Policy And Regulation Crucial to ICT Progress in Africa

Addis Ababa, 03 May 2011 (ECA) – The ICT, Science and Technology Division (ISTD) of the UN Economic Commission for Africa reported at the ICT sub-committee meeting Tuesday that it had concentrated during the year 2009-2010 on supporting countries to implement their ICT policies and strategies.
Ms. Eskedar Nega, Programme Officer said that the Division had extended its policy and strategy support to countries that made requests. She highlighted Burkina Faso that needed to develop e-government and e-health strategies and the Gambia that needed support for the development of its National Information and Communication Implementation Plan (NICI).
Other countries such as Mali requested support for sectoral e-strategies on e-commerce and e-agriculture, and Niger, the development of e-commerce, e-education and e-health strategies.
“ECA is trying to promote the need to build a conducive environment for economic growth and employment creation,” she said, adding: “We have supported in revising and adopting new laws for the ICT sector in Ethiopia and in Ghana.”
These e-Legislation activities include developing a national e-commerce law and supporting the newly-created Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of Ethiopia as well as reviewing Ghana’s cyber security policy and helping to set up a Computer Emergency Response Team.
At the sub-regional level, the ECA has been working with the SADC on eSADC, a programme aimed at promoting regional cooperation and trade in the region.
“We have received requests from COMESA and CEMAC and we are mobilising resources to respond to their requests.” Nega said.
The ECA is partnering with the ITU and UNCTAD, supported by the Government of Finland, to continue with its work on measuring how well countries are performing in ICTs. This work on measurement and evaluation includes: Capacity-building on ICT Measurement in Africa; Development of e-government indicators; Scan-ICT programme in Nigeria; Capacity-building for Parliamentarians; African eLearning Initiative; and the Technology in Government Awards (TIGA).
ECA’s collaboration with the African Union during the reporting period was also highlighted. “In terms of collaborating with the AUC, we have worked very closely,” She said.
The ECA is looking forward to even more work for the 2012-2013 period. Several activities are envisaged in capacity-building, advocacy and gender sensitive strategies.
Among the many lessons learnt, Ms. Nega said that commitment to policy and regulatory change as well as developing an enabling ICT environment was crucial.
“Where we have a clear vision to promote ICTs, to ensure political leadership at the highest level, member states need to ensure ownership by all stakeholders.”
The session was marked by a successful motion from one of the participants requesting the re-establishment of the Knowledge, Library and Information Service (KLIS) Committee. Following unanimous support from participants, the ECA will take the case forward for CODIST III. If reintroduced, it will bring back the number of subcommittees under ISTD to four including Geo, ICT and S&T.
The order of business for the ICT subcommittee included the selection of new members to spearhead the work of the bureau for the next reporting period. The new bureau included Gambia and Rwanda as chair and vice-chair and Angola and Sudan as first and second rapporteurs.
–    UNECA Press release

Africa-Europe Research Collaboration Gets Infrastructure Boost

Gaborone, Botswana, and Cambridge, UK, 11 May 2011: DANTE, the international research network operator, and the European Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office today announce the signature of a €14.75M contract for support to a sub-Saharan African intra-regional research networking infrastructure which is already interconnected to the pan-European research network, GÉANT. Eighty percent of the project’s funding will come from the European Commission’s EuropeAid Co-operation Office, and the remainder will be contributed by the African partners in the project.
The contract represents a significant injection of capital to develop research networking infrastructure across sub-Saharan Africa and with Europe. The initiative will dramatically accelerate the development of the Information Society in Africa, providing advanced data communications infrastructure and enabling African researchers to collaborate more easily in advanced international research projects.
Within the framework of the Africa Caribbean Pacific Islands (ACP) programme, the AfricaConnect project will establish a high-capacity Internet network for research and education in Southern and Eastern Africa to provide the region with a gateway to global research collaboration, the objective of which is to overcome the current limitations of international research collaboration within sub-Saharan Africa and towards Europe, and to foster research and education collaboration and advancement within and between these regions.
The project will be strongly collaborative, so whilst DANTE will coordinate AfricaConnect, they will be partnered by DANTE’s regional counterpart organisations in Africa – UbuntuNet Alliance covering Eastern and Southern Africa, and WACREN covering Western and Central Africa – as well as the Association of African Universities; existing National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa (DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia); and several European NRENs (Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK). All will work to ensure that the project benefits all of sub-Saharan Africa.
“We are delighted to see this project underway,” said Cathrin Stöver, DANTE’s International Relations Manager. “DANTE has a strong history of supporting regional connectivity including actions in South America and Asia, and we will build on this experience to support African research and education networks as together they transform the research environment in Africa. DANTE always puts the emphasis on partnership in this kind of activity, and we are therefore excited to be working with such a strong group of partners on a project of this importance.”
Eng. Dr Francis Tusubira, CEO of the UbuntuNet Alliance agrees: “For the Alliance, this support is invaluable, since our challenges run from the macro-challenge of establishing regional connectivity in a geographical area that could contain the whole of Europe several times over, to the comparative micro-challenge of ensuring that each NREN has the human capacity to set up and operate their national network. Achievement of the impossible is our mantra, and we appreciate the support of the European Commission in this respect – their funding makes the achievement of the impossible a whole lot easier!”
DANTE will soon announce an international tender for the connectivity and equipment required for the AfricaConnect project. The infrastructure is expected to be operational by early 2012.
The AfricaConnect project is expected to last for four years, after which time the African Project Partners of AfricaConnect will ensure the sustainability of the intra-regional African research network and its direct connection to GÉANT.
-Press release by DANTE (www.dante.net) and the UbuntuNet Alliance (www.ubuntunet.net).

Uganda moves to block social networks

By Michael Malakata – IDG News Service
In the face of uprisings meant to force regime change in various African countries, the Ugandan government is moving to shut down social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter.
The closure of social media networks in Uganda comes only a month after the Cameroonian government banned social media. In Swaziland, social media networks were also banned early this month in a bid by the government to quell demonstrations over political reforms and the rising cost of living.

Swaziland Consults On ICT Policy

Participants of the consultation meeting on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy have called for government to change the name of the ministry of information, communication and technology (ICT) because it was confusing.
One of the participants Sipho Dlamini said ICT fell under Science and Technology and the ministry needed to be renamed. However, he did not come up with a suggestion.

OECD Estimates Economic Impact of Shutting Down Internet And Mobile Phone Services in Egypt

The current shutdown of internet and communications services in Egypt will have a pronounced economic impact. It is estimated to have incurred direct costs of at minimum USD 90 million in lost revenues due to blocked telecommunications and internet services. However, this amount does not include the secondary economic impacts which resulted from a loss of business in other sectors affected by the shutdown of communication services, such as e-commerce, tourism and call centres. Read more: