Africa is to benefit from a new agreement by the International Telecommunication Union and the European Commission (EC) to attract massive investment in ICT infrastructure and ICT-enabled applications.
Over the past decade, most countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean have initiated reforms in the telecommunication sector by establishing national regulatory bodies, introducing competition and at least partially privatizing operators. However, large sections of the population remain without basic access to information and communication technology (ICT) services.
Key reforms have yet to be undertaken in many countries which would provide regulators with the tools and authority to effectively regulate the sector as a means of boosting investment, promoting innovation and building confidence in ICT markets.
The European Union has allocated 8-million Euro from the European Development Fund, to which ITU will add $500 000.00 of its own resources. The work will be managed and implemented by ITU.
The ITU-EC agreement aims at the harmonisation of regulatory frameworks and the building of human as well as institutional capacity in the field of ICT. A fundamental shift in policy and regulatory frameworks is considered essential to achieve the connectivity targets by 2015 as committed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the objectives of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which recognised that "to maximize the social, economic and environmental benefits of the Information Society, governments need to create a trustworthy, transparent and non-discriminatory legal, regulatory and policy environment".
The agreement was concluded by the Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, Sami Al-Basheer Al Morshid and Carlo Eich, Head of the EuropeAid Corporate Office.
Al Basheer stresses that "the creation of an enabling environment is one of the key building blocks in the establishment of the Information Society".
An effective and harmonised regulatory framework will encourage private sector investment in the telecom market. More competition will inevitably lead to lower prices and better service for African customers. It will also provide an enabling environment for the $55-billion commitments made at the Connect Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, last October and contribute to closing the digital divide on the African continent.
The ITU-EC collaboration is a follow-up to commitments made at the Connect Africa Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, last October when the European Commission announced its support for ITU's regulatory reform initiatives in Africa. It also follows the successful implementation of an earlier ITU−EC cooperation project on establishing hamonized regulatory frameworks for ICT in West Africa.
The agreement is aimed at:
* Developing and promoting ICT market policies and guidelines for individual countries;
* Supporting regional organizations and sub-regional economic groupings to develop and promote the use of harmonized ICT market policies and regulations; and
* Building human as well as institutional capacity in the field of ICT through a range of targeted training, education and knowledge sharing measures.
Among the expected outcomes are:
* Creating awareness at the highest political level within the developing countries on the need of transition to a knowledge-based economy;
* Assisting developing countries to adapt regulatory frameworks to develop ICT infrastructure and applications;
* Developing local competence through the organization of training on ICT policy, regulatory and e-readiness issues; and
* Maximising economic and social benefits that serve national priorities.