By Jimson Olufuye
This yearâ€™s edition of the biennial Global Public Summit of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) ended recently in Hamilton, Bermuda.The four-day event which took place from October 31 to November 3, 2009 at the prestigious Fairmont Southhampton Hotel attracted more than 25 countries with the robust attendance of the World Bank (WB), World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and Organisation for Economic Co_operation and Development (OECD). The theme of the Summit was Business Technology: An Enabler in your Economy.Â This was another opportunity to underscore the critical importance of ICT for economic growth and national development through appropriate policy frameworks and laws.
The Summit began with a pre- summit Workshop with the theme: Incubators and Associations_ Catalyst in Building an ICT Sector. The workshop underscored the role of incubators and associations as imperative for innovation and the building of a vibrant ICT sector. Speakers from Argentina (Dr Jorge Cassino), USA (Mr Allen Miller), Trinidad and Tobago (Mr Rabindra Jeggernauth), Jamaica (Dainsworth Richards), Kenya (Waudo Siganga) and Malaysia (Looi Kien Leong) made pertinent presentations in this regard.
The Summit was declared opened on November 1 by the Bermuda Prime Minister, Ewart Brown who also unveiled the new WITSA logo. He also hosted the delegates to a dinner at the legendary Governor_General Residence. The Egyptian Minister of Communications and Information Technology led his countryâ€™s delegation to the Summit while Mrs Yuwa Naps, the Edo State Senior Special Adviser on ICT was the only Nigerian Government personnel in our delegation of 6 CEO members of the Nigerian ICT Industry.
The Summit was divided into seven parts viz
*State of the global ICT industry;
*Information security and privacy;
*ICT and economic stimulus plans;
*Internet and Internet governance;
*ICT for the environment;
*International institutions and what role they play in this arena of policy and ICT; and
*Future technology trends.
1. The State of the Global ICT Industry
Mr Robert Flanagan of the Global Insight (WITSA partner on global ICT research) indicated that there are some green sprouts appearing, showing signals of economic recovery and growth for the world economy and for our industry. The Global Insight expert noted five driving forces namely:
iv.Empowered citizens; and
v.ICT for healthcare
. Information Security and Privacy
In the area of information security and privacy protection it was said that information security and privacy protection is everyoneâ€™s business and WITSA encourages a strong public/private partnership to address these important issues. Collaborative solutions were recommended between our industry and policymakers so we can minimize the threats from cyber attacks and to ensure that our systems and data remain protected. It was also noted that we have to have an appropriate balance between privacy protection and information security. We want one to complement the other, but we do not want an imbalance where privacy protection may indeed inhibit information security and cyber security approaches.
In fact, the session challenged WITSA to be more active in the information security arena
i.Starting a partnership or pilot partnership with various stakeholders involved in
information security in Africa, for example;
ii.Creating some international watch and learning network including WITSA members and others
iii.Looking at strategies regarding malicious cyber attack; and
iv.Establishing a website or portal hosted by WITSA that would provide security and privacy information as well as serving as resource for industry and government to go to learn about these issues and solutions being suggested.
An innovative approach to this issue was proposed by Prof. Mike Nelson of Georgetown University, Washington DC who while alluding to the Bermuda status as the hub of World Insurance to get the insurance companies involved in information security insurance as a way of prompting appropriate information security requirements against cyber attacks.
ICT and Economic Stimulus Plans
The panel of government and business experts had a lively discussion on the role of governments in providing economic stimulus and public sector investment, the critical role of innovation as an economic driver, and the role of ICT skills.
On the role of government stimulus in ICT projects during a recession, a general wariness was expressed about such government programs even as the panelists recognized that on a microeconomic level the intervention might be beneficial. There was concern that broadband investments such as the massive ones in Australia and elsewhere could distort competition and be inefficient. There was also concerns about the long term effects on the economies, especially in the US and Europe because of the debt structure there.
There was also a lively debate on innovation in which all the panel members and many in
the audience contributed. They recognized that while the spur of innovation had come from individuals and businesses, governments did have a role to play to enable the correct climate and to work on global solutions that related particularly to copyright and intellectual property rights.
There was also an interesting debate on whether foreign direct investment helped innovation with contrary arguments being made on the need for innovation to be considered as more of a lifecycle issue.
from hardware to software, the people who use the technology, and policies. It was noted
that the key component in all future technologies is training people and having them
understand the technologies going forward.
WITSA unveiled two new initiatives namely the G20 ICT Policy Network to support the new G20 Group of nations. (Based on my humble submission, leading developing nations like Nigeria will be part of this Policy Network as we work towards the Vision 20 2020).
The second initiative of WITSA is the B2B Portal launched to facilitate business between WITSA membersâ€™ members having established WITSA Business Centres in select national associations of which Nigeria is one.
It is important to indicate also that Nigeria was elected into the board of WITSA at the WITSA General Assembly.
WITSA Regional Centre of Excellence
Nigeria with the backing of Kenya, South Africa and Egypt got the node to host the WITSA Regional Centre of Excellency for Africa which will also serve as the Secretariat of the African Region. The Secretariat will be located in Abuja.
The Bermuda Declaration
At the end of the Summit, the Bermuda Declaration endorsed by more than 90% of the delegates was released with the following as its main points:
1. ICT is a proven driver for global economic activity and growth.
2. The economic growth generated by the development of the ICT sector will benefit
3. Access to ICT, knowledge and information provided by the Internet is an
important part of an inclusive information society and is essential for broader
sustainable economic growth.
4. Public_private partnerships are a critical part in building ICT infrastructure and
an information society.
5. There should be an open trading system between nations free from barriers for
ICT products and services. We urge WTO Members to reach the compromises
needed to achieve a successful conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda with an
ambitious and balanced outcome, including comprehensive results in services.
6. Harnessing the power and benefits of ICT for society will not come automatically.
Only if business and governments work together with other partners, including
their education systems, can people everywhere be assured of access to ICT tools
and the knowledge and empowerment they deliver.
7. International strategies to tackle climate change need to make full use of ICT as
one of the most powerful tools available, and one of the only ones that can produce
dramatic changes without negative effects on prosperity or individual lifestyles.
8. With the pressure on global public finances, governments should recognize the
use of ICT and technology_enabled change as tools to address their operational costs
9. The continued success and growth of ICT depends on trust and confidence;
privacy and security should be appropriately integrated into ICT programs, systems,
and products from the beginning.
The Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt and that of Mexico led their countriesâ€™ delegation to the Summit while Mrs Yuwa Naps, the Senior Special Assistant on ICT to the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole was the Nigerian government representation in the Nigerian delegation of six IT Professionals. The next edition of the Summit comes up in Mexico in 2011.
Bermuda is a 53.3sq.km tiny Island nation of about 67,000 people (Abuja is 13 times bigger). It is a British overseas territory inhabited continually since 1609. Apart from UK it is the only country with uninterrupted parliament since 1620. Bermuda earns its foreign exchange from international business in Insurance and it is famous for the manufactured mystical Bermuda Triangle.
Jimson Olufuye is the President of ITAN and CEO Kontemporary Konsulting Ltd
t To be continued
Jimson Olufuye is the President of ITAN and CEO Kontemporary Konsulting Ltd