by SAVIOUS KWINIKA in Durban
DURBAN – INNOVATION, inclusivity, infrastructure and investment are critical factors to boost economies, bridge the digital divide and leverage the power of information and communication technology (ICT) to advance sustainable development.
This is according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Secretary General, Houlin Zhao,who was speaking at the Huawei ICT Ministerial Forum at the World Telecom 2018 in Durban.
“As the head of the lead UN agency for ICTs, I have made clear that infrastructure is absolutely my first priority − and that investment in ICT infrastructure is an absolute and urgent need,” Zhao said.
He pointed out Huawei’s Global Connectivity Index report shows that 20 percent increase in ICT infrastructure investment could lead to 1 percent growth in GDP and 20 percent increase in productivity.
“Together with innovation and inclusivity, infrastructure and investment form the “4 I’s” that are critical to boosting the economy, bridging the digital divide, and leveraging the power of ICTs to advance the SDGs,” Zhao said.
He meanwhile unveiled the 2018 State of Broadband report issued by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.
It shows that a growing number of governments now benchmark the status of broadband in their national broadband plans.
It also shows that for the first time at least 15 countries now have strategies in place for promoting the safe use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Siyabonga Cwele, South Africa Minister for Telecommunications and Postal Services, also stressed the need for the national broadband strategies to be implemented in earnest to ensure social and economic development.
Addressing the forum, he added that investment must deliver broadband inclusion for all.
“We need to foster digital inclusion which can be achieved by providing basic access to communities. This must be coupled with a range of localised digital content and digital literacy services,” Cwele said.
Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, Ghana’s Minster of Communications, said her country had made progress on its mobile connectivity programme, highlighting the gains they had made in rural coverage.
Onus–Ekuful said her government had forged a successful public-private partnership with MTN Ghana and Huawei to bring mobile connectivity to thousands of Ghanaians in remote villages, bringing the country closer to its goal of 100 percent coverage by the year 2020.
She said the Rural Star Solution proves that carriers could make rural connectivity a sustainable investment.
“In Ghana the solution cut the cost of deployment by 60percent and operating costs by 40 percent,” Owusu–Ekuful said.
Jianjun Zhou, Vice-President of Huawei ‘s Carrier Business Group, described Huawei’s vision and mission to bring digital to every person, home and organisation for a fully connected, intelligent world.
He said Huawei had set up a dedicated office for emerging markets with a business programme to connect the unconnected.