September 27, 2017

Find new options for broadband investment, ITU tells African ICT policymakers

By Prince Osuagwu

INTERNATIONAL Telecommunications Union, ITU and the Commonwealth of Technology Organisations, CTO, have warned Nigerian ICT Policy makers and their African counterparts, to be mindful of the fact that the old way of doing things will fail and deny the continent of joining the league of forward looking global economies if they do not embrace new investment areas in ICT business.

The duo in trying to find an escape route for Africa in an increasingly pervasive and dynamic global technology trend hinted that many countries risked missing out on the benefits of IoT, Big data, robotics and Augmented reality innovations, with the way their ICT policies are structured. At the opening of CTO ICT Forum’17  held this week in Maputo, Mozambique, Nigeria’s Shola Taylor, who is the secretary-general of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, said the risk of many countries missing out on the benefits of IoT, Big Data, AI and augmented reality innovation was high, if they do not invest sufficiently in broadband and ICT services.

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) is the oldest and largest Commonwealth intergovernmental organisation in the field of information and communication technologies. With a diverse membership spanning developed and least developed countries, small island developing states, and more recently also the private sector and civil society, the CTO aims to become a trusted partner for sustainable development for all through ICTs.

Taylor said: “With the Internet of Things, we have a new environment conducive of opportunities for new forms of digital entrepreneurship or public service delivery.” He also reminded policy makers that “there are still far too many without access to the Internet, who are unable to take advantage of the opportunities and benefits digital technologies have to offer.”

Alongside Carlos Mesquita, Mozambique’s Minister of Transport and Communications; Dr Ema Chicoco, Chair of the Board of Mozambique’s Autoridade Reguladora das Comunicações;  Patrick Masambu, Director-General, International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation; Malcolm Johnson, Deputy Secretary-General, International Telecommunications Union.

The event, which was declared open by Carlos Agostinho do Rosário, Mozambique’s Prime Minister, was attended by ministers, regulators, national ICT agencies, industry executives, non-profit organisations and academia from the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, South Asia and the Pacific.

Taylor was emphatic that “We need to investigate new options to provide broadband, including low-orbit space solutions. To achieve this, more investment is essential. Of course, universal service funds must continue to invest and deliver on increasing access. Countries must invest in services for their citizens, and in the infrastructure to support the delivery of these services, or they will miss out on the benefits of IoT, Big Data and augmented reality technologies”  .

Prime Minister Agostinho do Rosario, corroborated him saying: “It’s important for us to continue developing infrastructures as well as information and communication technology services in order to ensure greater availability and coverage of online services.

“Access is front and centre; it is the first step towards a digital nation. Big Data, Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and 5G will all shape our digital future. They are important steps on the journey towards a digital nation and we need to bring together technologists, regulators and policy makers, not only from the ICT sector, but all the sectors that will increasingly depend on the technology, in order to address these challenges,”  he added.

The theme of this year’s Forum was Digital Nations, Digital Wealth, with discussions focused on the prospects for socio-economic growth in a digital future comprising virtual environments, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communications and augmented reality applications. The event include participation form other organisations such as ICANN, Facebook and Huawei who actively contributed to various sessions on universal broadband, regulation of virtual environments, the digital economy, security and privacy.