Source – ITU:
Ghana hosts regional preparatory meeting for ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference 2014
Push for ICTs as agents of development and empowerment in Africa
Geneva, 2 October 2013 – The Regional Preparatory Meeting for Africa, ahead of ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Conference 2014, opened today in Ghana, Accra. The meeting, which will be in session until 4 October, will assess the ongoing implementation of the Hyderabad Plan of Action agreed at the last edition of the Conference in 2010 and identify priority areas for ICT development strategies in the African region.
ITU’s sixth World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-14) will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, 31 March – 11 April 2014. The gathering of policy makers, regulators and experts from around the world will forge a plan of action for telecommunication and ICT development over the next four years. The preparatory meeting in Accra will address key areas of interest for the African region.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré welcomed the opportunity to hold the preparatory meeting for WTDC-14 in Accra. “Ghana has been endowed with natural resources like many other African countries, but it has built on its human capital and innovation to develop high economic growth and count among top per capita GDP rates on the continent,” Touré said in his message. “This is an inspiration for us to invest in ICT development in Africa and capitalize on the inherent talent for innovation among African people to generate overall economic growth and achieve the goals of sustainable development.”
Ghana enjoys over 100% mobile cellular subscriptions with 26.33 million subscribers recorded in February this year. Mobile broadband subscriptions surpassed 33 per cent with over 17 per cent of the population using the Internet.
Addressing the opening session of the meeting, ITU Deputy Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, said, “ITU is committed to connecting the world, and to bring the benefits of ICTs to the world’s people. We will continue to make bold steps in accelerating progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.”
Noting that the RPM aims to advance openness and inclusion in the discussions of ICT for development and ITU’s commitment to connecting the world serves as “a catalyst for Africa’s attainment the Millennium Development Goals”, Minister for Communications and Technology of Ghana, Mr Edward K. Omane Boamah, remarked, “Over the past five years, Africa’s mobile market overtook fixed lines in 2001 and now outnumber fixed telephone lines by nearly ten to one, with mobile cellular subscribers set to grow to more than 300 million by the year end.” He noted that this potential for development brings Africa into the Information Technology Age.
The African region has experienced remarkable growth in mobile-cellular networks and services development since 2008, allowing an increasing number of the almost 850 million people in the region to get connected and join the information society. Within five years, the region’s mobile-cellular penetration rate has doubled from 32 to 64 per cent and active mobile-broadband penetration, which was practically non-existent in 2008, has grown to almost 11 per cent. ICT uptake in the region has been growing faster than in other regions, with the 2008-2013 growth rates of key ICT services well above the global average.
“Credit goes to governments for their political will, to the private sector for investing in the ICT sector, and to the citizens for a high uptake of these new technologies,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “I believe the future is very bright for Africa.”
Sanou pointed to the global population of young people born in the digital age that are nurtured on information and communication technologies as an integral part of their lives. “More than 20 per cent of the population in Africa consists of young people within the 15-24 age range – as compared to 12.4 per cent in Europe,” Sanou noted. “As the future is in the hands of the youth, the prospects for Africa are very good.”
The RPM was preceded by the Regional Development Forum (RDF) for Africa. The Forum provided a platform for open dialogue, cooperation and partnerships among telecommunication/ICT policy makers, regulators, industry, academia, regional and international development agencies and organizations on telecommunication/ICT issues of regional concern.
Based on ICT for Development and Empowerment in Africa – IDEA, the sessions focused on broadband as an enabling agent for development and empowerment in Africa, examining innovative ways and initiatives to bring broadband applications and services to users, especially in the areas of governance, healthcare, commerce, agriculture and education. Particular attention was given to the ITU m-Powering Development initiative and the potential for mobile applications to change lives. Enhancing cybersecurity featured prominently with an emphasis on creating a safer cyberspace for children, electronic transactions, and personal data protection with the establishment of Computer Incidence Response Teams (CIRT).
Countries of the region welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the preparations for the upcoming world conference in 2014. A series of regional meetings have taken place around the world this year to provide inputs to WTDC-14, with two more of the six preparatory meetings remaining.
For more information, please see www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Conferences/WTDC/WTDC14/RPM-AFR/Pages/default.aspx