PARLIAMENT - Members of Parliament from over 35 national, regional and continental Parliaments yesterday began a two-day international conference on the development of an equitable information society on the African continent.
The high level meeting at the Parliamentary buildings in Kimihurura is bringing together Speakers, MPs and ICT experts from different parts in and outside Africa is aimed at discussing the role of African Parliaments in promoting ICT development in Africa.
The Kigali meeting will also be an opportunity for legislators to discuss the digital divide that exists between Africa and the rest of the world in regard to the use of ICT and how it can be narrowed.
Speaking on behalf of President Paul Kagame, the President of the Senate Vincent Biruta, noted that the meeting is an opportunity to address most pressing issues the continent faces at the time, which is embracing ICT and ensuring that it is fairly distributed to benefit all people.
“At this juncture our continent is not inline with the rest of the world in terms of development and application of ICTs. We acknowledge with regret that Africa has not taken advantage of innovations and immense benefits of ICTs,” remarked Biruta.
He added that Africa’s ICT Sector remains underdeveloped and isolated, which has a direct impact on the development process as all efforts to develop an equitable information society have been undermined, leaving the majority of the people in the continent in ‘information darkness’.
Parliamentarians will also discuss ICT policies and strategies intended to assist countries to deploy, harness, and exploit the technology for socio-economic development at the local, national and sub-regional levels.
The meeting is organised by the Government of Rwanda in conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNECA-DESA), under the auspices of the African Union Pan African Parliament.
Legislators will also discuss how ICT can be employed in poverty alleviation, improved healthcare delivery, provision of education opportunities for all, particularly the girl child and the creation of employment opportunities.
According to Biruta, Rwanda’s aggressive drive in developing the ICT sector to see that even people on the grassroots can access ICT facilities can be a lesson to many African countries and one of the reasons the country was chosen to host the high level event.
The expected outcomes of the conference will be a final declaration on the role and commitments of the African Parliaments in the development of an equitable information society in Africa.
Biruta also noted that MPs as representatives of the people and policy makers are expected to churn out sound ICT regulations that are pro-people, development oriented strategies necessary to forge an equitable information society.
It was also noted that ICT plays the role of an all important tool for good governance frameworks and fuels economic growth because it empowers markets, fuels private sector and industrial growth.
ICT also propels infrastructure development; the reason African parliaments need to address regulations hindering the development of the sector.