Kigali, Serena Hotel, 8th September, 2011
- Excellencies, Leaders of High Institutions of our Government;
- Mr. Carlos Slim Helu, Honorary Lifetime Chairman, Group Carso and the Co-chair of the Broadband Commission for digital development;
- Dr. Hamadoun Toure,ITU Secretary General and Vice –Co-chair of the Broadband Commission for digital development;
- Mr. Indrajit Bannerjee, representing Vice-Chair Irma Bokova;
- Distinguished commissioners;
- African Ministers here present;
- The African youth gathered in Kigali;
- Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Rwanda and to the Broadband Commission’s Youth Forum. Rwanda is honoured to host this important event which will examine how our youth can leverage the power of technology and proactively interact, participate and contribute to the development of our increasingly globalised world.
We will do everything in our means to make your deliberations productive, and your stay memorable.
Excellencies, it has been said time and again that information and Communications Technology are the pillars which drive modern economies and society.
Broadband is this century’s transformative technology, much as electricity, radio, TV and other previous era technologies transformed the world and propelled some nations into the industrial age. The ability to access and process fast amounts of data on broadband networks has increased the productivity and competitiveness of individuals, firms and nations.
It is no longer possible to view global trade without considering the interconnecting undersea cables and other communication systems that move terabytes of business data between markets across all continents. This is the economic reality of the 21st century, and we must ensure that we have the right strategies in place to fully benefit from these technological advances.
Nations that have seized opportunities of this nature at the right time have gone on to build better lives for their citizens.
It is also a known fact, that although modern technologies have revolutionized the developed world, it has also created a digital divide between the rich and poor.
Today’s youth provide this missing link, as they have the opportunity to engage with broadband technologies, creating a future which bypasses these existing divides. Our duty as leaders is to create a conducive environment for them to thrive, be competitive, and use their energy and creativity to integrate broadband and ICTs into our nations’ development agenda.
And as you deliberate on the role of broadband in Africa’s future, I would like to share some thoughts that may help us to collectively search for concrete strategies that will take us forward.
We must recognize and acknowledge that Africa has come late to seize the opportunities offered by broadband and other technologies and, from now, agree to take corrective measures.
Of course, we can argue that some of these technologies were not amenable to fast diffusion because of the need for heavy investment in the required infrastructure and high technological skills often not available in developing economies.
However, unlike the previous era technologies, Information and Communications Technology in general, and broadband in particular, are much easier to propagate.
Though modest, we now have some required building blocks to enable us embark on this journey. For example, we do have in place some level of skills and the structures required to acquire and meaningfully exploit these new technologies.
There are also sufficient experiences and market structures that have demonstrated telecommunication services to reach even the remotest places. Moreover, the universal nature of these technologies makes broadband a mass technology which allows for several providers to be involved in their dissemination.
Secondly to you, the youth, I would like to say this. Technology is increasingly playing a major role in the way you learn, interact and fully participate in today’s world.
You are tomorrow’s promise because of today’s possibilities—you possess the energy and drive required to use these technologies to address some of the world’s challenges across many sectors.
Broadband also offers you a powerful tool to remain politically engaged, because it provides a medium to interact with your governments, make your voices heard and allows you opportunities to shape national and global policies.
In the case of Rwanda, we have instituted policies where our citizens can utilize social media to access their leaders.
This is one of the steps needed to ensure that we remove communication barriers between government officials and their citizens.
Thirdly, we leaders are faced with urgent decisions—we must establish the right partnerships across governments, industry, academia and the international development community to ensure that we do not wait for another century to recognize that broadband too, was another missed opportunity.
We need to develop effective strategies necessary for the harmonization of regulatory policies and allow for fast rollout of broadband infrastructure, creating incentives to encourage private broadband operators to invest cost-effectively in low income markets.
We must also ensure that broadband development is not seen in isolation of other national development priorities but rather as a symbiotic strategic imperative.
Similarly, the Academia should play a significant role in ensuring that the youth possess adequate skills to use and exploit the benefits of broadband technology. For example, we need to have professionals from all fields able to harness broadband and provide innovative services to the world’s people.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
As we continue to deliberate on the subject of building Africa’s future around broadband technologies, it is also important to recognize that the world needs to be mobilized to address broadband as a development imperative.
This is the message we will deliver to world leaders as they convene in Geneva next month in October of this year to adopt core strategies that will move broadband to the central stage of developmental policies.
With these remarks, I wish to thank you for your involvement in these key discussions and hope that you will continue to think of innovative ways to propel our countries forward.
Thank you once again for your kind attention.