THE 8th Digital Africa Summit kicked off last week at the Munyonyo Commonwealth resort in Kampala.
Speaking at its launch, Neemish Ladwa, co-founder of Business Excellence Global Media, the event organisers, said the gathering will build a model for prosperity through Information Communication Technology (ICT).
The summit has attracted ministers of ICT and telecoms and decision makers from 40 countries.
The Digital Africa Summit aims to assist African operators by providing information that will aid them in developing a focused, practical strategy moving forward.
Despite a significant drop in prices for information and communication technology (ICT) services globally, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says broadband Internet remains outside the reach of many in poor countries, particularly in Africa.
The ITU, the main source of international comparison data and statistics on ICT, reports that broadband prices have dropped worldwide by 42 percent from 2008 to 2009.
In its "Measuring the Information Society 2010" report released this week, the ITU stated that most poor countries rank at the low end in terms of access to IT because of the close relationship between ICT uptake and national income.
It said that in 2009 the ICT Price Basket -- which combines the average cost of fixed telephone, mobile cellular and Internet broadband services for 161 countries -- shows that fixed broadband services had the largest price fall, at 42 percent, compared to 25 percent and 20 percent for mobile cellular and fixed telephone services, respectively.
While high-speed Internet access is now available in almost all countries, the ITU stated that fixed broadband penetration in the developing world remains as low as 3.5 percent, compared to 23 percent in developed countries.
It surmised that countries with high income levels pay relatively little for ICT services, while countries with low income levels pay relatively more. The ICT Price Basket corresponded on average to 13 percent of gross national income per capita in 2009, ranging from 1.5 percent in developed countries to 17.5 percent in developing countries.
A regional comparison of prices for fixed broadband services highlights a striking disparity, mainly between Africa and the other regions. On average, a high-speed Internet connection represents 500 percent of average monthly GNI per capita in Africa, making fixed broadband effectively inaccessible for most people in the region.
The report features the latest ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks 159 countries according to their ICT level and compares 2007 and 2008 scores. One of the main objectives of the IDI is to measure the development potential of ICT, or the extent to which countries can use ICT to enhance growth and development.
The index includes such indicators as households with a computer, the number of fixed broadband Internet subscribers and literacy rates, which can be used to measure ICT access, use and skills as well as help track progress over time.
With Sweden on top of global ICT ranking for the second year in a row, followed by Luxembourg and the Republic of Korea, only three African countries made it in the first 100 in the 2008 IDI. They are Seychelles (66th), Mauritius (72) and South Africa (92).
Though Sierra Leone and Liberia were not included in the 2008 IDI, Ghana, which has been touted to be the ICT hub of West Africa, was ranked 116th behind Cape Verde (102nd). Nigeria and Gambia placed 122nd and 124th, respectively.
The only African country noted as making a substantial increase in Internet usage, and fixed or mobile broadband uptake, is Nigeria.
COMPETENCE, close collaboration and regional leadership are needed to address research challenges in East Africa, Makerere University vice-chancellor Prof. Venecious Baryamureeba has said.
In a speech read by Prof. Idris Rai, the dean of the faculty of science at Makerere University, Baryamureeba reiterated the importance of networking to foster technological development.
This was during the East African Network of Research Excellence and Observatory workshop at the Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo on Monday
The two-day workshop that gathered researchers, experts, practitioners, academics and policy analysts from Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, was organised by the Inter-University Council of East Africa.
“Collaborative networking among researchers in East Africa is needed to avoid duplication and create a network of information and communication technology,” Baryamureeba said.
The executive secretary of the Inter-University Council of East Africa, Prof. Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha, said the network of research excellence would promote close networking among researchers for easy coordination and funding.
“There is scanty consolidated statistics on research undertaking in East Africa. This situation can be addressed through an ICT enabled network,” he said.
Nyaigotti-Chacha said the network is geared at connecting researchers in the different fields to formulate a vibrant East African research community.
The director of ICT science and technology at the Economic Commission of Africa, Aida Opoku Mensah, described research as vital for development.
“Africa is lagging behind because all that we research does not belong to us.”
She urged East African governments to increase funding for research.
“Research should not be considered as an expense but as an investment.”
Prices of information and communication technology services are falling worldwide, and services continue to grow, propelled by mobile cellular use, but broadband internet remains outside the reach of many in poor countries, the United Nations telecoms agency said on February 23 2010.
The UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Measuring the Information Society 2010 report "confirms that despite the recent economic downturn, the use of ICT services has continued to grow worldwide," ITU’s Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid said in releasing the study, the UN News Service said.
All 159 countries featured in the report’s ICT Development Index (IDI) have improved their levels, and mobile cellular technology continues to be a key driver of growth. In 2010, ITU expects the global number of mobile cellular subscriptions to top five billion.
"At the same time, the report finds that the price of telecommunication services is falling – a most encouraging development," Al Basheer, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, said.
Fixed broadband services showed the largest price fall (42 per cent), compared to 25 and 20 per cent in mobile cellular and fixed telephone services respectively, yet a person in the developing world is nearly seven times less likely to have access than someone in a developed country.
The world’s top 10 most advanced ICT economies feature eight countries from Northern Europe, with Sweden topping the IDI for the second year in a row. The Republic of Korea and Japan rank third and eighth, respectively.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain top the list of Arab states, with Russia and Belarus leading ICT development in the former Soviet Union. In Africa, only South Africa, Seychelles and Mauritius are included in the top 100.
Given the close relationship between ICT uptake and national income, most poor countries rank at the low end of the IDI. In particular, the least developed countries (LDCs), many of them in Africa, still have very limited access to ICTs, especially in terms of broadband infrastructure and household access.
The gap between the high and the low groups is still significant although it is shrinking slightly, going from a value of 5.5 in 2002 to 5.3 in 2008, ITU Statistician Esperanza Magpantay told a news conference in New York.
"What we have found in our research is that sometimes it takes a certain threshold level of use of internet and new technology before the economy and the country take off and you have the network effect and all the other benefits kicking in," she said.
Mobile cellular technology continues to be the main driver of ICT growth, especially in the developing world, where average penetration surpassed the 50 per cent mark in 2009. Today, more than 70 economies worldwide have surpassed the 100 per cent penetration mark, with developed countries averaging 113 per cent by the end of 2009.
While high-speed internet access is now available in almost all countries, fixed broadband penetration in the developing world remains as low as 3.5 per cent, compared to 23 per cent in developed countries.
The GSM Association (GSMA) which represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry has given tips to African countries on how to position their telecom sectors to grow their economies.
The Association advises African nations to eliminate short term taxation on mobile phones to increase affordability and drive medium terms gains in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the total tax contribution by the sector. African nations were further advised to make available harmonised spectrum for mobile broadband as well as to support investment in land-based and undersea fibre optic cables by liberalising the international gateway.
For doing just this, Kenya received the GSMA,s 2010 Leadership Award at the just concluded GSM World Congress. Samuel Poghisio, Minister for Information and Communications for Kenya, was presented with the mobile industry's prestigious annual Government Leadership Award.
The Award recognises the leadership role played by Kenya in extending the benefits of mobile technology to more consumers by cutting tax on mobile phones and information communication technology (ICT) equipment and promoting the early roll-out of mobile broadband.
During 2009, Kenya eliminated both import duty and sales taxes on mobile phones and other ICT equipment, making access for consumers more affordable. The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has also demonstrated an established and ongoing programme of modernisation of the telecoms sector.
The CCK facilitated the landing of two fibre optic cables, TEAMs and SEACOM, heralding a new era of abundant broadband capacity for Kenya and the East African region. The CCK also enabled the development of a vibrant mobile broadband market by licensing new spectrum and by launching a number of ICT/mobile projects aimed at promoting education and health in rural communities. This programme of initiatives will boost the Kenyan economy and improve the well-being and future prosperity of its citizens.
"This award acknowledges the pioneering leadership of the Kenyan government and its determination to improve the lives of Kenyans by making access to mobile broadband and ICT more available and more affordable," said Rob Conway, CEO and Member of the Board of the GSMA. "Mobile broadband is a great enabler, and it is imperative that government and industry work together to realise its potential to positively transform society."
"I am delighted that the great efforts and progressive policies of the Kenyan Government have been recognised by the presentation of this award, which I accept on behalf of all those involved in our programme," said Samuel Poghisio, Minister for Information and Communications of Kenya. "Kenya is developing and investing in the mobile and ICT technology tools that we need to deliver modern and innovative social and economic improvements for all our citizens."