African leaders will gather in Addis Adeba, Ethiopia at the end of January for the 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government to tackle mainly ICT issues.
The summit will run under the theme Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa: Challenges and Prospects of Development.
Although the meeting will also discuss trouble spots on the continent and look at the enhancement of peace and security, unconstitutional change of governments, the FIFA 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa and climate change, ICT will deliberately be the top item on the agenda.
The leaders are expected to map out strategies to speed up the development of ICT, considered to be a vital tool for development.
The summit comes at a time when Africa is lagging behind in ICT development, with a large percentage of the continent’s population still having no access to computers, Internet, telephone services and radio.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the bulk of the least developed countries, some of which are facing severe economic, social and political challenges.
A large percentage of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live below the poverty line and view ICT as a luxury given that where this service is available, the majority of the populace often have no access to it owing to prohibitive costs.
Despite the numerous challenges, mainly economical, some countries such a Zimbabwe are making strides to speed up ICT development.
Zimbabwean leader President Robert Mugabe has in the past gone around the country distributing computers to schools and institutions of higher learning.
His country has gone a step further to create a ministry of Information and Communication Technology, in a bid to spearhead ICT development.
The setting up of the ministry has seen the lunch of a national website, www.zim.gov.zw as a source of information for investors and other people who seek to engage the government.
The country’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Nelson Chamisa, said Zimbabwe was on the right path in the development of ICT, although it was way behind other African countries such as South Africa.
“We have done well within a short space of time. We are fast catching up with leading global players. Soon Parliament will debate the ICT Bill, which is expected to go a long way in facilitating the growth of the industry”, said Chamisa.
by Tintswalo Baloyi