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Global Symposium for Regulators
Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade opened the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators calling for "computers for all, digital for all"
President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal

A warm welcome to Senegal

In the broadband world, “a new ladder of regulation” is required to achieve the right balance between service and infrastructure competition. This includes ensuring equal and non-discriminatory access to networks, and the removal of potential bottlenecks that could prevent users from enjoying the full benefits of a digital world that is increasingly driven by speed, ubiquity of access and affordable prices. This is one of the conclusions of the 10th Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-10), organized by the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), in collaboration with Senegal’s Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP). The Symposium attracted 437 participants, bringing together regulators, policy-makers and service providers from 81 countries.

Held in Dakar under the auspices of President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, the Global Industry Leaders’ Forum (9 November) and the Global Symposium for Regulators (10–12 November) provided an important global platform for sharing experiences, building consensus and forging common approaches to managing the ever more complex information and communication technology (ICT) markets. In particular, the meetings focused on the ongoing development of the mobile and wireless market; the impact of broadband, not just on the ICT sector, but also beyond it; and the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial broadcasting and the allocation of the “digital dividend” — the ultra-high frequency spectrum (470–862 MHz band) potentially freed up by the switchover.

Presiding over the opening ceremony of the Symposium, President Abdoulaye Wade stressed that everyone should share in the benefits of the digital dividend, even those who are not aware of the transition to the digital economy. He said that Senegal is very satisfied with the achievements of ITU and the support it provides to developing countries to move forward in building the information society and the digital world. He added that he will spare no effort to assist ITU in its work and to help achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. He congratulated Dr Hamadoun I. Touré on his reelection as Secretary-General of ITU; commended Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, outgoing Director of BDT, for his contribution to ICT development; and congratulated BDT Director elect, Brahima Sanou.

President Wade asked all stakeholders (governments, policy-makers, regulators and the private sector) to focus their efforts on one simple challenge: computers for all, digital for all. The world has down through history become increasingly divided into two camps: those who communicate, and those who do not. Fortunately, he said, the Internet now enables us to bridge that digital gap, with computers offering the keys to the most completely democratic realm that exists. The digital revolution must not leave anyone by the wayside, said the President. A better-balanced, more harmonious information society should be founded on widespread access to computers. This will ensure that countries currently lagging behind in this area will not be permanently marginalized. Africa, in particular, is making great efforts to equip its people with modern technology.

National initiatives to bridge the digital divide

President Wade highlighted some of the national initiatives in Senegal to bridge the digital divide, the latest being the “cyberhuts” (“cybercases”) project. These cyberhuts will act as hubs for communication and training for villagers and youth. A cyberhut is a centre equipped with computers and Internet connection, and will allow villagers across Senegal to watch television and to communicate via video telephony with people throughout the world. A pilot cyberhut is already operating in the town of Poponguine in Thiés, and funding has been secured to install 130 more cyberhuts throughout Senegal — the ultimate aim being to install 350. The plan is for each cyberhut to train around 500 young people every year in fields as diverse as agriculture and electronics.

President Wade went on to announce the installation in Senegal of a computer manufacturing plant that would produce 400 000 computers per year. Stressing the need to equip Africans with computers and connect Africa to the world, he pointed out that connectivity means nothing without computers. He argued that the computer is the fastest route to knowledge. The computer manufacturing project will boost the plan he has launched in Senegal for “a computer for every student, a computer for every teacher”.

        
Ndongo Dia
Ndongo Diao
Director-General of Senegal’s Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post and Chairman of GSR-10

President Wade’s vision is to create an integrated system where, from kindergarten to university, computers are omnipresent in every student’s education. Implementation of that vision started with the launch of the Children’s House (Case des tout-petits) soon after he became President of Senegal. Under this community-based programme, young children (aged 2–6 years) are introduced to modern toys, including computer games. Use of the latest technology will become second nature to the Children’s House generation, offering them a brighter future. Parents and the community also receive education and training at the Children’s House. This initiative is just one example of Senegal’s activities to integrate ICT into the country’s education system.

Under the Digital Solidarity Fund, which President Wade pioneered, one company in France, the AXA Group, has offered Senegal 30 000 computers for reconditioning.

A national Committee has been set up to speed up the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting in Senegal in order to meet the 2015 deadline set by ITU in a digital broadcasting plan, covering some 116 countries (mainly in Africa and Europe). President Wade called on regulators to provide the right environment for investment and urged the private sector to continue investing in the ICT sector in Africa. Regulators faced many challenges, but one they should focus on is how to protect personal data in the digital world.

Ndongo Diao, Director-General of Senegal’s Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post, and Chairman of GSR-10, noted that President Wade, who had founded Senegal’s Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post and the Universal Service Development Fund, had already accustomed Africa to the machinery of the “knowledge economy”, for which electronic communication networks constituted the basic infrastructure. President Wade had displayed a bold and firm commitment to foster economic recovery in Africa, which had led him and other African leaders to launch the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Welcoming participants, Mr Diao said “Senegal, under the leadership of its President, Maître Abdoulaye Wade, Coordinator for the ICT component of NEPAD, is delighted to be the organizer, in collaboration with ITU, of this major global event, bringing together all of the regulatory bodies and decision-makers from the telecommunication and ICT sector.” He called on the global gathering to help bridge the digital divide by defining the future direction and scope of regulation.

 

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