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Thursday, March 16, 2006

CTO supports NEPAD on broadband network

•For East-Southern Africa

Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO)-led consortium has successfully initiated work on a World Bank funded project to support the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in efforts toward building broadband network for East and Southern Africa regions.

The implementation would see to a consensus on the policy and regulatory framework in development of an Open Access Cross Border Terrestrial Broadband ICT Infrastructure Network in East and Southern Africa.

The terrestrial infrastructure will also aid the harmonization of the highly anticipated Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) submarine cable, in order to create a broadband ICT network that will eventually enhance the chances of East and Southern African countries in achieving their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The EASSy is an initiative to connect countries along the east coast of Africa including landlocked countries via fibre optic cable to the rest of the world.

Announcing this, Chief Executive CTO, Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, said by “Providing the East and Southern Africa region with a broadband network that will enable countries to improve their communication with each other and playing a role in the global knowledge economy is imperative if countries in the region are to achieve their development goals.”

He also said that the consortium comprised experts from the CTO and ICT Consultants (Pty) Ltd of Botswana, just as they would focus on the special challenges faced by land-locked countries in the region and the harmonisation of policy, legislative and regulatory instruments and practices that would facilitate ownership and management of the communications infrastructure.

CTO’s experience he noted, in researching and advising on this project would enable it to provide valuable advice for other multi-country ICT infrastructure projects in the Caribbean, South Asia or the Pacific regions.

Additionally he said, many experts and analysts, implementing a broadband network in Eastern and Southern Africa will not guarantee the improvements in the provision of ICT services and socio-economic development that stakeholders in the region were striving to achieve, “if the project ownership and management structure are not carefully considered”.

Recalling that for several African ICT experts, the limited impact that the SAT-3 submarine cable, which runs along the West African coastline, has had on the development of the region serves as an important warning of the effect of monopolistic arrangements.

Hence, the continued high cost of leasing capacity from the SAT-3 cable, the slower than expected growth of the ICT sector in West Africa region and the relative high cost of telephony and internet services were some of the lessons from the west coast of Africa. that they hope will not be allowed to repeat in the eastern and southern regions.

“Thus, the need to ensure that the broadband network for Eastern and Southern Africa creates as much developmental benefit as possible has led governments from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to call for the network to be founded and developed on five principles,” CTO boss pointed out.

Emphasising that the five principles include the application of ‘open access’ to the network, the use of public-private-partnership in building the infrastructure and the acceptance that the network can be owned developed, and maintained, as appropriate, by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) is an international development partnership between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth governments, businesses and civil society organisations focused on information and communication technologies (ICT) and development.

Also CTO supports the international community’s efforts to bridge the digital divide and promote social and economic development, by delivering to developing countries unique knowledge-sharing programmes in the use of ICTs in the specific areas of telecommunications, IT, broadcasting and the Internet.

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