Thursday, July 10, 2008

Road Map On ICT in West Africa Conference underway in Ghana

A two-day West Africa ICT Road Map to Opportunities Conference, is underway in Accra to discuss regional market creation and cross border co-operation on wireless technologies. The conference on the theme: "West Africa ICT Road Map to Opportunities," which attracted participants from West Africa and other global partners would examine the application of ICT in the areas of e-commerce and e-Government within the Sub-Region. Government, US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the US Department of State, organised the conference, which was opened by Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama.

Vice President Mahama observed that the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's), in West Africa, would be a mirage if ICT do not play an integral part. He said the MDG's are time-bound and there were challenges associated with the objectives, hence the need for stakeholders in ICT in the Sub-Region to shy away from mere rhetoric's and be proactive to achieve results. "The quest for rapid socio-economic development in our part of the world does not allow us the luxury of conference talk with little action."Vice President Mahama said the promotion of the Information Society would require substantial investments in terms of financial, technological and human resources. He noted that although West Africa possesses enormous investment potential for the deployment of ICT for development, there is minimal cross-border ICT infrastructure that would provide the expected impact for development."In fact, we are still confronted with the phenomenon of passing our telephone and Internet traffic through the developed countries of Europe and America to the West African Sub-Region." Vice President Mahama called for global assistance to enable Ghana to pursue the Digital Freedom Initiative to facilitate services such as Internet connectivity.He said Ghana and other West Africa countries lacked financial resources to improve on problems like ICT capacity building programmes and specialised training for policy makers and regulators, connectivity for ICT services and applications in remote areas. Dr. Benjamin Aggrey Ntim, Minister of Communications expressed the need for the expansion of access to ICT in West Africa in order to facilitate economic competitiveness.Mr. David Gross, US Co-ordinator for ICT Policy, noted that, the US had exceeded its financial commitment to Africa and also shown the way to boost the economic growth of the Continent. Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of International Telecommunication Union said Africa was leading the way in embracing ICT which he described as positive news that deviated from the negative news of wars and conflicts.He expressed the need for concerted efforts to confront cyber crime, which is undermining public confidence in ICT. Ms. Leocadia Zak, Deputy Director of USTDA said her outfit had committed 745,000 dollars in support of ICT projects in Liberia and Niger.The first grant will fund an assessment for the Liberian Telecommunications Corporation for the technical and financial viability of the proposed metropolitan fibre optic ring around Liberia. The second grant will support a separate study for Seaquest Info Tel of Niger on the National ICT backbone. 09 July 08
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