By Emeka Aginam
Information Communications Technology Ministers, senior government officials, regulatory agency heads, and international ICT experts, who spoke at the 8th annual forum and the 50th council meeting of the Common Wealth Telecommunications Organization, (CTO) being held in Sri Lanka rose up from the saying that unless commonwealth nations take faster measures to ensure more rapid deployment of broadband and access to it by a larger percentage of their citizens, national development may be far fetched.
The Forum is exploring concrete ways to raise awareness of the full potential of the Internet, broadband and other information and communication technologies in developing countries.
The three_day conference, which was opened by The President of Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is expected to identify best-practice policies, regulation, investment options and deployment strategies that are best likely to connect consumers in semi_urban and rural areas in the shortest possible time.
The forum, according to CTO, is discussing and assessing the benefits of increased broadband use by consumers, standardization needs and issues to bridge and measure the standardization gap in Asia Pacific, and regulatory incentives for making broadband affordable to consumers. Discussions over the next two days will also cover the effective use of donor funds, the availability of other funding mechanisms including the CTO’s initiative to create a Commonwealth Telecom Development Fund for broadband infrastructure and services.
It will examine how the development of broadband networks is contributing to both broader economic growth for nations, regional integration amongst nations, profitability for ICT operating companies, and overall global prosperity.
Stressing on the need for collaborative partnerships to find creative solutions to broadband availability, affordability and accessibility, the CEO of the CTO, Dr. Ekwow Spio_Garbrah, said, “In an era where access to information and connectivity is of paramount importance to help bridge the North-South divide and urban_rural economic disparities, the global community must work in greater concert to ensure that every individual has access to basic broadband connectivity for purposes of improved literacy, education, knowledge, commercial and business opportunities, and self_empowerment.
For many disadvantaged people and communities broadband connectivity is the surest and cheapest way to make them integral citizens of the global village. It is our duty to work together to ensure that those deprived of this basic tool, especially in the undeserved regions, are provided this important link to communicate with the outside world.”
Dr. Spio_Garbrah said that the Forum provides an excellent opportunity to address issues concerning the strategies, plans and programmes for extending regional and continental broadband connectivity, as well as the funding gaps especially for terrestrial broadband investments. The issue of locally_relevant content, once the infrastructure was deployed, is also of paramount importance, he stressed.