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Bridge Digital Divides, Improve Infrastructure To Fast-track Smart Africa Initiative – Kagame, Dambatta

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By Nse Anthony-Uko

KIGALI, (Sundiata Post) – Unless the huge infrastructure deficit in Africa is addressed, achieving the smart continent initiative would remain very difficult.

This was the position of Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Professor Umar Dambatta.

Speaking at the ongoing Transform Africa Summit (TAS) 2017, in Kigali, Rwanda, Dambatta asked how the smart Africa initiative would be realized without necessary infrastructure, such as sufficient electricity supply.

He said, “As a regulator, I experience some challenges of how we can drive the smart initiative. One major challenge is that of infrastructure.  Nigeria has about a population of 180 million, equals to the population of all the countries in the sub-Saharan Africa. Without adequate electricity supply, Africa would remain a dark continent,” he said.

Delivering his keynote address at the 3rd edition of Transform Africa Summit, President, the Republic of Rwanda, and Chairman, Smart Africa Board, Dr Paul Kagame, the has told the over delegates at 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 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, 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 per cent 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.”

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