Opening remark by Dr. Debretsion Gebremichael, Communication and Information Technology Minister, at Innovation Africa Digital Summit 2012 (Addis Ababa, March 27, 2012)
Dear Honorable Invited Ministers,
Heads of Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to begin my address with a warm welcome to all of you present here who have traveled from various countries to attend Innovation Africa Digital Summit 2012.
Being the seat of the African Union (AU), Addis Ababa, has successfully organized various international conferences including summits of the Heads of State and governments in many occasions. And now, we are readied to host Innovation Africa Digital Summit 2012 which aims at discussing on the need to create sustainable National and International ICT ecosystems.
Ethiopia draws enormous satisfaction from hosting this important summit that brought together various stakeholders in the telecom and ICT and organized in collaboration with Extensia ltd.
This is an opportunity for all of us to share our best ideas, to learn about the latest developments, and build powerful partnerships and networks.
Ladies and gentlemen!
The theme of “creating Sustainable national / international ICT ecosystem “is indeed a powerful concept which will transform the global socio-economic environment. The ecosystems will influence and build up on each other in a Continuous and dynamic revolution”.
In this day and age, where globalization, connectivity, regulation and demographics are shaping the landscape, developing countries are lagging behind in ICT infrastructure and in the use of ICT tools.
Bridging this ICT gap and ensuring the optimal and innovative use of ICT tools will have a decisive bearing on whether or not the implementation of development strategies is a success or a failure. In short, rapid progress for countries such as Ethiopia in this area is not a matter of choice, but of necessity.
Going back to the history of many we can learn that significant discoveries and inventions have transformed the livelihood of many. When the industrial revolution came, some enhanced it and some didn’t or couldn’t. It appears that there was a choice as far as the industrial revolution was concerned.
But the information revolution would not give you a choice. It will ultimately engulf you without you making a choice, because it’s unavoidable and unstoppable. Thus, it is better to enhance it as quickly as possible and benefit from it or risk being overrun.
Given the indispensable role that ICT plays in facilitating successful implementation of development objectives, as clearly spelt out in the Declaration of principles of the world Summit on Information society, this summit is essential in giving African countries the opportunity for interaction and experience sharing, and helping cement global partnerships for development with the view to attaining the Millennium Development goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The government of Ethiopia recognizes the importance of optimizing the use of ICT tools in the Endeavour to reduce poverty. As a result, the country is one of those African countries that have successfully developed ICT programs that has emanated from its ICT policy and strategies. It is with this background that the government has taken various initiatives in the use of ICT in different sectors.
One such example is the Government’s school-net program connecting all secondary and preparatory schools in Ethiopia and enabling pupils across the country to have access to quality education through ICT tools.
Another illustration of the innovative use of ICT tools is in the agricultural sector, specifically focusing on rural communities. Investments have been made to realize the availability of access on lower level administrative structures. This is intended to enhance training for farmers in the use of enhanced agricultural inputs and provide them with timely information on markets for agricultural products.
These are only a few illustration of how ICT tools can best be integrated into national poverty reduction strategies and be utilized for the purpose lf advancing socio-economic development objectives.
While we feel that Ethiopia’s efforts in this regard are encouraging, the road towards ensuring adequate ICT access to all and in particular providing affordable access to ICT infrastructure and services to rural communities remains a daunting challenge. This difficulty stems from the fact that ICT is both knowledge-based and capital intensive.
Only through the forging of strong partnerships between all the stakeholders, governments, the private sector, international agencies and the donor community, can these challenges be adequately surmounted.
The investments required for building and expanding the necessary infrastructure are enormous. However, this should not, and will not, deter us from facing the challenges. For what is at stake is primarily the well being and prosperity of our societies.
In a world that has become increasingly inter-dependent on ICT, the exclusion and/or marginalization of vast segments of Africa from the benefits of Information technology, inevitably has a negative impact both on Africa and the developed world. In the interests of the global community, the benefits of the advances in Communication Technology must be shared by all, without leaving anyone behind.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today the challenges faced by humanity are global in nature and no nation alone can face and mitigate these issues. At this summit where leaders and policy makers are also represented, we must make a collective effort to identify some of the areas of mutual interest in telecom and ICT which we can be addressed together. We should aim to device effective ways through which we can pool our resources, infra-structure and human intellect.
I therefore call upon all the participants in this summit to embark upon a new paradigm of partnership ‘where giving and sharing is gaining’. A partnership, that will enable us to meet our aspirations together.
I take this opportunity to once again reiterate Ethiopia’s full commitment in furthering our relationship with African nations. I am quite confident that this first ever Innovation Africa digital summit in Addis Ababa will provide a new dimension to our future telecom and ICT developments. At this juncture, I would like thank UN,ECA and all sponsors for the support you extended to make this summit a reality. We will explore together the endless possibilities and new horizons of working together in the true spirit of mutual trust, respect and selfless friendship.
Finally, I wish you all a successful summit and a pleasant stay in Addis Ababa.
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