South Africa establishes its National IFAP Committee

On Wednesday 15 October 2014, with the support of the South African National Commission for UNESCO and Mr Hezekiel Dlamini, Advisor for Communication and Information in UNESCO’s Harare Office, the South African National Committee of the Information for All Programme (IFAP) was officially formed.

With a membership drawn from governmental, non-governmental and civil society organizations in South Africa working in the six priority areas covered by IFAP, the newly established National IFAP Committee is well positioned to support the development and implementation of information policy strategies and frameworks in South Africa.

A three-person executive comprising of Mr Coetzee Bester, Director of the African Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics (ACEIE), as Chairperson; Mr George Molepo, CI Programme Officer in the South African National Commission for UNESCO, as Secretary; and Ms Sebenzile Zibani  of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), as Deputy-Secretary were selected by the members of the newly formed National IFAP Committee members to lead its work.

Through the ACEIE as well as the African Network for Information Ethics (ANIE), Mr Bester has been an invaluable partner, in a variety of activities in the IFAP priorities at the national, regional and international level. In concert with UNESCO’s Harare Office, ACEIE is also organizing 4 national information ethics workshops in Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. The ACEIE will also provide office space for the National IFAP Committee.  

In thanking the South African National Commission for UNESCO and the Advisor for Communication and Information in UNESCO’s Harare Office, Coetzee Bester referred to the support and guidance from all UNESCO structures related to Information Ethics since 2007: “During this period we have conducted ground breaking research and issued publications on Information Ethics in Africa which has also benefited from the invaluable support of the more than 50 academic and training institutions across the continent who are active members of ANIE”. He committed to a strong focus on a safe cyber environment within the IFAP objectives for South Africa and hopefully the UNESCO Africa Region and indicated that “plans are underway to organize during the period 2015 – 2019 school programmes to ensure safe access to safe information for all learners, teachers and parents and I expect that this will be shortly announced by ACEIE”.

Other organizations participating as founding members of the South African National IFAP Committee include the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, the Department of Communications, the Department of Science  and Technology, the National Library of South Africa, the National Archives of South Africa, the South African Digitisation Initiative, the Kara Heritage Institute, the National Research Foundation, the Human Science  Research Council (Africa Institute of South Africa), the University of Pretoria and the Ditsong Museum of South Africa.

In addition to activities to be undertaken in South Africa, the newly formed National IFAP Committee will also contribute to strengthening IFAP’s contribution in the Southern Africa Region further bolstering the gains that have been made in Botswana and Zambia. A regional meeting of Southern African National IFAP Committees is also being planned for the first quarter of 2015. Reacting to the good news, Mr. Dlamini, UNESCO’s Adviser for Communication and Information for Southern Africa said: “This is a very important development, Southern Africa needs National IFAP Committees that have the capacity to become active partners in shining the torch on IFAP priorities in the region”.  

Satisfaction and congratulations were also extended by Mr Paul Hector, Programme Specialist at UNESCO Headquarters coordinating IFAP’s activities worldwide: “ This is a timely and significant contribution to strengthening IFAP's global outreach and we are committed to working with you to build knowledge societies in South Africa and the region”.

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.