Honorable Yamfwa Mukanga, Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communication of Zambia,
Honorable Deputy Minister of Communication of South Africa
Ms. Judith O’Neil Member of CITI Advisory Board
Honorable High dignitaries here present
Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure to be here today and to address you at the opening session of this conference. I would like to thank the Government and the people of Zambia for hosting this Conference and for the warm welcome extended to us.
Over the past twenty years, we can celebrate an extraordinary transition from a world where most people did not have access to even basic telecommunications, to a world with six billion mobile cellular subscriptions and over 2.3 billion people using the Internet.
With more than 400 million mobile subscribers, Africa has brought basic communications within reach of almost everyone. African individuals and SMEs have been innovative and quick to build new services around these advances in communication, such as mobile banking, e-agricultural and e-health and e-education.
With numerous fibre optic cable projects coming online, Africa stands at the beginning of an era where massive increases in bandwidth will enable a new generation of innovators. Indeed, history is likely to demonstrate that the greatest contribution of Broadband and broadband-enable applications to the development of Africa is the exponential increase of the ability of people to use, create and share ideas and knowledge.
However, just as the wonders of the brain and human consciousness cannot be explained by studying neurons or how they are interlinked, the benefits of ICT for socio-economic development cannot be understood by simply adding up the numbers of connected people. That’s because new ideas, creativity and self-expression are going to emerge from the new networks being created between Africans and others.
Although we are still in the early days of abundant bandwidth, I suspect that the next ICT innovation in Africa is likely to be based around a growing use of video. Just as Africa is skipping the desktop PC and jumping straight to mobile platforms for access to ICT services, I think Africa could jump straight to video as a primary means to develop and deliver new kinds of innovative services – ranging from medical and educational uses to entertainment.
Online video is making it possible to reach a mass audience. With video capabilities being built into most new smartphones and tablet computers, entry barriers are lower than ever. One person speaking can now be seen by – and potentially inspire – millions of others.
Some signs are already emerging of this growing video market in Africa. For example, Nigerian ‘Nollywood’ has become the second largest film industry in the world in terms of number of annual film productions. Online African films are now getting millions of viewers over the Internet.
The Famous and respectable African writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ said that, in Africa, every time an old man dies, it is as if a library has burned down. This is because the oral tradition is as beautiful and as powerful as the written literature. This is also because much of African knowledge and culture is not recorded. And unfortunately, what is recorded and seen in the media is too often shaped or distorted by those often outside of Africa.
As a result, Africa is solely portrayed as land of underdevelopment, famine, disease and conflict. This stereotypical image of Africa is only one single story without context and the problem with stereotypes is that they rather represent only one aspect of a much larger reality.
With video, the lives and cultures and many stories of Africa can now, more easily than ever, be digitally created and shared amongst millions. This can help empower Africans and particularly the young people to create new digital storylines of their future.
This will be made possible by broadband and this is the reason why ITU together with UNESCO have created the Broadband Commission for digital development to make sure that broadband related services can take off speedily to boost socio-economic development.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Cost of not moving swiftly is therefore high for individual, communities and the world at large because we involved in a sector where swift moving is driven by three things.
First, no matter at what time you go to bed, when you wake up the first question to ask yourself is what have changed when I was sleeping and second question is what must I do to remain relevant.
Second, for every single opportunity that comes along, either you use it or you lose it.
Third, unfortunately in almost all the cases you lose the opportunity for ever.
I wish you a very inspiring conference.
I thank you
Lusaka, Zambia 5/22/2012