By Dipo Olowookere
Over 32 countries have assembled in Addis Ababa for the annual Africa review and follow up of the progress in achieving the World Summit on Information (WSIS) outcomes.
The experts in attendance are also focusing on emerging issues in ICT in relation to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the meeting brings together African policy makers, ICT experts, and representatives of regional and international organizations, telecommunications operators, private sector, civil society, academic and research institutions.
In his opening remarks, Mr Kasirim Nwuke, Chief, New Technologies and Innovation Section, ECA reiterated that Africa needed knowledgeable and informed policymakers to help “address and take advantage of new technologies.”
He urged participants to carefully interrogate the emerging issues, propose a set of recommendations and policy actions that could serve as a means for African countries to harness the possibilities that these new technologies present while managing out the risks.
Mr Nwuke also stressed the need for a common reporting framework on ICT and development for the region and noted that the data burden on National Statistical Offices is so huge that for the most part, data on ICT for African countries are produced and disseminated by providers.
Such data, said Mr Nwuke, are in many countries grouped in a manner reflecting the structure of operations of the operators.
He told the forum that the most pressing issue from policy perspectives is the practice of grouping African countries in operator-generated reports. “In some reports, the whole continent is grouped with the Middle East- a sub-region of the Asian continent. In others, North Africa is grouped with the Middle East; and countries south of the Sahara are grouped together as SSA.”
Yet, lamented Mr Nwuke, some reports even exclude South Africa and Nigeria because of the size of their markets, making meaningful Africa-wide assessment difficult.
He called on the experts to propose a framework for a common reporting platform for the continent in the context of the SDGs.
The meeting continues until Thursday 24 November and will feature special sessions such as: the rise of the financial technology (fintech) industry in Africa and the increasing challenge of cyber-security; an All-of-Africa indicator framework for ICT measurement in the context of the SDGs and the AU’s Agenda 2063; Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) transition; and emerging Internet governance issues.
The key outcomes of the meeting include, a report on progress made in the region in the implementation of WSIS action lines and a measurement framework for ICT within the context of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
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