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SPEECH

BY

Right Honourable Prof. Apollo Sibambi

Prime Minister, Republic of Uganda

REGIONAL PREPARATORY MEETING FOR THE AFRICA REGION 09

Kampala, Uganda

13-15 July 2009

 

Your Excellencies, the Ministers responsible for ICT
The Deputy Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union
The Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau
Distinguished delegates,
The Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me on behalf of the Republic of Uganda to welcome you to this 2nd Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Africa region (RPM) for World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC-2010) here in Kampala, Uganda.

I would like to foremost register my gratitude to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Africa countries for having honoured Uganda to host this important event.

I am also pleased to speak to such a distinguished group of leaders representing an industry that is a driving force in our economy in this era of globalization. I am confident your presence and participation.

Distinguished delegates, the significance of this meeting, which is timely and essential, cannot be overemphasized. It gives us the opportunity to crystallize and consolidate our views on ICT development strategies ahead of the World Telecommunication Development Conference scheduled for 2010. It is imperative, therefore, that this preparatory meeting identify priority areas and related initiatives, projects that need to be addressed to foster development of telecommunications and of information technologies in our countries.

I believe this meeting will take into cognition reports on the implementation of the Doha Action Plan adopted by the 2006 World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-2006), World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) Plan of Action, along with contributions from the African region ITU member states and sector members in a bid to draw up recommendations on priority to be considered by the next WTDC in 2010.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is instructive to note that the African region especially Sub-Saharan Africa has made significant strides in the development of the telecommunications sector, but the region remains perhaps the world’s most challenging and least developed. The key factors responsible for the different ICT take-up rates in Africa are: per capita income, language, level of education (illiteracy), internal digital divide within the African continent, restrictive regulatory frameworks, poverty and lack of infrastructure and the rural concentration and dispersed nature of a country’s population.

In general, the lower a country’s per capita income, the less likely its population is to have access to information and communication technologies. For example, despite the impressive ICT uptake across the region, fixed and mobile broadband penetration remains low. There is also a significant disparity between the region’s high-income economies, where people enjoy the high-speed internet experience, and the low-income economies, where progress towards fixed broadband is slow and internet access is slow, limited and costly.

This is further compounded by the relative poverty, environmental degradation, famine and diseases, relative instability, low population, mainly rural-based and scattered across the region. When we factor in the ongoing global credit crunch, the gravity of the problem becomes very apparent.

However, it is important to note that there are trade offs for low-income countries in terms of devoting scarce resources to ICT and therefore there is need to identify which kinds of telecommunication technologies deliver the best value for money in developing countries, and how the limited resources that can be spent on it can be made to best suit the particular needs of the poor.

Therefore for us in developing countries in order to maximize the use of ICT, we require an understanding not only the opportunities ICT present, but also of the trade-offs involved and of the particular ways in which ICT access has to be tailored if any developmental benefits are to be reaped.

I am pleased to note here that Uganda is a serious actor in telecommunications developments on this continent. We pledge to remain active. The country has made significant progress in the development of her communications sector. In the last 10 years, our communications sector has registered tremendous growth. Under the period the total number of fixed and mobile telephony customers grew from about 50,000 10 years ago to 9,000,000. Teledensity has increased from an average of one telephone per 400 people to now on (1) telephone per five (5) people. The investment in the sector has grown from about US$2 billion. What is significant to note is not so much about the numbers but the rate of the development.

These investments have impacted positively in the economy by creating direct and indirect employment to our people. A number of our people are now employed directly with the operating companies, which others are employed indirectly in related activities that support the provision of communication services.

It is also important to note that Uganda has fully embraced the current information revolution which has resulted in a knowledge-based society. The new communication technologies are being developed rapidly and made more widely available through private investment. Private entrepreneurs have invested heavily in Uganda and helped transform the sector.

We are also developing our human capital, whose knowledge and skills are essential in driving the industry world over. A good number of our universities, particularly Makerere University, have enhanced its focus on ICT-related capacity building programmes. The University has built the largest computing centre in Africa with a capacity of 12,000 students at any one time.

Distinguished delegates, let me underline that in order to establish priorities for our region, we ought to be reminded on the creation of an African Information Society in a globalized world where:

  • Information and decision support systems are sued to support decision-making in all the major sectors of each nation’s economy;
  • Access is available throughout the region to international, regional and national "information highways’;
  • A vibrant private sector exhibits strong leadership in growing information-based economies;
  • African information resources are accessible globally reflecting content on tourism, trade, education, culture, energy, health, transport and natural resources management; and
  • Information and knowledge empower all sectors of society.
  • Let me also remind you of one of the dictums of the modern business world which is "Adapt or Die". This is a glaring reality in the field of telecommunications, where technology is evolving at a supersonic speed. Instead of being reactive, waiting to see what happens and then figuring out a response, we should learn to be proactive identifying the catalysts and possible effects of change and formulating responses ahead of time.

    I consider my participation here not only to officiate the opening but as a unique opportunity to learn more about this important domain of telecommunications industry. I do not intend to take any more of your time, as I realize that you have a busy schedule before you.

    I now have the singular honour to declare this 2nd African Regional Preparatory Meeting for World Telecommunication Development Conference 2010 officially opened.

    FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY

     

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