The importance of ICT in the information age

Early this week Rwanda hosted a continental conference on Information and communication technology.

Early this week Rwanda hosted a continental conference on Information and communication technology.

The conference dubbed “Connect Africa summit” brought together a cross section of state and non state actors.

What is taking place on the African continent as regards promotion and realization of information and communication technology is in part an acknowledgement of the fact that ICT is the cornerstone of the age we are in- The information age.

Africa has lagged behind the rest of the world in as far as the information age is concerned.

This is not new. Even prior to the onset of the information age, Africa unlike most of the world had missed out on the industrial revolution.

Access to relevant information today and age is the only way people, societies and nations can advance in terms of social and economic development.

It is important in trade and commerce for people to have information as fast as is humanely possible.

Whereas this has been understood and applied by many advanced countries of the world, technologies like the mobile phone and internet have for long been regarded as preserves of the elite in most parts of Africa.

The discovery of the mobile telephone in this information age we are in can be juxtaposed to the discovery of the watt steam engine as a precursor to the onset of the industrial revolution.

For Africa to develop and be at par with the developed countries of the world, implementation of the resolutions adopted by the recent Kigali ICT summit conference must be top priority.

As some leaders stated at the summit, many resolutions are reached and never see the light of day. 

This has been the case with many conferences which are normally sponsored by the omnipresent international agencies.

To some observers, holding conferences is a mode of generating money for personal use.

The importance of ICT must propel all stakeholders across the African continent to implement the resolutions reached.

The fact that the summit was held in Kigali and hosted by a leadership that has distinguished itself as one that truly walks the talk, manifests the direction this high important subject is going to take.

Rwanda is on a fast track to becoming Africa’s ICT hub.

The role of private entrepreneurship is going to be paramount is achieving this ambitious project across the continent.

Recently I got the feeling that leading business personalities in the private sector in Rwanda are already strategizing to take advantage of the boom in ICT products.

Faustin Mbundu, a leading business man in Kigali told me recently that he is already planning with enterprising professionals in ICT to be able to export ICT products within the region.

This role of the private sector will ultimately provide the cornerstone for the success of ICT development.

This is more still in line with the philosophy of private sector-led growth that has been adapted by many countries.

The resultant benefits of ICT ultimately in Africa will have a spiral effect on other areas in as far as economic and social advancement is concerned.

E-commerce, for example will help many people graduating in African universities but with limited employment opportunities to work for overseas companies while living in their home countries.

For example a business person in a country with a different time zone as Rwanda can after a long day of work send his accounts to an accountant in Africa to balance his books as he goes to sleep.

This is possible with high speed internet connectivity.

What is also important is the need to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas in most countries.

Whereas mobile phone and internet connectivity is now a norm in many cities and some towns, it is especially as regards the internet absent in most rural areas.

This is also due to the absence of other facilities like electricity in most rural areas.

Thus to make ICT widely accessible, rural electrification is very important and indispensable.

All in all Africa’s development is going to be underlined by its access to information that ICT helps to make fast and relevant.

Having missed out during the era of industrialization, we can not afford to miss out once again in the information age. However, it is important to realize that most of the infrastructure that makes access to information by way of ICT possible is absent in most African countries because of lack of industrialization.

Unlike in the developed world, this will provide unique challenges to Africa as it seeks to advance in ICT.

Ends

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