President Paul Kagame has told delegates at a major ICT summit in Rwanda that as long as women and girls are lagging behind, Africa is not on the right track of advancing technology.
He said that bridging the digital divide is an urgent matter.
“If technology is entrenching divides, rather than equalizing opportunity, then we are not harnessing it well,” the president said while addressing the 3rd edition of Transform Africa Summit taking place in the capital Kigali.
Kagame said that access to technology and information must also not distinguish between rich and poor, or between urban and rural people.
He said that Africa looks set to emerge as one of the planet’s great centres of growth, innovation and opportunity in future generations. But he warned the continent has to be fully connected with high speed internet to achieve this.
“Africa has to be connected, and why not at the highest possible speeds?” Kagame asked more than 3000 delegates attending 3rd edition of a 3-day Transform Africa summit.
The summit, convened at Radisson Blu and Convention Centre in the capital Kigali, seeks to launch the ‘Smart Africa’ blue print that embeds a vision of technology based African cities in the next decades.
Currently, a small percentage of Africans have access to internet and even the one available has a very low connectivity – a challenge President Kagame said, “must be regarded as an opportunity for stronger public – private collaboration.”
The President said that in Rwanda, “our partnership with Korea Telecom has already served to speed up our progress towards the broadband target.”
Through partnership with Korea Telecom, the country laid over 3,000km of a $130m Fibre optic network with 4G LTE connectivity, covering 95% of the 11 million population.
The country, through Ministry of education has also distributed more than 204,000 laptops to 407 schools countrywide as part of the ‘One Laptop per Child (OLPC)’ project – ranking Rwanda the 3rd largest deployment globally, after Peru and Uruguay.
Jean Phibert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and ICT told the summit that today, the 4-GLTE internet “is a blanket that covers 70% of our country, connecting businesses, transforming education and enabling a paperless, cashless and real time 24/7 government services experience for business and our citizen.”
Kagame wants similar model deployed across the continent. For instance, in his speech, he told delegates that through partnership, “We can work together to put technology in hands of citizens in order to build inclusive and sustainable places to live.”
Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet – a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries including Africa, heeded to Kagame’s statement and projected why Africa need internet and technology more than anything else.
For instance, he said in the past 2 years, the data consumed globally has never been consumed since mankind.
For technology and innovation to flourish on the continent, Masiyiwa advised that African entrepreneurs should be given an enabling, friendly and sensitive working environment.
“Before end of the century, there are going to be over 40 billion people on the planet. There will be massive cities in Africa,” Masiyiwa said.
For Africa to move out of its current situation, Kagame said; “Our future well-being depends on how well we respond to these challenges, right now.”
The President said that the word smart is about leveraging technologies to narrow the gap between high quality services needed and those we can afford.
“The Smart Cities framework launched today should serve as a catalyst to fast-forward our plans. The focus on people is the starting point around which we can build everything else. Transforming Africa means transforming Africans, by enabling a practical mindset of problem solving and discovery,” Kagame said.
Houlin Zhao, the Secretary General of International Telecommunication Union (ITU), paid tribute to President Kagame for his unmatched efforts to push internet connectivity by regularly attending the meetings.
“Since July 2010, ITU and UNESCO have been inviting President Kagame to chair ITU summit and he has never missed any of the meetings,” he said.
The Secretary General of ITU offered full support to the Broadband Commission to help transform Africa.
“Africa is leading the way. You have created a Smart Africa scholarship fund, shaping the new leaders.”
Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Executive Director of the Smart Africa Alliance, said he hopes, “to move forward on Smart cities vision and advance cities through ICTs.”
About 3.5 billion people live in cities around the world. This figure, Toure said should be “an opportunity to develop strategies on new ways to shape and accelerate Africa’s digital revolution.”
By doing this, he added, “We want to empower Smart Africa member states to become smart economies.”
Currently, there are 18 member states of Smart Africa Alliance, with more new members expected to join during this 3-day conference, Toure said.
At the launch of the 2017 Transform Africa Summit, President Kagame was accompanied by The First Lady Jeannette Kagame, President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, Prime Minister of São Tomé and Principe, Patrice Trovoada and his wife.
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