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  • More ICT4D Please!

    This is a response to a blog post published last week by Eric Hersman, also known as the @WhiteAfrican - The Subtle Condescension of “ICT4D”.

    I have been involved in a range of ICT4D issues in South Africa and beyond over the course of the 11 years I have worked for SANGONeT. Last week we hosted the 7th annual SANGONeT “ICT for Civil Society” conference in Johannesburg which focused on ICTs for rural development (ICT4RD) in Africa under the theme “Rural Realities, Real Solutions”. It is these experiences that compel me to comment on the mentioned article and respond to some of the issues Hersman raises.

    Hersman begins his article with the statement:

    “I have cognitive dissonance over the term “ICT4D“. The term “ICT4D” is confusing, hypocritical and has a whiff of condescension that makes me cringe. As I understand it, it’s what NGO’s do in places like Africa and Asia, but if the same things are done in poor communities in the US or Europe, it’s not called ICT4D, it’s called civil society innovation or a disruptive product.”

    It is not so much what (the ICT4D issue) Hersman raises in the article - although the relevance, success and impact of ICT4D initiatives in Africa should be assessed in a critical manner - but rather, how and from which position he raises these issues.

    Confronting and responding to Africa's development challenges, and technology’s role within this, is a complex and definitely not light hearted issue. Raising these issues for the sake of “testing the waters” or getting people worked up does not make sense to me. Especially if you as the author of the article is a perfect example of what ICT4D in Africa represents - coming up with great ideas which attract funding support and ultimately result in opportunities to contribute to meaningful and longterm development - or - just opportunities to “do things in the name of development” without fully understanding the issues to be addressed of the longterm commitment required to ensure meaningful impact.

    For someone who has been very prominent in the African ICT4D space, Eric Hersman’s role and contribution definitely fit into the former and not latter scenario.

    Development is also not simply a term “owned” by international agencies and other stakeholders to motivate and justify their presence in and support to Africa – it refers to improvement, empowerment, progress, innovation, etc. It is about moving to something better and more meaningful than what the current situation represents.

    From an “international development perspective”, it is no longer what you can do for Africa but rather what you can do with Africa in support of the needs and aspirations articulated by Africans. Any different perspective on the role of international development support is problematic, to say the least.

    Technology has an important role to play in the future development and prosperity of the continent. It contributes to economic growth and innovation on the one side, and supports efforts that address Africa’s historical development challenges on the other.

    These two issues represent different sides to the same coin – but often require very different approaches, and different roleplayers, to achieve the desirable objectives.

    Whatever you prefer to call technology is irrelevant - IT / ICT / ICT4D / ICT4RD / M4D/ Tech4Dev, etc. What really matters is the intent, the objectives and the motivation for using it.

    But, technology for technology’s stake is downright stupid.

    Too many technology for development projects and interventions fail because of the emphasis on the technology without understanding the development issue/s and/or what it would take to ensure the implementation of the technology will ultimately achieve success and impact. Too many technology competitions, awards and challenges place too much focus on the development of “more new tools” rather on what has been achieved.

    Hersman also asks the following question:

    “If an ICT4D-type project is done in a poor part of America, is it still considered ICT4D?”

    In my opinion the answer is – no! Why? Because if a First World country - with all the necessary technology and resources at its disposal - wastes its resources on meaningless external political objectives, while allowing a morally bankrupt financial system to cripple its economy, and as a result of all of this, neglects the needs of its own people, then you can’t compare it to the historical situation and development challenges which characterise many African countries.

    Africa has also wasted many opportunities over the past few decades to improve its socio-economic situation. There is no excuse for this and sadly, future generations will continue to suffer from this. However, this does not mean that the international community should turn their backs on Africa or use it as an excuse to disengage from the continent. It should also not be a reason to think about Africa as a great place to go test and showcase technology not relevant to the needs of the continent or to make a quick buck out of the misery of others. There is no place for these practices anywhere and they definitely have nothing to contribute to either the development or ICT4D objectives of the continent.

    We need home-grown technology innovation to stimulate and drive economic growth which will impact the African economy at large. This will result in competitive and sustainable businesses, profits, job creation, etc.

    We also need home-grown technology innovation to support efforts aimed at addressing social development challenges such as health, education, etc. facing the continent – so called ICT4D interventions and applications.

    But while technology is the common factor, the enabling environment, support structures and related issues in dealing with these two imperatives are very different.

    In recent years, a number of African countries, particularly Kenya, South Africa and others, have developed a reputation for technology innovation and success - both in terms of big mainstream businesses (e.g. MTN, etc.) as well as small, dynamic, technology start-ups. Often the latter initiatives evolve without any special government, investment or regulatory support.

    However, big IT business and small start-ups alone will not ensure that all Africans benefit from the potential contribution and impact of technology. Other interventions are also required.

    Governments, international development agencies, the private sector and other stakeholders continue to commit millions of dollars to technology for development – so called ICT4D – projects in Africa. Many international conferences (e.g. annual SANGONeT conference), reports, publications, panels of experts, etc. also continue to focus on ICT4D issues.

    Are all these efforts a total waste of money? Why would Eric Hersman be cynical about these efforts or what they are collectively referred to if his own claim to fame – Ushahidi, etc – is build, maintained, celebrated, supported and rolled-out all over the world with funding from various key international institutions.

    I call this hypocritical.

    Hersman should know better than to articulate these sentiments in a way that sounds condescending and patronising, especially while he presents himself as the "White African" committed to helping Africa through the power of technology innovation.

    It is true that the impact of many ICT4D initiatives is sometimes difficult to determine and their scale and scope often are too limited to have meaningful impact. However, questioning their overall intent is hugely problematic! What needs to be questioned is their focus, objectives and ultimately, impact. Africa’s development challenges remain significant, and will take many more generations to address. If technology is one of the vehicles to achieve this objective, then more should be done to nurture and expand its contribution and impact – by both local and international stakeholders.

    The fact that the majority of people on the African continent today have access to a mobile phone unfortunately does not represent development and empowerment. It is a remarkable achievement, but more needs to be done for the full potential of ICTs to impact the lives of all Africans.

    As highlighted in the draft National Development Plan released by South Africa’s National Planning Commission (NPC) last week, “Despite the uptake of mobile phones, growth in SA's ICT sector has not brought affordable, universal access to a full range of communications services.”

    That is the real challenge.

    Finally, there are now a billion people living on the African continent. Their future is closely intertwined. The success and failure of some will have a direct bearing on others. We all need to do more in ensuring a better life for all on this continent.

    Many Africans go the extra mile every day in responding to the challenges facing us. They don't do it to win awards or be famous, but just to make a difference in the lives of others.

    There is also more than one real “White African” serious about making a contribution to the future of this continent.

  • GSMA Establishes Office in Nairobi to Support Burgeoning African Telecoms Market

    Mobile Connections in Sub-Saharan Africa Increase 20 Per Cent to 500 Million in 2013 and Are Expected to Increase by an Additional 50 Per Cent by 2018

    The GSMA today announced that it has opened a permanent office in Nairobi, Kenya. The office will be based in the heart of Nairobi’s Innovation Hub (iHub) for the technology community and will enable the GSMA to work even more closely with its members and other industry stakeholders to extend the reach and socio-economic benefits of mobile throughout Africa.

    “It is an exciting time to launch our new office in Africa, as the region is an increasingly vibrant and critical market for the mobile industry, representing over 10 per cent of the global market,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General, GSMA. “The rapid pace of mobile adoption has delivered an explosion of innovation and huge economic benefits in the region, directly contributing US$ 32 billion to the Sub-Saharan African economy, or 4.4 per cent of GDP. With necessary spectrum allocations and transparent regulation, the mobile industry could also fuel the creation of 14.9 million new jobs in the region between 2015 and 2020.”

    According to the latest GSMA’s Wireless Intelligence data, total mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa passed the 500 million mark in Q1 2013, increasing by about 20 per cent year-on-year. Connections are expected to grow by a further 50 per cent, or 250 million connections, over the next five years which requires greater regulatory certainty to foster investment and release of additional harmonised spectrum for mobile.

    The region currently accounts for about two-thirds of connections in Africa but the amount of spectrum allocated to mobile services in Africa is among the lowest worldwide. Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa risk undermining their broadband and development goals unless more spectrum is made available. In particular, the release of the Digital Dividend spectrum – which has the ideal characteristics for delivering mobile broadband, particularly to rural populations – should be a priority.

    The region also has some of the highest levels of mobile internet usage globally. In Zimbabwe and Nigeria, mobile accounts for over half of all web traffic at 58.1 per cent and 57.9 per cent respectively, compared to a 10 per cent global average. 3G penetration levels are forecast to reach a quarter of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2017 (from six per cent in 2012) as the use of mobile-specific services develops.

    However, despite the high number of connections, rapid growth and mobile internet usage, mobile penetration among individuals remains relatively low. Fewer than 250 million people had subscribed to a mobile service in the region, putting unique subscriber penetration at 30 per cent, meaning that more than two-thirds of the population have yet to acquire their first mobile phone. Clearly, there is an important opportunity for the mobile industry to bring connectivity, access to information and services to the people in this region.

    The mobile industry contributes approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in the region. This has also spurred a wave of technology and content innovation with more than 50 ‘innovation hubs’ created to develop local skills and content in the field of ICT services, including the Limbe Labs in Cameroon, the iHub in Kenya and Hive Colab in Uganda.

    Of particular note is the role of Kenya as the global leader in mobile money transfer services via M-PESA, a service launched by the country’s largest mobile operator Safaricom in 2007. What started as a simple way to extend banking services to the unbanked citizens of Kenya has now evolved into a mobile payment system based on accounts held by the operator, with transactions authorised and recorded in real time using secure SMS. Since its launch, M-PESA has grown to reach 15 million registered users and contributes 18 per cent of Safaricom’s total revenue.

    To support this huge increase in innovation, the mobile industry has invested around US$ 16.5 billion over the past five years (US$ 2.8 billion in 2011 alone) across the five key countries in the region, mainly directed towards the expansion of network capacity. At the same time, given the exponential growth, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a looming ‘capacity and coverage crunch’ in terms of available mobile spectrum and the GSMA is working with operators and governments to address this critical issue.

    GSMA research has found that by releasing the Digital Dividend and 2.6GHz spectrum by 2015, the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa could increase annual GDP by US$82 billion by 2025 and annual government tax revenues by US$18 billion and add up to 27 million jobs by 2025. In many Sub-Saharan African countries, mobile broadband is the only possible route to deliver the Internet to citizens and the current spectrum allocations across the region generally lag behind those of other countries.

    “A positive and supportive regulatory environment and sufficient spectrum allocation is critical to the further growth of mobile in Africa,” continued Ms. Bouverot. “I am confident that now that we have a physical presence in Africa, we will be able to work together with our members to put the conditions in place that will facilitate the expansion of mobile, bringing important connectivity and services to all in the region.”

    - ENDS –

    Notes to Editors:

    iHub is Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community, which is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. It is part open community workspace (co-working), part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator. More information can be found here: http://www.ihub.co.ke/about

    About the GSMA

    The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with more than 230 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo. 

    Media Contacts:

    Charlie Meredith-Hardy
    +44 (0)7810 050 576
    CMeredith-Hardy@webershandwick.com

    GSMA Press Office
    press@gsma.com

    For more about the GSMA, refer to www.gsma.com or Mobile World Live, the online portal for the mobile communications industry, at www.mobileworldlive.com.

    To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/group/home-page/pressreleases.

    Date published: 
    15/05/2013
    Organisation: 
    GSMA
  • WSIS Forum 2011 unites governments with grassroots to re-energize the development agenda

    World leaders are gathering in Geneva this week to work on strategies to more effectively harness the power and reach of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in crucial areas like health and education.

    Co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNCTAD and UNDP, the World Summit on the Information Society (16-20 May) is the world’s largest annual gathering of the world’s ‘ICT for development’ community, including UN agencies, governments, civil society and ICT industry representatives.

    Guest speakers at this morning’s opening ceremony included Ministers and deputies from 17 countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burundi, El Salvador, Finland, Gambia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Montenegro, Oman, Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation, Serbia, and the United Arab Emirates.

    Delegates also heard interventions from ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré; Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD; Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO; Janis Karklins, Deputy-Director of UNESCO; Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director-General, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates; John Davis, Vice-President, Intel Corporation and General Manager of Intel’s World Ahead Program, and Cyril Ritchie, President of the Conference on NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN (CoNGO).

    This year’s WSIS Forum also welcomes more than 70 Members of Parliament and many other senior government figures. Over 1,000 representatives from around 140 countries are expected to attend the week-long event.

    In his opening address, Dr Touré stressed the importance of broadband to national economic and social development. “I think we are all very much aware of how close we are to the 2015 deadline for meeting the WSIS targets and the Millennium Development Goals. We have made quite extraordinary progress in terms of connectivity, the creation of an enabling environment, and cybersecurity. The next major step must be to repeat the ‘mobile miracle’ for broadband Internet,” he said.

    The Forum will also serve as the venue for the UN Group on the Information Society’s first meeting of the open consultation process on the overall review of the implementation of the WSIS outcomes. Stakeholders will jointly brainstorm on the action plan for the Review Process (WSIS+10), to be held 10 years after the conclusion of the Summit, as recommended in the Tunis Agenda.

    In addition to reviewing progress towards the WSIS targets set for 2015, this year’s WSIS Forum will foster interactive debate and information exchange on a wide range of key topics such as rural development, multilingualism, environmental sustainability, education, healthcare and innovation.

    The opening ceremony was followed by a High Level session, Working Together Towards 2015. Ongoing High-level Dialogues throughout the course of the week include:
    • Right to Communication
    • Innovation for Digital Inclusion
    • ICTs to Enable Least Developed Countries
    • Building Confidence and Security in Cyberspace
    Alongside an exhibition component, the Forum offers participants a diverse range of meetings and activities, including Interactive WSIS Action Line Facilitators Meetings, Interactive Sessions, Country and Thematic Workshops and Knowledge Exchanges. Afternoon sessions each day will also feature the release of a number of new publications and briefings from participating organizations. The Forum programme also includes the Parliamentary Forum as well as meetings of the Internet Governance Forum.

    The WSIS agenda is the result of a comprehensive open consultation process involving all stakeholders. Spanning three phases, this year’s process welcomed 150 contributions from 50 countries.

    Remote participation is an integral component of the WSIS Forum 2011. Each session can be viewed remotely at: http://groups.itu.int/wsis-forum2011/Home.aspx.

    This year’s WSIS Forum 2011 programme has been greatly enhanced thanks to the strategic partnership and contribution of the United Arab Emirates. The Forum has also benefited from contributions of Oman for the series of workshops, and Mexico for Spanish interpretation.

    Videos, photos, live and archived webcasts, and transcripts of speeches can be found at the event Newsroom at www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/wsis/index.aspx , or on the main event website at http://groups.itu.int/wsis-forum2011/Home.aspx. Follow the event on Twitter at #WSIS.

    For more information, please contact:

    Sarah Parkes
    Chief, Media Relations & Public Information
    ITU
    Tel: +41 22 730 6135
    Mobile: +41 79 599 1439
    E-mail: sarah.parkes@itu.int

    Jaroslaw K. Ponder
    Strategy & Policy Advisor,
    ITU,
    Tel: +41 22 730 6065
    E-mail: jaroslaw.ponder@itu.int

    To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/group/home-page/pressreleases.

    Date published: 
    16/05/2011
    Organisation: 
    International Telecommunication Union
  • Zambia Thetha ICT Discussion Forum

    The Zambia Thetha ICT Discussion Forum will be held on 28 October 2009 at the Golfview Hotel in Lusaka.

    The event forms part of a series of regional events that SANGONeT is hosting in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana.

    Organised and implemented in conjunction with JSM Business Consultants / COMDEV, the Zambia event will bring together various ICT stakeholders, including representatives from government, ICT industry, NGOs and the donor community, to discuss key “ICT for Development (ICT4D)” challenges and opportunities relevant to the future development of Zambia.

    The discussions will be informed by the “ICT4D: Challenges and Opportunities in Zambia" research report that John Munsaka of JSM Business Consultants / COMDEV prepared in support of the event.
    Event start date: 
    28/10/2009
    Event end date: 
    28/10/2009
    Event venue: 
    Golfview Hotel, Lusaka
    Event type: 
    Conference
    Contact person(s): 
  • Buses to Dent ICT Access in Rwanda

    Barely four months since RDB/IT introduced the two models of ICT buses, reports indicate that their impact in improving information technology is already being felt all over the country.

    In a phone interview with Wilson Muyenzi, the e-Rwanda coordinator, one of the Hi-tech buses is already being used in Kamonyi district, in the Southern Province, by students and other local residents seeking IT services.

    "We expect higher benefits to people in other rural areas which have been cut off in terms of ICT access," pointed Muyenzi.

    "We are officially launching these buses on Thursday in Kamonyi, but so far the rollout has been received positively and we believe access to ICT will be greatly improved in rural areas," he said.

    The mobile internet cafes which are equipped with 22 HP laptops, will be traveling to rural areas to allow ordinary citizens access IT services, and are expected to target students, business people and farmers seeking to source for markets.

    To read the full article titled, "ICT Buses Impacting Well Ahead of Official Launch", click here.

    Source: 
    <br /> All Africa
    Article link: 
  • Supercomputer Hits South African Shores

    South Africa's newest supercomputer, a Sun Microsystems hybrid, went online in Cape Town earlier this month, providing the local and regional research community with a powerful tool for tackling problems of climate change, energy security and human health.

    With a peak performance of 31-trillion calculations per second, the hybrid supercomputer is the fastest in Africa and ranks among the top 500 in the world.

    By using the system, months of computing on research projects can be replaced by weeks, days or even hours of work. It is housed at the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC), a unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

    "Through the addition of this Sun Microsystems hybrid supercomputer, the CHPC has become a facility that holds its own among the best in the world," CSIR chief executive Sibusiso Sibisi said in a statement.

    To read the full article titled,"Africa's most powerful supercomputer", click here.

    Source: 
    <br /> South Africa.info
    Article link: 
  • ICT4D: Facing the Challenges Head-on in Tanzania

    Download the full report here.

    This report presents a situational analysis of ICT4D in Tanzania and aims to establish key priority areas for ICT4D in Tanzania, identify various issues determining the success or failure of ICT4D in Tanzania, and recommend possible measures to be taken to facilitate the progress of ICT4D for the next ten years.

    With respect to the above objectives, an inductive-interpretive approach was adopted to inform the study. Information was purposefully gathered from a broad range of informants from government, the private sector, NGOs and international organisations. Qualitative analysis was used to identify the issues and priorities, and to build the concepts and recommendations.

    The analysis shows that, at a high level, the Government of Tanzania has established key priority areas, some of which coincide with priority areas identified by citizens. The government priority areas are defined in strategies such as the Tanzania Vision 2025, the National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy, the National ICT Policy, and the Universal Communication Services Access Fund. However, a composite of the two perspectives reflects the shared view that it is of paramount importance to streamline ICT into the areas of production and service provision, government, health, education, business, and the growth of SMEs.
     
    Three categories of success factors have contributed to facilitating ICT4D in Tanzania, namely the affordability, availability, and adoption of ICTs; supportive social infrastructure (levels of literacy and Kiswahili as the national language); and presence of government will. At the same time, four categories of issues were identified to challenge the successful uptake of ICT4D in Tanzania, namely an unsupportive ICT connectivity and supporting infrastructure; inadequate quality of ICT content; unsupportive organisational issues and peeople-related challenges.

    Various areas were identified as requiring further studies. These include development and applicability of policy to facilitate the documentation and archiving of information concerning ICT and related projects. Others are identification of possible services to be delivered through mobile phones. The transferability of successful ICT implementation modes from one local community to another also needs further investigation.

    The report was compiled by Jim Yonazi of the The Institute of Finance Management in Dar es Salaam.

    AttachmentSize
    tanzania_thetha_report_ict4d.pdf1.98 MB
  • The Challenge of Digital Inclusion in Mozambique

    SANGONeT (Southern African NGO Network has been coordinating a regional research project into ICT4D issues in different countries in the region. Reports are produced, and then debated in Forums in the respective country. So I want to give you a quick report on the Mozambique Forum, which as you know from SANGONeT, took place on 30 July 2009. SANGONeT also circulated the address for downloading our report, so maybe some of you have already had a look - it's available in both Portuguese and English you will be glad to hear.

    We chose as the main theme for our report on ICT4D in Mozambique the challenge of digital inclusion, as a way of highlighting the needs of ordinary citizens and particularly people living in the rural areas (70% of the population). So our report discussed the advances in ICTs, state of implementation of government policies, etc, from this point of view - we didn't want to do a big survey because that's already been done. Our main findings from the research were that there have been important advances in implementing the ICT Policy, but so far the tendency has been very technology-oriented and top-down rather than citizen-centred - starting from defining people's needs. Of course establishing the infrastructure is a precondition for inclusion, but it is definitely not the solution on its own. So we made various recommendations, as you will see in the report.

    The Forum therefore made a special effort to bring together different sectors, and in particular civil society organisations, to sit in the same room and discuss some of these questions. Around 80 people altogether attended at some time during the day, including half a dozen ministries and various public institutions and companies (such as telecomms, the regulator, agricultural research and others). Civil society was represented by 5 rural telecentres/community multimedia centres as well as organisations such as the Community Radio Forum, the Women's Forum, the National Union of Peasants, Association of Visually Handicapped (who shamed us by saying that they had been to our new university central library and there was no provision at all for their needs!) and national education and development NGOs. Private IT companies, public and private universities and journalists were also there.

    The Forum was opened by the Vice-Rector of Eduardo Mondlane University, and the Minister of Science and Technology came to give a keynote speech and stayed for some of the discussion. We had formal presentations summarising the report, and from our regional research coordinator Tina James to give is some insights into the situation in the Southern African region. As a way of helping open up the plenary debate we asked 4 "commenters" to give their personal opinions on the report and the issues in general - 2 from government and 2 from civil society. This tactic definitely helped to provide a good environment in which people were at ease to speak up and express their opinions.

    We ended up with a series of recommendations, some confirming the proposals in the report and others adding to and improving them.

    Perhaps some of the most relevant ones are the following:

    • Revisit the ICT Policy, but first carry out analysis and evaluation of what's been done;
    • Strategies for changing attitudes;
    • Involving the private sector in digital inclusion plans;
    • Need to be truly inclusive of all citizens;
    • Content in local languages;
    • Government transparency in its relations with the private sector;
    • Create a group to study and propose measures for the migration to digital radio (by 2015).

    Most important, create a working or lobby group to try to ensure inclusion of digital inclusion/ICT4D in the next Government Poverty Reduction Plan or 5-year Programme.

    We have elections in October 2009 and then there will be a new round of planning, so it is a good opportunity.

  • Zimbabwe Thetha Forum Highlights Key ICT Issues

    SANGONeT and E-Knowledge for Women in Southern Africa (EKOWISA) hosted the Zimbabwe Thetha Forum on 21 July 2009 in Harare.

    The event formed part of SANGONeT’s Regional Thetha ICT Project which covers five Southern African countries, namely Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana.

    The objective is the project is to develop a comprehensive understanding of regional ICT4D issues through in-country research processes, stakeholder consultations, discussions of these findings on a country level through Thetha forums, and comparing the respective country lessons and experiences to identify and assess common ICT trends and issues facing the Southern African region.

    The Zimbabwe Thetha Forum was attended by more than 60 ICT stakeholders, including members of Parliament and representatives of various government ministries, ICT companies, regulatory bodies, NGOs and the media.

    Discussions were informed by the “Contextualizing ICT for Development in Zimbabwe” report that EKOWISA prepared in support of the event.

    The Thetha Forum was held at a very interesting time in the evolution of the Zimbabwe ICT Bill. Last week, the Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa, submitted a draft ICT Bill to Dr Misheck Sibanda, the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet. If passed into law, it will see the Media, Information and Publicity and Transport ministers stripped of core functions and remaining as mere figureheads, which could have far reaching political implications.

    Engineer Sam Kundishora, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, was the keynote speaker and acknowledged the strategic importance of ICTs to the development of Zimbabwe. He also highlighted recent progress in the ICT arena, including the suspension of import duties on IT equipment and reduction in mobile charge rates.

    Some of the key ICT challenges highlighted by speakers and participants include:
    • Human capital development, with specific reference to the role of ICT skills development and the role of ICTs in education;
    • Role of the Universal Services Fund - need for accountability in the use of the funds, as well as to prioritise the development of ICT infrastructure in Zimbabwe and to prioritise the spread of ICTs in rural areas;
    • Low mobile and Internet penetration rates;
    • Cost of Internet access and connectivity in Zimbabwe;
    • Need to popularise the ICT Bill and make it available in local languages;
    • Attract the involvement of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in the ICT4D process;
    • Integrate ICTs with agriculture (e-agriculture).
    EKOWISA will prepare a report about the event which will capture in more detail these issues, as well as highlight proposed follow-up actions to be considered by participants and other ICT stakeholders.

    The next regional Thetha forum will be held on 30 July 2009 in Mozambique, hosted in conjunction with the Centro de Informatica da Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (CIUEM), and will be followed by the Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana events in September and October 2009.
  • Public Consultative Workshop on Proposed Definitions of Universal Access and Service

    The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) will host a Consultative Public Workshop on 2&3 April 2009 in Johannesburg.

    The main objective of the workshop is to solicit public input from interested and affected parties and organisations on the definitions of universal access and universal service, needy persons and under-serviced areas.

    USAASA has published a Draft Position Paper in the Government Gazette No. 32048 dated 20 March 2009, which summarises the responses of 16 respondents to the Discussion Paper published  in August 2008, which set out proposed definitions of “universal access”, “universal service”, “under-serviced area” and “needy person”, as required by Chapter 14 of the Electronic Communications Act, 2005.

    USAASA decided to convene the two-day public workshop in order to afford the respondents and other affected parties an opportunity to present their final input into the process before the recommendations are submitted to the Minister for consideration.

    Enquiries: Trevor Nivi, USAASA, Tel: (011) 564-1600, trevor@usaasa.org.za

    Event start date: 
    02/04/2009
    Event end date: 
    03/04/2009
    Event venue: 
    Cedar Park Conference Centre, 120 Western Service Road, Woodmead, Johannesburg
    Event type: 
    Workshop
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