Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 23, 2017 (ECA) – African governments should explore alternative policy and regulatory interventions that are informed by their own realities and capabilities to drive innovation on the continent, says Kasirim Nwuke, Chief of the New Technologies and Innovation Section in the Economic Commission for Africa’s Special Initiatives Division.
In opening remarks to the annual World Summit Information Society (WSIS) regional review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes, Mr. Nwuke said Africa remained a consumer, not a producer of information and communications technologies (ICTs).
“Clearly, to get Africa connected requires governments to explore how to do things differently. Policies have to be reviewed and updated and laws and regulations reformed to fit their purpose, drive innovation and ensure adequate protection for all stakeholders,” said Mr. Nwuke.
He said success in implementing the WSIS outcomes was unlikely to be secure if Africa did not begin to produce some of the ICT it consumes, he said.
Some African countries, however, are making progress in the adoption of new technologies.
“It is our view that faster progress on the WSIS Action Lines will result in greater investment in member States, innovation and contribute substantially to the three dimensions of development covered by the sustainable development goals,” the NTIS Chief said.
The theme of this year’s regional review; ‘Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies’ is consistent with the theme of the 2018 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the SDGs, a UN Forum which was set up as a platform for reviewing progress, on an annual basis, in the implementation of Agenda 2030.
As part of its responsibility to monitor and review progress in Africa on WSIS, the ECA has prepared an annual report which will be reviewed by delegates.
The report assesses progress in Africa since the last year’s review and it shows that progress continues to be made by countries in implementing the WSIS Action Lines. It also shows that member States are making progress on technology and innovation as well as on Action Lines related to cultural and linguistic diversity.
“Although progress is being made, much remains to be done,” said Mr. Nwuke, adding the report shows that the set of challenges to progress in implementing WSIS in Africa has not changed significantly although progress was being made in overcoming them.
“The digital divide within and between countries, although closing, remains because of very low rate of connectivity. After almost 25 years of ICT development in the continent, there are countries with 90 per cent and others with a 3 per cent Internet connectivity within Africa. If we extrapolate from current trends, we are unlikely to meet the 2020 targets,” he added.
Although practically all littoral African countries are connected to submarine cables, extending this capacity to landlocked countries remains a challenge due to high financing cost, said Mr. Nwuke.
As a consequence, effective access to the Internet for many remains a challenge.
ECA collaborated with Information Society (ISOC) and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to host this review, which is being attend by experts in the field, with the support of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Africa Telecommunications Union and the African Union Commission.
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