An International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Indicators Meeting, held in Egypt, ended with officials expressing concern over low rates of penetration for ICT technologies and internet use on the African continent.
Sami Al Basheer El Morshid, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the ITU said: “Based on ITU estimates, 23 out of 100 inhabitants globally used the Internet at the end of 2008. But Internet penetration levels in the developing countries remain low. Africa with 5 per cent penetration is lagging behind. When it comes to broadband penetration, figures are even lower. At the same time, given the rapid spread of IMT-2000/3G mobile cellular networks in many countries, including in the developing world, there is a clear potential for mobile broadband to connect more and more people — and at higher speed,”
The Indicators meeting was the first for the African continent, and also the first to be held by the ITU outside of Switzerland.
Speaking about the ICT sector against the backdrop of the current negative global economic climate, El Morshid said: “We held this meeting as the world is facing a severe recession. The global downturn will particularly pose a challenge for the poor and slow the progress made in the evolution of the global information society and the implementation of the goals set out in the World Summit on the Information Society.”
“In these difficult times, reliable data become essential to monitor progress and to assess the impact of the crisis. In particular, the monitoring of the digital divide and whether it will increase as a result of the crisis becomes imperative. It is therefore critical to continue producing comparable statistics to provide policy makers with reliable data they can use to monitor their national information society developments.”
The meeting brought together regulators, government departments and research organisations to discuss policy making for the ICT sector, based on statistical and empirical evidence of trends in the sector.