Africa ‘to target 80% online by 2020’

8 June 2012

A medium-term target of 80% internet connectivity across Africa by 2020 has been set, Communications Minister Dina Pule told delegates at the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Indaba in Cape Town on Thursday.

“In this connected future, all of Africa’s major cities, towns and villages will be connected to affordable internet, thereby facilitating the continent’s mass entry into the knowledge and information economy,” Pule said in her closing speech.

Inter-ministerial meetings held during the indaba yielded a resolution to engage with the rest of Africa on the ICT journey.

The support of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in their plans to update regulations would also be provided, Pule said. “[It] should help developing countries to benefit from the frameworks for interconnections and roaming in the telecommunications market.”

A team was being set up to monitor the progress and implementation of resolutions made at the indaba, and feedback would be shared with other African countries. Regional and continental organisations would interact with countries which were not represented at the indaba.

Pule said that delivering broadband access to every African citizen would accelerate the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

“Our work will also assist us in identifying and closing the skills gap within our countries.”

The benefit of such an approach would be Africa creating its own technologies instead of just being a consumer for them, she said.

It was the government’s role, within the information and communications sector, to act as a regulator.”We never abdicate that responsibility to anyone,” said Pule.

Working with the private sector and entrepreneurs – especially the youth – could provide further opportunities, though.

Sustainable jobs, some of which might not exist today, could also be created if large and small to medium businesses were allowed the space to innovate.

“This will help us close the gap between policymakers and the entrepreneurs who are crucial in the creation of jobs,” she said.

Expansion of the mobile application industry served as an example of a job creation area which did not exist three years ago, Pule said. “Now it employs millions of people and is making the lives of many easier.”

Sapa