March 12, 2010 Leave a comment
Concluding three days of intense discussion, debate, and a surprising sense of cooperation, on Thursday evening the Honorable Aggrey S. Awori, Uganda’s Minister of ICT, brought the Digital Africa Summit 2010 to a close.
The summit brought representatives and ministers from most countries in Africa, as well as from the private sector, including telecom carriers, Internet providers, content providers, and some equipment vendors. All had a common objective – close the doors, throw their national a regional issues on the table, and as a community set aside politics and social differences in a brainstorming session to make a better Africa.
The problem is clear – without 21st century ICT infrastructure, Africa will not compete in the global community. No ICT infrastructure, then Africa will not be able to compete on a level “playing field” in education, business, and government with their global counterparts.
The highest priorities:
- Backbone telecom infrastructure
- Local access (the final mile)
- Generation of local hosted services and content
- Development of eEverything (eLearning, eGovernment, eBusiness, eXXXXX)
Business Excellence Global Media hosted the conference at Kampala’s Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria. Far enough away from the city to isolate attendees from external distractions, close enough to the community to offer a constant reminder of the reality of Africa’s economic and social challenges, all attendees set aside their home affiliations and shared both problems and best practices as a single community.
Africans Working Together
As an American, I have no particular emotional ties to my neighbors to the north and south. While Canadians, Mexicans, and Americans generally have no major problems, we do not consider ourselves North Americans as a secondary social affiliation. Perhaps that is because all North American countries are heavily populated with immigrants, and secondary affiliations are likely to be to their native countries.
The surprising revelation for me was the sense of community delegates from all countries felt for each other. Although the French speaking nations had a bit of difficulty communicating with English speaking nations, there was enough common language among all attendees that any differences in language were met with a bit of laughter, an explanation in simpler terms, and a period of mutual learning that resulted in friendships developing among the delegates that will last far beyond Entebbe Airport.
Digital Convergence and Innovation Driving Positive Change
“Optimizing Infrastructure Opportunities,” “Infrastructure Impacting Socio-Economic Growth,” “Creating Innovative Mobile Ecosystems,” and many other topics attracted interesting presentations, case studies, and debate.
Given the presence of national regulators at the conference, several other statements gained increased hope and credibility.
- All nations give higher visibility and priority to building human and intellectual capacity through access to ICT
- Interconnect all African cities by 2012
- Interconnect all African villages by 2015
Most would say, “that is really nice to say, but with a reality check it has little meaning.” Then we find that with the expansion and construction of mobile phone systems in locations such as Uganda, which claims 100% of the country is addressable with their existing tower infrastructure, the vision gains more credibility. Much more. Technically, with use of wireless access points, it is possible.
Digital Africa 2010 is over, and the delegates on the way home. But friendships and connections are made, and all displayed a hunger for improving their individual countries and continent. Yes, a bit of rivalry, but a healthy rivalry that will stimulate construction competition.
We look forward to attending Digital Africa 2011, and I leave Uganda with a strong sense of hope and confidence Africa will deliver.