ICT development strategies agreed at Africa Region meeting
ITU’s African Region Preparatory Meeting for the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2010 (WTDC) concluded last week in Kampala, Uganda with delegates reaching consensus on regional strategies to foster the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) throughout Africa. The agreed strategies and priorities will serve as inputs to next year’s WTDC.
The meeting was opened by the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda, the Right Honourable Henry M. Kajura, on behalf of the Ugandan Prime Minister, in the presence of ITU Deputy Secretary-General Houlin Zhao; the Hon. Dr Aggrey Siryoyi Awori, Uganda’s Minister of ICT; the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid; and Chairman of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), Eng. Dr A.M.S. Katahoire. Mr Patrick Masambu, Executive Director, UCC, served as Chairman of the meeting.
A High Level Panel took place on the first day, during which participants took stock of the impact of the global financial crisis on ICT development in Africa, and considered how ICT could be leveraged to jump-start growth and development going forward.
An agreement was signed by Al Basheer, on behalf of ITU, and Philippe Njoni, Minister des Transports, Postes et Télécommunications, Burundi, for the development of national ICT broadband networks to deliver free or low cost digital access for schools and hospitals, and for underserved populations in rural and remote areas. This agreement is the first in a series, forming part of a large-scale project for the region launched by ITU as follow up to the Connect Africa Summit in 2007. ITU is currently negotiating agreements with additional countries and working with potential funding partners, including the African Development Bank, to help meet the growing demand for broadband network investment.
Following a review of the 2006 WTDC Doha Action Plan, the meeting set priorities for future development consolidated into five broad programmes and five regional initiatives. It also identified topics to be the subject of study over the next four years.
The programmes cover:
Information and communication Infrastructure
Cybersecurity and ICT applications
Capacity building and other initiatives
Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States
Programmes will be implemented through the creation of tools, the development of training materials, and information dissemination (workshops and seminars), as well as through direct assistance.
Chairman of the meeting Patrick Masambu underlined the need to narrow the digital divide, develop broadband networks, build human capacity, deal with the issues emerging from the increasing convergence in ICTs, and strengthen cybersecurity.
Al Basheer recognized the rapid growth of ICT in the African region but acknowledged the existing gap between the countries that have attained higher growth in ICT and those that still have limited access. He emphasized the intrinsic link between ICT development and socio-economic development and insisted on the need to invest in ICTs despite the current economic downturn, especially to improve broadband access in the region.