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Information ecosystems of policy actors – reviewing the landscape

This is a draft report to share some interim findings from the study – "Information Ecosystems of Policy Actors – reviewing the landscape." This report is for general circulation on the understanding that it is a work in progress. The research was part of the Mobilising Knowledge for Development programme based funded by DFID (UK). The programme is based at IDS and works with a range of partners and collaborators to strengthen the knowledge intermediary sector. The interim findings report on face-to-face structured interviews with 368 policy actors in 4 countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Nepal and India.

The report asks the following questions and makes recommendations for the knowledge intermediary sector:

  • what Information and Communication Technology (ICT) do policy actors have access to? Policy actors as a part of the elite of the country have an equivalent access to the average American household. Early adopters of the newer forms of ICT are changing their search behaviour.. Knowledge intermediaries need to adapt their mechanisms for emerging patterns of behaviour. Some policy actors are already using smartphones, and the development of mobile apps that assist research communications is appropriate
  • do policy actors use traditional media to inform their work? Policy actors do use the traditional media (newspapers, radio, television and other public forms of broadcasting) to update themselves about their work, but there are issues of trust, and its use a primary source of local information is diminishing. However, there is a role for the knowledge intermediary to assist the translation of research and evidence into the media
  • do policy actors rely on being given information, or do they search for it themselves? There is an assumption that senior policy actors may not be searching for information themselves, and that they are presented with information.  While this may remain the case in the poorer more formal countries, it is less so in the mid-range countries. Where connectivity is improving, policy actors will look for information themselves
  • when policy actors engage with the internet, what do they do? The majority respondents engaged with emails, obtained official information and read online news. Data confirms the dominance of Google (at the moment). In terms of existing websites that specialise in development information there was a reasonable awareness across the respondents but there is room for improvement
  • how do policy actors value different origins of research? International research is still largely trusted more highly than local research. Although in India and Ethiopia local research is thought to be as relevant as international research. Useful data like NGO surveys, and desk summaries of government policies, are accessed relatively frequently. This suggests it is the utility of the information that encourages frequent access
  • evidence, persistence and satisfaction – the paper asks what the survey can tell us about the demand for "evidence" (facts and figures)? What does the survey tell us about the demand for "nformation" (are policy actors persistent)? Does Technology lead to information satisfaction? Do policy actors use libraries? Are the policy actors cost sensitive regarding research information? Do people prefer to print out or read on screen? What is the influence of children on policy actors?f
  • future use of new ICT services –  these include Social and business networking, Twitter, instant messaging, Audio Online, Video Online and smartphone use. In general positive attitudes towards the new ICT services, reinforced by positive social referents, and with very few limiting control factors, are all linked to a positive intention to use. It is likely that policy actors will be increasingly using the new ICT services in the coming year