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02.02.2005 General News

African Leaders urged to budget for ICT

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Accra, Feb. 2, Accra - The Executive Secretary of Economic Commission of Africa (ECA), Mr K. Y. Amoako on Wednesday said African Leaders must take a bold and innovative step to make Information Communication Technology (ICT) part of their budgetary allocations to show their readiness to develop ICT on the Continent.

Speaking at the opening of the second African Conference on the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS) in Accra, Mr Amoako said participants at the conference should make the initiative one of three steps to be considered and included in a final report to be presented at the WSIS conference scheduled for Tunisia in November this year. Already, Africa has proposed the setting up of a solidarity fund for the development of ICT but the developed countries have expressed concern that they would eventually become the only contributors to the fund.

Mr Amoako said there was the need for the Region to show its commitment to develop the Sector and, therefore, stakeholders must strategise and focus on three main areas - infrastructure development, legal and regulatory framework - and consider other financing mechanism apart from donor support.

The Executive Secretary recommended that African Leaders make ICT a permanent feature of their budgets as a sign of their readiness to develop the Sector.

The conference in Accra is expected to build consensus among African representatives and interest groups on areas such as financing information society, internet governance, civil society involvement in ICT and common language for software development for adoption at the second WSIS conference in Tunisia.

The first conference was held in Geneva 2003 with a declaration that among other things stakeholders must make efforts to bridge the digital divide between the developed and developing countries. The declarations also fell in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations whose assessment report presented last month indicated that Africa might not be able to meet some of its targets such as primary education for all by 2015, eliminating child and maternal mortality and developing ICT by the set period.

Mr Amoako expressing optimism said by the recommendations of the Taskforce, there was hope for Africa if aid to the Region increased to 73 billion dollars by 2015.

Aid to Sub-Saharan Africa was 25 billion dollars but is expected to increase to 37 billion dollars this year.

The Executive Secretary said the Geneva declaration gave hope to Africa that all was not lost by way of catching up and allowing ICT to permeate all sectors of development but noted that the declarations also posed a challenge for the Region to achieve this feat.

He urged African Leaders to show greater political will, form partnerships and allow stakeholders to play effective roles in the quest to develop the Sector.

So far Tunisia is reported to have made inroads in the development of ICT, so have Rwanda and Ghana among a few countries to indicate progress over the past decade.

Mr Amoako said the ECA had set a framework and would continue to work to ensure that Africa made this decade one of progress. He said this year presented an opportunity for the Region to make a case and seek support at the UN special session in September and also at the Tunisia conference.

Mr Albert Kan Dapaah, Minister of Communications, said ICT was expected to dominate future economies. Therefore, Ministers of State in charge of the Sector had the responsibility to ensure that their respective countries were provided with the relevant platforms to participate in the information society.

He said the Accra conference was one of such platforms and also observed that the presence of the about 1,000 participants showed the commitment towards the goals of the Region.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Mr Mohammed Ghannochi, Prime Minister of Tunisia, attended the opening ceremony of the conference. President John Agyekum Kufuor opened the conference which has the theme "Access: Africa's Key to an Inclusive Information Society."

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