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Business & Finance | Apr 21, 2004

Africa accounts for 1% of global internet users– ECA

Vanguard

Recent statistics by the Economic Commission for Africa, ECA, has indicated that African countries account for only 1% of the global internet users.

The study further revealed that Africa has a long way to go as far as the deployment of ICT for poverty reduction is concerned. While Africa's internet growth stagnates, internet is at geometric proportion in the developed economies of the world. According to the study, over the last decade, African countries have been striving hard to position themselves to deploy information Communications technology to break the digital divide.

This revelation was contained in a paper delivered by the Vice President of Republic of Ghana, H. E Alhaji Aliu Mahama at the international Conference on information Technology and Economic development held recently in Ghana.

According to him, systematic approaches to policy making aimed at internet accessibility to the rural areas through the construction of the rural tele-centres in Africa is considered laudable.

He contended that one important factor which has impact on development is the use of the internet adding that this is linked to quality of the broadband telephone service.

The Ghanian Vice President noted that it is important for developing countries to realize that IT can only serve as a tool for economic development if it is treated as an investment good rather than a consumption good.

“This is particularly true if developing countries can focus on solution focused software development based on research and development”, he added.

He said that African countries have not attained much as the usage of internet is mostly restricted to the urban areas. A similar study conducted by the Nigerian Information Technology Professionals in America (NITPA) has also revealed that Africa is far behind in the global information communication technology race.

The study was contained in a paper titled: “The Future Generation of ICT Experts: Can Africa Lead the Way?” which was presented by Prof. Manny Aniebonam of George Washington University, United States of America, on the occasion of African Technology Studies (ATPS) conference on African challenges on ICT held in Abuja recently.

Prof Manny, who is also the President of NITPA in his presentation examined how Africa could build capacity through mobilization of her indigenous resources for development engagement through education policy realignment, knowledge content among others so as to be part of information society.

According to Aniebonam, a quantified estimate of African Digital Divide parameter, NITPA studies, 2002, revealed that university graduates with IT skills in North America stood at 85 per cent while Africa has 5 per cent, a situation experts said will take Africa about 45 years to catch up.

The NITPA study further revealed that Africa is still grossly lagging behind in ICT as the ratio of PC in America is 85 per 100 household as against 3 per 100 household in Africa.

The study also revealed that Computer literacy in North America is higher compared to Africa as the ratio is 78 per 100 persons in North America while that of Africa is 5, a situation experts said, will take Africa about 25 years to catch up with North America.

Furthermore, North America is far ahead Africa in internet usage as the figure showed that internet use per 100 persons in North America is 87 while Africa is 4 per 100 persons. The study also revealed that IT is contributing 15 per cent to Economic growth in North America while in Africa, it is only 0.2 per cent.

Further still, the NITPA study revealed that in North America, 20 per cent of overall economic development is attributable to information technology while in Africa, it is 0.5 per cent. He noted that from every study, Africa is far behind in the global ICT race and falling further behind daily adding that a radical treatment is needed if we must catch up.

Aniebonam attributed infrastructure inadequacy, human capacity inadequacy, government policies, educational handicap, image, insecurity and institutional inadequacies as the greatest challenges facing Africa.

As in human capacity, he noted that 90 per cent of expert skills are imported while indigenous experts abound in diaspora. He said that many indigenous experts, are wishing to join those in diaspora as result of lack of enabling environment. He stated that capacity building and nation building for African Union (AU) nations must be co-ordinated, well planned and executed to be effective.

According to him, it will involve African experts in diaspora, government agencies, organizational entities, and objective non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The following parametres according to him, will be affected, using stated mode of practices.

*Image building: promotion of African image at global levels through direct contacts with Africans in diaspora, collaborating with NGOs. *policy initiatives: Addressing security issues, enabling environment, and functional legal system. *Organizational Alliance: Development of high level partnership of organisations, within each country and through AU. *Training: Education of African indigenes through established initiatives such as Teachers without Borders, NITPA, TTT initiative, global conferences, among others.

Africa, he contended, has come of age in its capacity but must seize the moment (with the emergence of AU and NEPAD) to effectively utilize its human resources.

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