Accra, Feb 2, GNA - Africa needs to present a common viewpoint on Information and Communication Technology in order to bridge the digital divide between the continent and the developed world, regional leaders and experts said on Wednesday.
They held that a coordinated adoption of a ICT for the region would enable it to compete freely and fairly in the world and also reduce the level of poverty among its peoples.
These were the sentiments expressed by various leaders and experts at the opening of the second African Regional Preparatory Conference on the World Summit of the Information Society in Accra.
The speakers included Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Dr K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commision for Africa and Mr Ekow Spio Gabrah, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation, as well as representatives of UNESCO, WSIS and the Africa Union.
President John Agyekum kufuor delivered the keynote address. The three-day conference, which is on the theme: "Access: Africa's Key to an Inclusive Information Society", is expected to prepare a common position of the continent for the second phase of the WSIS to be held in Tunis in November this year.
President Kagame expressed concern that Africa continued to trail in all major development indicators such as the human development index, maternal mortality and poverty but hoped that the adoption of a unified viewpoint on ICT as a tool could turn the situation round and accelerate development.
He called for the scaling up of investment in ICT and innovation, research and creativity in order to compete in the global market."
"Unless we are willing to integrate and harness our potential for ICT the imbalances will remain," he said, and also called for a strong and stable relationship between business and government for the creation of the much needed interconnectivity.
Mr Ekow Spio Gabrah reiterated the need for coordination in ICT 'with like-minded countries' if the continent was to succeed as a major player in the global information society. "Africa's relative weak voice cannot be heard loud enough unless it is harmonised with similar voices across the world," he said and added that the continent would have itself to blame should it fail to take timely action.
In a message read on his behalf, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade underscored the crucial role of the digital solidarity fund set up to mobilise resources for bolstering the ICT agenda on the continent and called for increased education on its benefits in bridging the digital divide.
Participating in the discussions are representatives from government, civil society, and ICT related professional bodies.
They would be seeking to address the thorny issues of accessibility and finance in the quest to make the technology available to majority of the people, including rural communities.