Home : Africa 2008

11 May 2008

Your Excellency Dr. Ahmed Nazif, Prime Minister of Egypt,
Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the ITU,
Honorable Ministers and Ambassadors,
Respectful guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I stand here today and welcome you all in Egypt for this distinguished gathering, ITU TELECOM AFRICA 2008, which Egypt is glad to be hosting in Cairo, for the third time. Let me start by expressing our appreciation to the ITU for engaging hand in hand with Egypt in realizing this celebration, which I am confident is a significant landmark for the African ICT community.

Since our last gathering in 2004, the cyber world has witnessed great leaps in technological innovation, and has experienced an unmatched pace in the evolution that is overwhelmingly changing not only our day-to-day activities and communications but even more our thinking and social behavior all together.

New concepts such as social networking, open collaboration, peer-to-peer applications and Wiki pages are emerging strongly. Innovative technologies such as blogging, Mobile TV and Web 2.0, empowered by great technological development in infrastructure such as broadband wireless and New Generation Networks, are bringing to life the promises of convergence on all levels:

  • Convergence in industry between IT, telecom and media,
  • Convergence in markets between fixed and mobile,
  • Convergence in services between voice, data and video,
  • Convergence in end user devices such as PDAs, smart phones, digital cameras and MP3 players,

And perhaps the most important effect of this new era is that, although nobody owns the medium, yet everyone contributes to it. Citizens of the new cyber world are no longer only at the receiving end; they are becoming as well authors for content, sources for information and drivers for innovation. Relations are no more limited to “service provider-to-end user” but have extended to cover meshed social networks, sharing content in the user’s own native language and mirroring thus his or her local cultural heritage.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I claim that the impact of this tremendous change in technology take-up and ICT usage is unprecedented, with close to a billion PCs existing worldwide, and over 1.3 billion Internet users and over 1.5 million new mobile subscribers per day globally. Today, more than ever, as the world shifts towards an information age that is transforming it into a global village, technology contributes to the core of economic growth and better living standards.

Nevertheless, many challenges are coming along, challenges that are imposed by this information age. Market dynamics are changing rapidly, giving rise to new businesses and new business models. Industry charts are undergoing vibrant shifting. New companies are established, while others are disappearing or merging. And above all, strong competition is extending across borders.

More importantly are the challenges generated by the technological innovation itself. Such challenges pose questions both on the national level as well as across borders. Among those are issues that have emerged for the citizen of the global cyber world such as cyber-security – privacy and data protection – SPAM - protection of children and minors as well as safer usage of the cyber space; challenges that clearly require both local and regional collaboration as well as international cooperation in a multi-stakeholder discipline on a technology, policy, regulatory, legal, and business levels.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This phenomenal speed of technology evolution and the changes it has created have affected every sector of society and make us question how this would affect current policies and regulations;

  • Can we apply the same regulations to all types of infrastructure, IT, telecom, and media?
  • Should content issues be separated from infrastructure issues and regulations?
  • What are the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern the future of a safer and secure cyber world?
  • Is a harmonization of such legal and regulatory frameworks achievable worldwide?

And many many more.

Answers to such questions differ from one country to another, depending on where it stands today with respect to convergence as well as its current national policies and regulations. It is evident that we all do encourage convergence to improve market economies and that any changes in policies should be able to facilitate this ongoing and developing process, while taking care of the growing global concerns about cyber security, and cyber safety. We should also accept that given the ongoing innovation and the continuing learning process, it is expected that the process will be an evolutionary one where regulations are constantly re-visited, fine tuned and updated.

And here, ladies and gentlemen I am glad that Africa is becoming part of the global dialogue in a structured way. Such an involvement is being empowered by the creation of the Africa Union Conference for ICT Ministers, that was first established in Cairo in April 2006, and which Egypt has been proud to chair for the past 2 years.

In this regard, we believe that the African ICT business community, while it is growing and maturing, must engage more and more in the ongoing international debate on ICT issues. Such a multi-stakeholder, all-inclusive debate is shaping the global information society that was at the ultimate theme of the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva and in Tunisia.

There is also a further need that African countries intensify and diversify also their participation at the global Internet Governance issues, follow up on all its themes, map them to the conditions of our continent, formulate a position towards the topics under discussion, and come up with answers or solutions to the inquiries and challenges that exist. At this point, I would like to reiterate Egypt's pleasure and commitment to host the 4th meeting of the Internet Governance Forum in 2009 that takes place for the first time in an African country … Again an excellent opportunity for giving Africa the right position for contributing to and shaping the future of the cyber world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are as well glad to host the ITU Youth Forum this year in Cairo.

A few words to our young leaders from Africa and from Egypt attending the youth forum this week:

I see you here representing Africa’s bright and motivated youth … as agents for change who will shape its future.

You are the ones that we will continue to count on to develop the tool-box as you become self-empowered and empower those around you to make our collective future.

In your jargon, you no longer surf the net … you make the waves.

New waves of innovation and entrepreneurship. And I assert to you that we as policy makers and industry developers in this event will look forward to the outcome of your discussions and interactions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I stand here today, seeing all partners present and engaged, I invite the African community with all its members, governments, regulators, companies and even end-users, to actively take part in developing this global medium to better serve our beloved continent. We might not be currently enjoying high broadband penetration but we definitely have an enormous number of potential users and are all experiencing a tremendous growth rate in all telecom markets. Let me say that it is our obligation to pave the way for African citizens who are not yet online, investigate what the barriers are, work on overcoming them and make sure to maximize Africa’s share of the next billion users of the cyber world, making sure that its benefits and value-added service cover all aspects of life, public and private. It is our obligation to encourage and attract further investments from Africa and from the rest of the world to make use of the growing market opportunities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end, please allow me to extend my special regards and deepest thanks to everyone who has worked on coordinating this important event to be held in Egypt. I would like to thank you specifically Mr. Prime Minister for honoring us with your esteemed presence in the opening ceremony, and by continuously supporting the overall ICT development in Egypt and in Africa. I would like also to thank you Mr. Toure, the Secretary General of the ITU, you and your team for facilitating with us this event to be successful and fruitful. I would also like to wish our guests a fruitful conference, and I thank you all for your participation, and wish you a pleasant and enjoyable stay in Egypt.

Thank you.