The new Information Age has provided Africa with an opportunity to increase and accelerate development for the benefit of its people.

Addressing a World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR) conference on Wednesday, the Prime Minister of Namibia Nahas Angula said through the utilisation of information and communication technology (ICT), the continent has been able to improve the lives of its people. Around 800 participants attended.

He stated that ICTs have enabled them to participate in the global economy and in electronic commerce.

In this regard, Africa should work tirelessly towards creating an enabling environment for the growth and rapid expansion of ICTs on the continent, he said.

Angula said Africans must put in place policies, guidelines and strategies to effectively utilise ICT applications and services to ensure efficient decision-making, better service delivery and improvement in all government processes.

With information technology, the continent should tackle key development challenges such as development of basic infrastructure and services, generate sufficient economic growth, and create employment opportunities to improve the welfare of its people.

The use of ICT in all stages of education, training and human resources development should be pursued vigorously in Africa, the Prime Minister said.

He called for a sound ICT policy in the education sector as it would go a long way in ensuring a roadmap for the development of ICT teaching and learning programmes for the continents institutions of learning.

We should also consider establishing computer refurbishment centres in our countries in order to reduce the cost of acquiring computers for education and training purposes, Angula said, adding that would enable more schools to acquire computers so that learners can obtain computer literacy from an early age.

Youth need to be trained to empower them to acquire new knowledge and create business opportunities, thereby enabling them to generate income for themselves and their families.

Targeting the youth will eventually create a population which is conversant with IT, and hopefully reliant on it, so as to create the necessary market needed for IT to become an essential industry in our countries, he said.

Prime Minister Angula says since the ICT revolution has the potential to leave out the population outside the mainstream of national development, there was a need for measures to be undertaken in order to bridge the digital gap between communities.

The rural poor, the marginalised urban populations and the youth, will need our urgent attention.

Since Africa has limited financial and technical resources, Angula said the continent should explore a phased and targeted implementation strategy for the rapid spread of ICTs on the continent.

Government should lead the first phase as it publishes information on the Internet with the view to promoting transparency and democracy.

The second phase should be about government initiating interaction and exchanging data with the public through various applications such as e-mail, search engines and the downloading of basic forms, the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Angula said the collaboration between private and civil sectors in the provision of equal access and skills training in ICT applications and services would aid governments efforts in narrowing the digital divide between individuals and also between communities.

Governments, private and civil society should collaborate and set up community information centres to deliver speedy, efficient and effective electronic services to the public, provide increased access to information, and to serve as outposts for knowledge dispersal, effective learning and promote information technology literacy among the population.

He called for the use of ICT to meet key development goals especially those set forth in the UN Millennium Development Declaration and World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to be achieved by 2015.

The challenge is for all of Africa to stand up and become equal partners with the rest of the world in this IT venture, Angula said.