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The conference will be addressed by African and Asian ICT ministers, including Hon. Ignace Gatare, Minister in Charge of ICTs, Office of the President, Rwanda; Hon. Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa, Minister of Communications and Transport, Zambia; Hon. Abdourahim Agne, Minister of Telecommunications, ICT and Transport, Senegal; Dr Edmund Katiti, CEO of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission; Mr. Shankar Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Department of Information Technology, Government of India; and Mr. Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information and Innovation, Government of India.

 

Stressing on the need to connect rural communities, the CEO of CTO, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, said, “Providing network access to rural communities is one of the recommendations of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and supports the attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) defined by the UN. Self-sustaining growth in broadband access and other more basic connectivity channels must be achieved in underserved and unconnected regions. However, this can only be accomplished through continuous and fruitful collaborations between a variety of public and private sector partners. It also involves sharing best practices among ICT stakeholders across continents to ensure successful and speedy implementation of ICT strategies. This CTO conference will enable Governments, policy makers, ICT regulators, operators, equipment manufacturers, software vendors, call center operatives, financiers, academics and consultants, and infrastructure developing companies to meet to discuss and evaluate the achievements, challenges and opportunities in connecting rural communities.”

Dr Spio-Garbrah stated that, amongst other challenges, ICT roll-out in rural areas can entail considerable investment. “However, in the developing countries, these challenges can be even more daunting. There are many constraints of unreliable power, poor road networks, low broadband capacity, illiteracy, lower incomes, and diverse socio-political dynamics. As a result, some have questioned the financial merits of investing in rural ICTs, and whether rural communities provide the necessary return on investment. The conference will help to highlight the latest technological solutions, innovative business models, and the Public-Private-Peoples’ Partnerships needed for improved rural connectivity. In particular, participants will examine the growing use of mobile phones as platforms to deliver a growing range of mobile applications, content and services to rural dwellers,” he said.

The conference will cover topics on key issues concerning the strategies for improving governance and public services delivery through ICTs,  the disparities in rural and urban access, a review of recent developments in Asia and globally, and Rural ICT Policy 2.0. Other issues to be discussed include developing national goals and strategies for providing connectivity, applications and content in rural areas, operators’ strategies in improving rural dwellers’ access to services, the development of effective distribution networks for rural areas and its challenges,  tried and tested approaches to pricing and profitability, and the business case and strategies for rural broadband access. Other subjects to be debated by participants are the benefits of 3G and broadband wireless availability in the rural communities, the importance of WiMax, m-Content developments, the impact of  cultural gaps and capacity-building challenges for both voice and non-voice operations, and the benefits and perceived risks of running rural Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs).

Speakers and panelists include high-profile representation from public and private sector organizations, such as the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, the Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd., the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), the National Communications Authority (NCA) of Ghana, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), the Nigerian Communications Commission, the National Communications Commission (NATCOM) of Sierra Leone, and the  Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC). India’s ICT sector will be heavily represented through participation by executives of the Telecom Export Promotion Council (TEPC), the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), BSNL, Idea Cellular Ltd., Reliance Communications, City Cell Bangladesh, the GSMA, the Communications & Manufacturing Association of India (CMAI) and Coral Telecom. Other major global and Asian private sector executives attending are from Tejas Networks, Research in Motion, WiMAX Forum, Microsoft, Alvarion BWA Wireless Solutions Pvt Ltd, the Asia Pacific Telecentre Network (APTN) Secretariat, ICT Agency of Sri Lanka, C-DOT, GTL, VIOM, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Google India, Luna Ergonomics, elLoka Techsolutions Pvt Ltd, and the Centre for Development Finance. Other delegates will represent Hungama Mobile, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Government of Rajasthan, SourcePilani, eGram IT, Source for Change, B2R Technologies Pvt. Ltd, NASSCOM Foundation,  the Universal Service Obligation Fund, Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, the Commonwealth Centre for e-Governance, Reuters Market Light, Thomson Reuters, Reliance Foundation, UDAAN, EKO Financial Services, EkGaon, NComputing India, Phoenix Software and the Drishtee Foundation.