Kigali broadband meeting highlights key role of youth
Date: Sun, 09/18/2011 - 17:16
Consultative meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development throws spotlight on young innovators and debates strategies for getting Africa online
Broadband commissioners and interested representatives of governments, private sector and civil society met in Rwanda’s capital Kigali to focus on challenges, priorities and strategies that can help get the African continent wired to high-speed networks.
The meeting was held at the invitation of the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who Co-Chairs the Broadband Commission for Digital Development with Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Chairman of Grupo Carso. President Kagame is a staunch champion of the transformational power of technology, and has prioritized the construction of information and technology (ICT) networks as part of his national rebuilding programme. The Commission is co-vice chaired by ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré, and UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova.
The meeting’s first day focused on the role of youth in defining new ICT services and driving take-up. In a continent where over half the population is yet to reach adulthood, Rwanda has an exceptionally young population, with 42% of people under the age of 15.
“African youth possesses the energy, passion and dedication to use these technologies to address global challenges and truly benefit from ICTs. Our duty as leaders is to build the right environment and promote the necessary investments to allow them to fulfil their potential. Let´s not wait another century to recognize that broadband was another missed opportunity for Africa”, highlighted President Paul Kagame.
Two High-level Round Table debates looked at the policies needed to help ensure African youth gain access to online services such as education, healthcare, and considered how government and industry can support strategies to encourage youth entrepreneurship.
Participants included Max Ahoueke, Minister of Communications and New Technologies, Benin; Clotilde Nizigama, Minister for Finance, Economy, Cooperation and Development, Burundi; Brahima Sanou, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU; as well as members of the Broadband Commission, such as Indrajit Banerjee, Director of the Information Society Division of UNESCO; Cheik Sidi Diarra, Under Secretary-General, UN Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for Least Developed Countries; Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for the Millennium Development Goals;Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Airtel; and musician Youssou N’Dour, among others.
Speaking at the opening of the Youth session, Dr Hamadoun Touré told participants, including 135 young students from Kigali’s leading tertiary education institutions, as well as from other neighbouring countries, that broadband is the single most powerful tool available to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and to drive social and economic development.
“In the 21st century, with broadband, no young African should ever again need to be sent abroad in order to enjoy the benefits of an excellent education,” said Dr Touré. “If you are connected, it no longer matters if you are geographically or socially isolated; you are still connected to the information society. But if you are not connected, you are – literally – cut off from a whole portion of the world’s riches.”
The programme also featured an Innovation Competition showcasing 11 exciting new apps created by young Rwandan developers. The two winners, M-AHWIII and Osca, will be sponsored to represent Rwanda at the forthcoming ITU Telecom World 2011 Digital Innovators competition in October.
The event also served also as a preparatory meeting for the upcoming global Broadband Leadership Summit, which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland on 24-25 October as part of ITU Telecom World 2011.
The Summit will bring together Heads of State, Prime Ministers, Ministers, CEOs of major companies, Heads of UN Agencies and regulators from across the globe. It will allow leaders to connect, exchange knowledge, seal deals, share best practices and help extend the social and economic benefits of high-speed networks.
Broadband prices falling, but much of Africa remains unconnected
Figures released by ITU earlier this year show that worldwide, on average, consumers are paying 50% less for high-speed Internet connections than they were two years ago. However, this fall is mainly due to price decreases in developing countries, with steep declines often reflecting the extremely high cost of broadband in the developing world.
In 32 countries, a broadband connection still cost more than 50% of monthly GNI per capita in 2010. And in 19 of those nations, the monthly price of a fast Internet connection was still more than 100% of monthly average income.
Despite encouraging trends, Africa continues to stand out for its relatively high prices. Fixed broadband Internet access in particular remains prohibitively expensive. By 2010, only one out of nine people in Africa had access to the Internet, and fixed broadband penetration was just 0.2% – compared to 24% in Europe and 26% in the USA.