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REPORT - DAY 1

This meeting was jointly organized by the International Telecommunication Union and the Commonwealth Business Council, hosted by the Ministry of Information Technology & Telecommunications of Mauritius, and held in association with E-Africa Commission (NEPAD). The event took place in the Meridian Hotel, Pointe aux Piments in Mauritius from the 7th to the 9th of July 2004.

The Global ICT Forum for the Least Developed Countries with the running theme: ICT Stakeholder Forum: Special Focus on LDCs played host to 57 Member States almost all from the Least Developed Countries, ITU recognized agencies, regional and international organizations, donor agencies, the private sector and civil society with the aim to examine concrete projects, proposals and models that will help integrate least developed countries into the global economy through the effective deployment of information communication technologies (ICTs).

Around 150 participants from almost all of the 49 Least Developed Countries took part in this event. Ethiopia, Ghana, Kiribati, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Solomon Islands, and Sudan were represented at Ministerial level. The African Development Bank, E-Africa Commission, ECOWAS, European Commission, COMESA, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and USAID, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Trade Centre (ITC), PNUD and UNESCO were some of the key regional and international organizations that took part and played an important role at the Forum. The private sector was well represented by organizations from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States.

The event, which was comprised of presentations, interactive discussions and debates was followed by questions and answers and provoked lively discussions on the role of each stakeholder in the establishment of an information society in least developed countries. Ministers of Communications, other high-level decision makers, regulators, development partners, private sector, multilateral agencies, and civil society managed to identify innovative development solutions and practical strategies for deploying information and communication technologies (ICTs) projects to help the world’s poorest countries get out of the current poverty trap in which they find themselves.


FIRST DAY

WELCOMING CEREMONY

The first day started with a Welcoming Ceremony chaired by Professor David Mellor, President of Cable & Wireless Virtual Academy and Chairman of TDAG. Dr Mohan Kaul, Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), opened the welcoming speeches giving an overview of the CBC as an Economic Force and as a Digital Leader. He noted that most of the Commonwealth countries are sorely lacking in even the traditional telecommunications technology. To tackle this problem, the Commonwealth Action Programme for the Digital Divide (September 2000), established an Expert Group on Information Technology who submitted a report on concrete proposals with an aim to help building capacity in ICT in member countries by strengthening the building blocks for information societies within and outside the Commonwealth. Finally he mentioned the focus areas promoted by CBC such as: E-government, e-commerce, ICT Policy, human capacity building and knowledge networks.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Hamadoun I. Touré, Director of the International Telecommunication Development Bureau called for effective and facilitative cooperation, coordination and collaboration by all stakeholders at all levels. Mr Touré challenged Ministers to get their legislation on ICTs right. He urged the private sector to explore abundant market opportunities that remain untapped in these countries. Finally, Mr. Touré appealed to development agencies and international organizations to complement and coordinate each other’s work, while he also called on academia and civil society to help influence public policy.

Dr. Henry Chasia, Executive Deputy Chairperson of the NEPAD E-Africa Commission, introduced NEPAD as a commitment of Africa’s leaders to take individual and collective responsibility for Africa’s development and as the best instrument for addressing the systemic challenges of LDCs. Mr Chasia identified NEPAD’s ten Focus Areas which would address the application of ICTs. He concluded by saying that we have a long way to go, but with the support of all, we should be well on the way to making a real difference to the Least Development Countries on the African Continent.

Hon Deelchand Jeeha, Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunications in Mauritius, in his welcoming speech, drew attention to the fact that the digital divide between the developed and the developing countries is
continuously widening. He concluded saying that the objective is to make Mauritius an information society where citizens, the Government, business community and ICT industry can work together to fully reap the benefits of ICTs.

Mauritius’ Acting Prime Minister, Jayakrishna Cuttaree who welcomed guests, emphasized the importance of ICTs in the economy of every country and said that, to harness the advantage of this technology, some of the key initiatives that need to be taken by the LDCs include: “… a firm commitment of the Government to develop the ICT sector, a well laid out ICT policy that should be formulated by the country clearly specifying its priorities, that the ICT sector should be open to full competition in a gradual manner, Government should be one of the biggest users of ICTs, and the information that can be utilized by the citizens should be made available over the Internet preferably in the local language.”


PLENARY SESSION

STATE OF PLAY: CHALLENGES TO LDCs

Following the welcoming ceremony, Head of ITU’s Special Unit for the Least Developed Countries made a presentation on the state of telecommunications in the LDCs and future projections in the telecommunications sector of these countries. A publication by the Unit entitled: “The Application of Information and Communication Technologies in the Least Developed Countries for Sustained Economic Growth was distributed to all participants. Following this address, a panel discussion by LDC ministers focused on the challenges their countries face in overcoming obstacles to achieving development objectives such as the WSIS targets and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Hon. Patterson Oti, Minister of Communications, Aviation & Meteorology of the Solomon Islands presented a counter-perspective when he said that there is no unique solution to implementing ICTs in an LDC country. Nevertheless, he stressed that policy coherence and political stability with the assistance of donor agencies are of vital importance to help a poor country scape the LDC trap.

The Minister of Communications, Transport and Tourism Development of the Republic of Kiribati, Hon. Natan Tweewe, expressed his regrets that despite the development efforts undertaken by the LDCs to improve their telecommunications infrastructure, disparities still persists between the LDCs and Developed countries. He also explained the expansion of the telecom network in its country, which consists of Satellite Earth Stations, and a digital radio network.

The last speaker was Mr Ibrahim, Minister of Information and Communication, Sudan who described the status of telecommunication in his country. He talked about a National ICT Fund that is helping in establishing computers in schools, promote e-Medicine and e-Agriculture in Sudan.

The moderator, Dr. Edward Malloy, IT Policy Adviser of USAID, concluded the session, raising the question of limited funds. He questioned the audience whether we should create new funds to be given to fight HIV, provide education and other basic necessities or to ICT activities.


SETTING THE STAGE: POLICY TRACKS/ISSUES

Professor Mellor was the first speaker who explained the role of the Cable & Wireless Virtual Academy programme in partnership with ITU through the transfer of on-line knowledge from developed countries to least developing countries through the offering of Master Degrees to students.

Dr. Abu Sufian E. Dafalla, Telecom Officer of COMESA, explained the infrastructure existing situation, the importance of infrastructure and the barriers of infrastructure development, such as low investment, lack of strategies in developing infrastructure, lack of awareness of ICT services, etc.

Mr. Osman AtaÇ, ITC, talked about bridging the digital divide by integrating management-export and e-competencies of SMEs. He stressed that ITC focuses on e-competence, export-competence and management-competence to enable enterprises to incorporate information and communication technologies in the management of their businesses and exports.


ICTs in ACTION: PRIVATE SECTOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO ACHIEVING MDGs

The private sector also had a dedicated session devoted to what they perceived to be their role in reversing the current digital divide in LDCs. Specific projects jointly implemented by a group of the private sector members and the International Telecommunication Union were showcased. Among them included those by the Cisco, under the Cisco Networking Academy Program and the Vodaphone partnership arrangement for the benefit of youths.


REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE – NEPAD ICT INITIATIVES

Dr. Henry Chasia made a presentation on the NEPAD Initiative on ICTs naming the various projects, but focusing on the NEPAD e-Schools. This project will produce young Africans with skills to participate in the knowledge economy. The target is to convert all schools in any given country in Africa to “NEPAD e-Schools”. A NEPAD school is a school connected to the Internet; has teachers trained to teach ICT skills; allows teachers to use ICT to deliver their lessons; uses ICT for administration of the school and has, in a longer term, a “health point”. He finally concluded that the success of The NEPAD ICT Programme eradicates fruitful partnerships in implementing them.


The summary of the day was led by Hamadoun Touré who, in his closing remarks, gave an overview of all presentations and call to all stakeholders to an actively participation to find driven solutions for the ICTs in LDCs countries throughout the From.

At the end of the day a tour was organized for delegates to visit the Mauritius Cyber Park.

 

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Updated : 2004-07-22