sectors such s education and training. Access to reproductive health services have been made easy. However, there may be no effect if the subjects do not know or have information about this facilities. Information houses have the duty to disseminate the information by all mans. Use of ICT cannot be ignored.

GOAL 6; Combat HIV and AID, malaria and other diseases (2015)
Health Information For All (HIFA) launched at the AHILA Conference(2006) purposed to have every person, by 2015, should have access to an informed health care provider. In developing countries prevalence of diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS is common, not because this cannot be reversed, but because there is lack of sufficient information on the part of the people and the healthcare providers on prevention, management and curative strategies. Information can be accessed to a great extent by educating the society on the need to sharpen information seeking habits and methods. The campaign to educate the masses can be launched by health professional as well as the information professionals through libraries, media houses and other stakeholders to ensure that every member of the society is informed. In addition, government strategies and policies should be instituted and strengthened.
In Kenya, campaign to keep the public informed is up especially with declaration of HIV/AIDS as a national disaster by the president in 1999. The government having, introduced National Aids Control Council (NACC) and the National Malaria Strategy, among other efforts, to campaign against HIV/AIDS, malaria and other prevalent diseases. Community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations should work very closely with information institutions to boost access to information by the communities. Use of ICT should be encouraged to speed up information delivery.

GOAL 7; Ensure environmental sustainability (2015)
Environment and natural resources provide a base for economic and social development including poverty eradication. However its importance has not been precisely valuated and factored into GDP as a basis for food production and wealth generation. In fact, environment cuts across all sectors and contributes directly and indirectly towards achieving the MDGs. That is, activities in all sector have an environmental dimension which when mainstreamed, all MDGs will be realize with little strain. Poverty is the greatest threat to environmental sustainability because the poor can only access that which is available in their environment for exploitation. Resources such as forests are at a risk. Industry also threatens because it draws raw materials from the environment and produces industrial emissions which pollute the environment.
To counter the challenges facing environmental sustainability, the government has established a National environmental Management authority (NEMA) to coordinate environmental management/ protection. In addition, policy, legal framework, and environmental education have been given priority in the fight to protect the environment.
The advent of ICT creates an opportunity to speed up information communication and exchange. The government needs to establish an Environment Management System (EIS) to facilitate information gathering, collation, dissemination and management. The use of other ICT facilities such as media for advocacy and education can boost the efforts made by all stakeholders in environmental management.

GOAL 8; Develop global partnership for development
The slow pace at which the MDGs are being realized in the developing countries, it is clear that most of these countries lack the capacity to realize the targets. This is why the countries need support form the international community in terms of funding, technology and skilled manpower. This may be done through partnerships such as Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). Most developing countries, Kenya included, have had such support cut due to poor governance and corruption. But Kenya, through prudent financial management and enactment of anti-corruption legislation has found favour in the eyes of the donor-countries which act as development partners with Kenya. The partnership exists in the form of ODA, debt cancellation, foreign market access, technology transfer and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). Kenya like many developing countries is still constrained in achieving MDGs.
In an effort to free themselves from the constraints, developing countries are now setting up trading blocs by which their bargaining power is enhanced and markets are created. Such partnerships are important in realizing the MDGs. Timely and appropriate exchange of information between partners is important. This can be possible by use of Information technology.

Conclusion
Information plays a catalytic role in the realization of the millennium development goals. This calls for information institutions to stand up and provide information necessary for sustainable development in developing countries. They should not only be interested in accurate information delivery, but they should also take keen interest in the relevance, packaging and speed of delivery. ICT plays a key role in boosting the speed of delivery as well as well as variety especially if the internet is involved.

MDG Realization model
An overview of the goals can be realized is explained below with the help of a model.
A) Society: This is the country, community or any group which has needs. The needs include food, shelter etc that are a threat to the existence of the society.
B) Information: This involves capacity building through awareness creation. Information can be accessed through education in schools, use of libraries and other information systems, pressure groups. The subjects can then equip themselves with preventive as well as curative knowledge and skills.
C) Plans: The society has objectives that it seeks to realize. Forecasts of how the objectives will be realized are drawn.
D) Strategies: Approaches as to how the objectives will be realized are drawn.
E) Budgets: This involves estimation of the resource requirements i.e financial, material and time.
F) MDGs

The elements of the model are shown below:

REFERENCES
1. Millennium Institute. Threshold 21: Integrated Development Model
2. Republic of Kenya. Ministry of Education ,Science and Technology. Elimu News, 2007
3. United Nations Development Programme. Millennium Development Goals, 2000
4. Karamagioli, Evika. Achieving MDGs through the use of Information and Communication Technology, 2006
5. Republic of Uganda. Ministry of Finance. Poverty Eradication Action Plan, 2006
6. AHILA|AIBSA. Millennium Development Goals and Health Information Provision in Africa,2006.
7. ILO. Gender: Equality between men and women,
8. Wagacha Wambui. Access to information as a driver towards closing of the gender gap: the emerging scenes in Kenya, 2007

The author can be reached through: jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke

2 Responses to “ROLE OF INFORMATION IN THE REALIZATION OF MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS”

  1. David August 21, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    Javas; it’s of great importance to identify where we are going and where we ought to be as a nation. Thank you for sharing with us this information. We are part and parcel of this great country of Kenya, as well as citizens of the world. Don’t hesitate to spread the knowledge which will expand our thinking to the horizons.

  2. lynetteakinyi@yahoo.com October 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    Thank you for sharing with us this information. continue spreading the knowledge so that together as one we can work hand in hand towards accomplishing these goals.

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