African Telecommunications Union (ATU) highlighted importance of connecting rural and remote areas in Africa to economic opportunities at AfricaCom held on 7- 9 November in Cape Town, saying that connectivity, affordability and accessibility key focus for Africa’s digital inclusivity and rural network coverage.
The Secretary General of African Telecommunications Union (ATU) Abdoulkarim Soumaila said at ICT Africa forum during the premier Pan-African technology, telecoms and media event that, connectivity has the potential to positively impact and transform people’s lives in a number of areas, including health, education and financial services and agriculture.
“All people must be able to access the Internet in order to exercise and enjoy their rights to a better quality of life, dignity and equality.” Abdoulkarim said.
Statistics from GSMA shows that approximately 53% of the world’s population is still unconnected. Four-fifths of this unconnected population are located in Asia-Pacific and in Africa. On average, 69% of the African population do not have access to the Internet, with many of those unconnected living in rural areas.
Abdoulkarim stated that there is a definite need for smarter strategies and co-operation amongst the various stakeholders to ensure digital Inclusivity.
“In order to make rural connectivity a reality, governments and stakeholders need to make it a priority. It is necessary to develop suitable networks at an appropriate time and gradually overlay infrastructure and services until the ultimate goal of an ICT Society and Knowledge Economy is achieved.” Abdoulkarim said.
The forum with the theme, “Build a Better Connected Africa – How to Accelerate the Development of ICT Systems” was attended by government officials including communication ministers from South Africa, Angola, Ghana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, representatives from GSMA, Deloitte, Huawei and Telco Operators in Sub-Saharan region.
Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services of South Africa said there are a number of obstacles to increasing access to ICT services among African countries, from low levels of digital literacy, to insufficient infrastructure to support the delivery of services, and the high cost to connect, which creates a huge digital divide, and this forum is an opportunity for leaders from regional government agencies, top carriers and industry stakeholders to exchange ideas on innovation, best practices and models for sustainable growth.
“Government approach towards reducing the digital divide should include both the supply side and demand side interventions. Creating ICT policies and regulation based on the new ICT ecosystem helps in defining the various roles that will be played.” Cwele said.
Lipeng, president of Huawei Southern Africa region said most African policy-makers have created favorable environments for the ICT sector, and the private sector also plays an important role in provision of the technology, solution, service and training, help transforming and enriching people’s life through communication.
“Huawei is ready to share our local practices and global expertise with all related stakeholders, to contribute to accelerating ICT development in Africa.” Li said.