Kigali broadband meeting highlights key role of youth in Africa

Broadband commissioners and interested representatives of governments,
private sector and civil society met in Rwanda’s capital Kigali this week to
focus on challenges, priorities and strategies that can help get the African
continent wired to high-speed networks.


The meeting, which took place on 8-9 September, was held at the
invitation of the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who Co-Chairs the Broadband
Commission for Digital Development with Carlos Slim Helu, Honorary chairman of
Grupo Carso.


President Kagame has prioritized the construction of information and
technology (ICT) networks as part of his national rebuilding programme. The
Commission is co-vice chaired by ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure, and
UNESCO director general, Irina Bokova.


The meeting’s first day focused on the role of youth in defining new ICT
services and driving take-up. In a continent where over half the population is
yet to reach adulthood, Rwanda has an exceptionally young population, with 42
percent of people under the age of 15.

African youth possesses the energy, passion and dedication to use these
technologies to address global challenges and truly benefit from ICTs. Our duty
as leaders is to build the right environment and promote the necessary
investments to allow them to fulfil their potential. Let´s not wait another
century to recognize that broadband was another missed opportunity for Africa,
” said president Paul Kagame.


Two high-level Round Table debates looked at the policies needed to help
ensure African youth gain access to online services such as education,
healthcare, and considered how government and industry can support strategies
to encourage youth entrepreneurship.


Participants included Max
Ahoueke, Minister of Communications and New Technologies, Benin; Clotilde
Nizigama, Minister for Finance, Economy, Cooperation
and Development, Burundi; Brahima Sanou, director,
Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU
; as well as members of the
Broadband Commission, such as
Banerjee, director of the Information Society Division of UNESCO; Cheik Sidi
Diarra, Under Secretary-General, UN Special Adviser on Africa and High
Representative for Least Developed Countries; Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Special
Adviser to the UN Secretary-General for the Millennium Development Goals; Sunil
Bharti Mittal, chairman, Bharti Airtel;
and musician Youssou N’Dour, among others.


Hamadoun Touré told participants, including 135 young students from
Kigali’s leading tertiary education institutions, as well as from other
neighbouring countries, that broadband is the single most powerful tool
available to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development
Goals, and to drive social and economic development.


In the 21st century, with broadband, no young African should ever again
need to be sent abroad in order to enjoy the benefits of an excellent
education. If you are connected, it no longer matters if you are geographically
or socially isolated; you are still connected to the information society. But
if you are not connected, you are – literally – cut off from a whole portion of
the world’s riches,” Touré added.


The programme also featured an Innovation Competition showcasing 11
exciting new apps created by young Rwandan developers. The two winners,
M-AHWIII and Osca, will be sponsored to represent Rwanda at the forthcoming ITU
Telecom World 2011 Digital Innovators competition in October.

The event also served also as a preparatory meeting for the upcoming
global Broadband Leadership Summit, which will take place in Geneva,
Switzerland on 24-25 October as part of ITU Telecom World 2011.


The Summit will bring together Heads of State, Prime Ministers,
Ministers, CEOs of major companies, Heads of UN Agencies and regulators from
across the globe. It will allow leaders to connect, exchange knowledge, seal
deals, share best practices and help extend the social and economic benefits of
high-speed networks.


By Team
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