By Emeka Aginam, Asst Online Editor
From policy and regulation, through funding and operations to technological advancement, participants at the just concluded 2nd annual conferenceÂ onÂ investing in ICTs in emerging markets held in United Kingdom recentlyÂ rose up from the conference callingÂ for the adopting a common positionÂ to promote effective partnerships in ICTsÂ to speed up investment-enhancing processes in developing markets.
With the problem of robust ICT infrastructure remaining unabated in most emerging markets, participant at the capacity building conference noted that except something is done to surmount this issue, developing countries will continue to lag behindÂ in 21st century knowledge economy.
Even withÂ Â a world population of 6.7 billion people, 1.2 billion land line telephone lines and 4.0 billion mobile cellular subscribers, stakeholders at the event noted that there was need to bring new ICT investment into developing countries.
For one thing, the conference, organized by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), was attended by ICT stakeholders from both developed and developing countries including policy makers, regulators, operators, equipment manufacturers, fund managers, USF agents, management consultants, NGO representatives and solution providers.
While majority of speakers believed that profitable investment returns couldÂ be achieved if all hands are on deck, the participantsÂ Â examined the investment opportunities that exist in emerging markets, and identified the likely challenges and possible methods to overcome them to ensure the realization of successful investment initiatives in the ICT industry.
The markets discussed included Africa, Asia, Middle-East, The Caribbean and the Pacific. The event featured presentations and discussions by leading figures in the international ICT arena from across the Commonwealth on various aspects of investments in the ICT in developing economies.
Meanwhile, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Telecom regulatory authority, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC,Â Engr.Â Ernest Ndukwe , who was represented by Freda Ruth Murray-Bruce, Special Assistant to the EVC on Strategy and Development in a regulatory panel during the conferenceÂ told the capacity audience in attendance that governments in emerging markets including Nigeria should focus on broadband as a right, adding that governmentÂ Â shouldÂ Â as well focus on ICT equipment as protected national infrastructure.
With optimism, she said thatÂ Â emerging markets including Nigeria could make use of the broadband initiative to fast-track developments in various sectors of her economy, andÂ as such,Â become a global player in herÂ questÂ forÂ attaining an economic giant inÂ 2020.
Similarly, in a keynote speech,Â Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) stressedÂ the importance of Information and Communications Technologies in the development of todayâ€™s world and how ICTs have come to define the way â€œwe live, work and do businessâ€.
Dr. Chambas, who is also the Secretary-General-Elect of the African Caribbean Union announced measures being taken by governments in the region to reform economic policies and to create investment-friendly environments to attract investments into their respective countries.
He added that West Africa â€™s ICT industry in particular presents unique growth opportunities for interested parties and encouraged potential investors to make the move to create businesses in the sub-region.
For one thing, theÂ high points of the two-day meeting saw an overwhelming response and interest from presenters, speakers, and attendees, with participants presenting papers on a variety of topics related to the conference theme of â€œExamining business and investment opportunities in developing countries.
The range of subjects covered by the panels included the future for investment in ICTs, regulation needed to promote investment, consistency and predictability, and broadband investment in emerging markets, mobile money transfer and mobile banking, besides others. Other highlights included discussions on the importance of Public Private Peoples partnerships to generate much needed investments, especially as a large part of investment in networks is in civil works, which the local communities could contribute.
Taking into account the realities of the global market, the policy and regulatory panel identified, as priority, the need for linkages of policy with the regulatory regime to ensure that the policy priorities are implemented properly within a practical context. They stressed that though ICTs is an attractive field there are still challenges in generating investments in emerging markets.
Other speakers at the conference included Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, CEO of CTO; Dr Michael Frendo, Former Foreign Minister of Malta; Mr Patrick Masambu, Execuive Director of the Ugandan Communications Commission; and a host of speakers from the African Development Bank, AT&T, Fijitsu, Tribalnets, Access Partnerships, Motorola, Future Realities, Vital Waves, Inveneo and Onda Analytics.
The CTO, which has a history of similar successful events on ICT in the past, works with governments in emerging and developed countries to bridge the digital divide in emerging Commonwealth countries.
Founded in 1901, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) is an international development partnership between the Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth governments, ICT regulators, ICT operators and manufacturing businesses, and civil society organisations.
The CTO supports the international communityâ€™s objective to help bridge the digital divide and achieve social and economic development, by delivering to developing countries unique knowledge-sharing programmes in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).