For several years, ICT has been the focus of special interest. According to the Commission on Science and Technology for Development, “ICT will be crucial for sustainable development in developing countries.”
Several initiatives have been taken internationally to support Africa’s efforts in developing infrastructure and communication services that are interconnected with the global information highway to allow these countries to move as quickly as possible to sustainable development.
Although, most actors agree intuitively on the positive role that ICTs can play in development, the links between development and use of ICT has not yet been clearly established and rigorously supported by facts and experiences in Africa.
The challenge in Africa depends therefore on its capacity to create wealth to reduce poverty significantly first and then climb to record levels for wealth creation.
In an interview with African Manager, Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union, emphasizes the willingness of government authorities to promote economic development through the creation and exports of value added services.
Five years after WSIS, a number of African strategies have been implemented to achieve the 2015 targets. How do you see the current situation of ICT in Africa?
ICT is the area where the goals will certainly be realized. Among the eight Millennium Development Goals, Goal 8 is on communication and information. It is the only current objective.
The point for us is to use information and communication technology in order to help speed up other sectors, namely health and education. We can never achieve these goals in 5 years without e-medicine or e-education. The use of new technologies will enable us to achieve other goals whether in trade, transport, energy saving…
Information and communication technologies have an impact on the sectors of social life. That’s why I put in place the Broadband Commission within the Union, in coordination with the Director General of UNESCO. This commission submitted a report to the United Unions Secretary General on September 19, on the eve of the Millennium Summit in order to provide a contribution. This year we celebrate Tunis + 5. We can say that 2010 is a pivotal year, the year in the middle (between 2005, the second phase of WSIS and the targets set for 2015). It is for us to analyze what has been achieved so far, to review new strategies and to take necessary actions to achieve the goals sought-after for 2015.
We are hopeful, because the continent has started achieving for the first time positive economic indicators in terms of mobile growth. The African continent has been number 1 on ITU statistics for 5 years, and this cannot be done by chance. This means there is something good that has been done in Africa.
What about the regulatory standpoint?
From a regulatory perspective, ICT is the only area where the same opportunities are available to everyone. The point for each state in this world is to establish a legislative and regulatory structure that should be attractive for private investment. These countries should also establish a training and education structure. This is the proper role of governments after gaining a vision of development and it is up to the private sector to invest. We do not lack leaders in this area and I am very satisfied.
Among the recommendations retained, building capacity and promoting innovation. Can you elaborate?
We must build capacity in all areas not only to develop infrastructure but also to make efforts to develop content, a thing which we lack today.
Is there any assistance proposed by the Union to facilitate youth’s access to ICT?
Absolutely, there are aids available, but personally I’m against the system of aid. I say we should create appropriate conditions to help the private sector works by providing opportunities for young people to integrate into the job market, giving them a chance to innovate and create. Everywhere, we must find funding to create new projects. It is for governments to establish a regulatory structure that would be attractive to the private sector which already exists in several countries. I can give the example of mobile growth in which Africa has been number 1 in the world for 5 years. It is for us to reverse the lesson we took in the area of mobile in Internet and to create broadband and content. That is the challenge we face. By implementing a good policy we can stimulate young people.