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Monday, March 23, 2009

Akunyili speaks @ CTO e-Gov forum

MINISTER for Information and Communications, Prof. (Mrs) Dora Nkem Akunyili, has been slated to be among lead speakers at the annual African e-Governance conference schedule to take off tomorrow in Kigali, Rwandan capital.

The third in the series, e-Governance Forum 2009 is organised by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), and hosted by the Rwandan Ministry in charge of Science and Technology at the Office of the President. It is billed to take place at the Kigali Serena Hotel, between March, Tuesday 24 and Thursday 26 this year.

Manager, International Events & Corporate Communications
Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, organisers of the event, Mr. Samuel Fletcher, informed in a press statement made available to ITRealms Online that African ICT Ministers, regulators and operating company executives are expected to use ICTs to fight the global recession and to renew their commitments to more effective governance through better and faster deployment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in their respective countries when they meet in Kigali, Rwanda.

Among the ministers attending the event include the host minister Hon Prof Romain Murenzi, Minister of Science and Technology, Rwanda: Hon Samuel Pogishio, Minister of Information and Communications, Kenya: Hon Maj Gen Gier Chuang Aluong, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Government of Southern Sudan: Hon Aggrey Awori, Minister of ICT, Uganda: Hon Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Malawi: Hon Prof Dora Nkem Akunyili, Minister for Information and Communications, Nigeria: Hon Alhaji Ben Kargbo, Minister of Information and Communications, Sierra Leone: and Hon Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Botswana.

According to Fletcher, participants would be joined by a number of executives from ICT manufacturing companies, infrastructure and technology providers, as well as from international donor agencies, academics, consultants, non-governmental organisations and other key stakeholders to discuss e-governance best practices.

The event, he said, would be officially opened by President Paul Kagame, tends to address policy, regulatory, legislative, legal, operational, technological, commercial, financial and implementation issues with respect to the use of ICTs to improve the access of businesses and citizens to government information and services.

Discussions will also include how e-governance could transform Africa through the applications in the related fields of e-health or telemedicine, e-commerce, e-agriculture, e-education and distance or e-learning.

Speaking on the forum, chief executive, CTO, Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, noted that in recent years, emerging economies and emerging democracies have come to appreciate how ICTs could help promote economic growth as well as good governance.

“In Africa, in particular, the rapid access to mobile phones, the Internet and continued popularity of radio and TV has made it possible to empower the citizenry and to make some recent elections, such as those held in Ghana in December 2008 and January 2009, to be recognised globally as generally free and fair. By enabling businesses and citizens to gain access to a growing list of public services through the Internet and mobile phones, and by making it possible for entrepreneurs and citizens to communicate their concerns to public institutions through these devices, the ICT community is helping Africa to bridge the digital divide. But there are many lessons to be learnt, best practices to be replicated, and more to be done. This conference will help to advance this important cause,” he said.

Although he said that about 6.5 billion people in the world, about one half are estimated to have mobile phones and almost a quarter have Internet access, the figures for sub-Saharan Africa is still pale in comparison, at less than 20 per cent average mobile penetration and less than 5 per cent Internet access.

Pointing out that a number of presentations and interactive sessions would take place at the conference with attention given to measures to reverse this situation.
A member of the Rwandan legislature, Senator Gasamagera Wellars, for example, will deliver the first keynote address focusing on “The Role of African Parliaments in the Development of an Equitable Information Society.”

A second keynote presentation touching on the need for African governments to embrace ICTs for effective, inclusive and transparent governance will be given by Hon Dr Ham-Mukasa Mulira, Senior Presidential Advisor on ICT, and former ICT Minister of Uganda.

A strategic partner for the high-level conference is the West Indian Ocean Cable Company, the facilitator of the EASSy cable project covering the East African Region.
Investing in additional fibre cable capacity and increased broadband access in Africa are generally agreed to be amongst the major actions that governments and business are expected to take if ICTs are to play an even greater role in fostering democracy and good governance in Africa and spurring economic growth even at a time of a global recession.

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