More innovative approaches will position Africa as a leading player in the internet industry, experts have said.
They were speaking yesterday at the ongoing Africa Regional Internet Development Dialogue taking place in Kigali.
While Africa is one of the largest continents of the world both in terms of area and population with considerable resources, it remains one of the poorest regions of the world.
But that there’s hope as the internet has brought new development opportunities that some countries around the world have already benefitted from.
“Africa can bring a much needed economic transformation and development if it uses these opportunities. Rwanda is the country that strongly believes the most in the power of ICT and particularly the internet,” Jean Philbert Nsengimana, the minister for youth and ICT, said.
The minister, who also officiated at the opening of the two-day meeting, told participants that Rwanda ought to use ICTs to help improve access to quality education, help farmers increase productivity, facilitate the rapid services delivery, and drive the entire development agenda.
“While all these are significant, more innovations among countries can and will help us achieve this and position ourselves as lead players in the internet industry,” he added.
The meeting brings together players from diverse sectors and organisations, including Internet Service Providers, telecom industry, and civil society, leaders of the innovation hubs, ICT, businesses and the academia.
It is organised by the Internet Society in partnership with the Government of Rwanda and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Dawit Bekele, the regional bureau director for Africa at the Internet Society, said that countries or regions that relied too much on industries that require low skills are experiencing major economic downturns that are endangering their stability, but those that put innovation at the forefront have succeeded.
“Often, the countries and regions that are flourishing in spite of all the changes in this world are those that relied on innovative industries such as ICTs and pharmaceuticals. I believe that the current economic environment clearly indicates that innovation is not only a major driver of economic development but also a major force to sustain it,” he said.
Bekele said for Africa to have sustainable development, it needs to be innovative.
“It is not just having nice ideas as it is often depicted. It is the whole process that comprises idea generation, technology development, manufacturing and marketing of a new or improved product,” he added.
Bekele said there are encouraging signs since many African countries are building their internet infrastructure and have created a real economy around the internet.
He said if Africa can position itself as a lead player in the internet industry, it will be able to transform all aspects of their socio-economic and political lives.
This year’s African Regional Internet Development Dialogue focuses on three issues that are critical for the internet economy; entrepreneurship, innovation and education.
During the meeting, two research papers were launched; one about “Internet for Education in Africa” and the second about “The Benefits of Local Content Hosting: A Case Study.”
The meeting will throughout the two-day period feature plenary sessions and panel discussions of experts deliberating on the role of internet in driving economies.