President Paul Kagame yesterday co-chaired the eleventh International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Broadband Commission meeting in the French capital Paris.
Co-hosted by Irina Bokova, director-general of Unesco, the meeting focused on the importance of broadband to advance education for all.
It was held under the theme, “Leveraging Broadband for building inclusive Knowledge Societies.”
The meeting was held alongside the Unesco Mobile Learning Week, which highlighted the potential for technology to empower women and girls.
Opening the first session, President Kagame emphasised the need to treat broadband as a utility.
“Broadband has become a way of life, a way of business; it touches every level of society. It levels the field for everybody to play and benefit.”
“In Rwanda, investing in ICTs has been indispensable to the attainment of our development goals. Broadband enables business and social entrepreneurs, to find ways to offer world class education at low cost to populations that have never had access,” Kagame added.
The President noted that the benefits of broadband are not limited to entrepreneurship and can result in transparent governance.
“Broadband technology can enhance public administration efficiency and accountability to citizens, no matter where they live,” Kagame said.
Co-chairing the meeting, Carlos Slim, president of the Carlos Slim Foundation, said broadband has the potential to fundamentally change education for the better.
“We need more than innovation, we need revolution. We need education that is not dogmatic but based on debate, free through the use of Internet and moves from text to context,” he said.
President Kagame said the discussion on broadband needs to go beyond technicalities.
“Broadband is about more than accessibility and affordability. It is about transformation. It’s about job creation, empowering the many youth who risk being unemployed and empowering women to join the job market.”
The meeting ended with a ceremony to award President Kagame and Carlos Slim with the Unesco 70th Anniversary Award for their work as co-Chairs of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.
Thanking Unesco for the award, President Kagame recognised the role of digital innovation in transforming lives.
“Broadband access has helped accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by bringing people into networks of learning and prosperity for the first time,” the President said.
With the deadline of the MDGs this year, yesterday’s meeting also served as a call to action to advocate for broadband to be included as part of the ensuing Sustainable Development Goals.
President Kagame has been co-chair of the Broadband Commission alongside Carlos Slim since its inception in 2010. The Commission serves as a top-level advocacy body focusing on promoting access and affordability to broadband worldwide.
ITU figures show that mobile broadband is the fastest growing technology in history with the number of mobile phone subscription now exceeding the world’ population of seven billion and the developing world accounting for 82 per cent of global net additions of Internet users since 2010.
The President ended his visit to France with bilateral meeting with former President Nicolas Sarkozy.