Analysis: EPHRAIM BANDA
GOVERNMENT in accelerating development has dedicated policy documents which outline plans of action. An example of such is a National Development Plan, which is a government policy document that principally outlines Government’s desired developmental outcomes as well as accompanying strategies and programmes.
On June 20, 2018, President Edgar Lungu launched the Seventh National Development Plan aimed at attaining the long-term objectives as outlined in the Vision 2030 of Zambia becoming a prosperous middle-income country.
It builds on the achievements and lessons learnt during the implementation of the previous national development plans.
The 7NDP departs from sectorial-based planning to an integrated multi-sectorial development approach under the theme ‘Accelerating development efforts towards the Vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind’.
The theme carries a lot of content and can be implemented with the involvement of all institutions, to which libraries and information centres are no exception.
The plan is an important document, and as rightly emphasised by President Lungu and Minister of Finance Margret Mwanakatwe, the 2019 national budget was formulated in line with the pillars contained in it. The pillars will enhance sustained growth, while ensuring that no one is left behind.
Government acknowledges the importance of citizen participation in the 7NDP. However, citizens can only participate effectively when information is made available to them on their specific role in the implementation process at various levels.
What then is the role of libraries and information centres in the implementation of the 7NDP?
Libraries and information centres are institutions that collect, organise, preserve, document and disseminate information and knowledge in all formats for the purpose of education, research, recreation and transmission of culture.
One primary function of a library is the dissemination of information. Thus, it is expected to play a crucial role in the dissemination of the policy document to the public. Libraries and information centres ensure copies of the policy document are available in the most appropriate format as well as other supporting information resources to enable access for both the abled and the disabled.
Through dissemination, libraries and information centres create awareness on the policies of Government and the role of every citizen in the implementation process.
Libraries and information centres also operate as points for public feedback. In this case, Zambia has a network of provincial, branch and library centres dotted around the country managed by the Zambia library service. These libraries provide a platform for gathering feedback on public opinion on government policies, as this helps in the monitoring and evaluation of programmes in line with the plan. This exercise targets data collection from the grass roots. Feedback further assists Government in the formulation of new policies as well as improving on the existing ones.
Furthermore, libraries are agents of moral development among citizens. As cited in the Seventh National Development Plan, Zambia faces cultural and behavioural traits, which constitute binding constraints to achieving socio-economic transformation.
These cultural and behavioural traits include moral decay and disregard of positive culture and indigenous knowledge. Libraries and information centres, more especially public and religious libraries, function as agents of change in promoting morality and knowledge sharing through the provision of literature and programmes that encourage cultural exchange and appreciation of positive culture and indigenous knowledge.
Libraries are not only information systems, but also communication systems. This places libraries and information centres in a better position in the implementation of the 7NDP for the actualisation of the SMART Zambia agenda, which is aimed at improving the flow of information within and among government institutions, enterprises and citizens to bring about social and economic benefits to the nation.
Libraries and information centres provide conducive space for the public to interact with ICTs as well as training on the use of ICT tools.
The impact of libraries and information centres in the process of implementation of the national development plan lies in their ability to keep the public well informed and familiar with the policies. However, this impact has not been felt much due to a number of challenges that libraries in Zambia face today. These include inadequate funding and lack of appreciation of the role libraries play in policy implementation.
It is important that libraries are adequately funded. There is also need for stakeholders to improve their efforts in collaborating with public libraries and information centres attached to line ministries in order to achieve the aim of successfully implementing the plan.
The author is a social commentator and blogger.
Analysis: EPHRAIM BANDA