President Paul Kagame has said that the transformation of the African continent through ICT ought to be inclusive and serve to reduce divisions rather than widen them.
The President made the remarks, yesterday, at the opening of the ongoing Transform Africa Summit at the Kigali Convention Centre.
VIDEO: President Kagame's address at Transform Africa Summit 2017
Kagame said the rollout and adoption of digital technologies and ICT in general across the continent should not distinguish or discriminate against any section of the population.
“Access to technology and information must also not distinguish between rich and poor or between urban and rural people. If technology is entrenching divides rather than equalising opportunity, then we are not harnessing it well and there will be negative consequences,” Kagame said.
He added that countries and private sector players ought to be a key tool in fulfilling the promise to bridge divides rather than deepen them.
Kagame highlighted the importance of technology as an essential tool towards achieving solutions.
“Technology is a powerful framework for bringing diverse stakeholders together to define challenges and find solutions,” he said.
In using ICT as a transformative agent, the President said that there ought to be a focus on transforming mindsets.
“Transforming Africa means transforming Africans, by enabling a practical mindset of problem-solving and discovery. The focus on people is the starting point around which we can build everything else, including the infrastructure and systems. This goal can only be achieved by working together with the private sector taking the lead and governments fostering conducive environment,” Kagame said.
This year’s summit focuses on smart cities with delegates deliberating and reviewing a blueprint for African capitals in the development and rollout of infrastructure, security, energy and transport, among others.
Kagame said smart cities was an ideal focus at the moment given the rapid rate of urbanisation across the continent.
“Africa currently has the world’s fastest growing cities, but Africa remains the least urbanised continent. Africa is not as prosperous as it should be because our cities are too small and disconnected,” he said.
“The Smart Cities framework, launched today [yesterday], should serve as a catalyst to fast-forward our plan. Our role is to continue to push for speedy implementation.”
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) secretary-general Houlin Zhao said development of sustainable cities ought to be a priority considering the urbanisation rates.
He said that this was achievable given the continent’s performance and achievement in other aspects such as the one area network, the scholarship fund, among others.
Dr Hamadoun Toure, the executive secretary of the Smart Africa Alliance, said that they were expecting more countries to join the alliance during the summit. The Alliance membership yesterday grew to 19 after the addition of South Africa.
Smart Africa Alliance was borne from the first edition of the Transform Africa Summit in Kigali in 2013 as leaders committed to fast-track development using IT.
The alliance membership has grown beyond countries to include nine development partners, including the World Bank, African Union Commission, African Development Bank, and ITU.
The Transform Africa Summit opening ceremony was also attended by First Lady Jeannette Kagame, President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada of Sao Tome and First Lady Nana Trovoada, and Zambian Vice-President Inonge Wina.
Others included Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UN Women; UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova, and Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, the AU commissioner for infrastructure and energy.