The Addis Abeba City Land Administration and Development Authority has granted a 200,000sqm plot for what federal government authorities hope will become Ethiopia's high tech hub, much like Hyderabad or Bangalore in India.

The plot was given to the Ethiopian Information and Communication Technologies Development Agency (EICTDA), a federal agency responsible for the expansion of information and communications technology in Ethiopia, in the first week of May 2006, a source disclosed.

The plot, taking up one third the area of the two designated industrial zones in Addis Abeba, is in the Bole Lemmi Industry Village located near the CMC area. The agency is the first government entity to be granted a plot in this village. EICTDA is to begin construction of the technology park within a year. Once completed, it is hoped to be the largest in East Africa.

The agency, established in 2003 and managed by a Director General, Debretsion Gebremichael, will relocate to the park along with private investors, according to a EICTDA source. The park will host a number of IT investors such as software developers, and serve as an infrastructure base for international giants such as Microsoft and Cisco. Authorities hope that the completed technology park will attract multinationals and encourage local firms to build capacity.

Fikre Y. Wendimu, public relations officer with the Ethiopian IT Professionals Association (EITPA), told Fortune that he hopes the government will build infrastructure such as roads, water, videoconference access and a high bandwidth telecommunications network.

High bandwidth, he said, helps to save a huge amount of foreign currency flow from the country. Hosting web pages cost 300 dollars to over 100,000 dollars per year, depending on the quality and volume of works involved.

"We can use our human capital to develop the web pages locally so that a huge amount of foreign currency will be generated if this park is established in Ethiopia," said Fikre.

Established in 1998 with 50 founding members, the association organized a conference on Monday, July 10, 2006, at the United Nations Conference Centre under the title, "Harnessing the ICT Potential in Ethiopia".

Tefera Walwa, minister of Capacity Building, spoke at the event and said that the government recognized information and communications technology as a key sector; an industry that can accelerate development and help democratisation in Ethiopia.

"The Government will do its part mainly by creating a favourable environment for the development of the ICT sector," Tefera told participants.

Addis Fortune