Today (17 May) is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD), aimed to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. The theme this year is “better life in rural communities with ICTs”.
More than three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas. They lack economic opportunities, have difficulty accessing basic services, have a limited voice in governance and remain extremely vulnerable to shocks. In sub-Saharan Africa they account for 67% of the total population and rural poverty in this region is deepening. Rural areas in South Africa share similar characteristics.
The extent to which ICTs have the ability to improve the lives of the rural poor is debatable. There is no doubt that the use of ICTs among poor people is growing rapidly. Coverage reaches further than roads, electricity, sanitation and clean water. ICTs – and in particular mobile technology – provides access to information and communication; it complements successful development initiatives, drives innovation, and empowers communities and individuals to co-create new solutions.
Successful uses of ICTs in rural development include improved access to markets, financial services and employment; increased access to education and healthcare; improvement in emergency and disaster relief; and improvement in transparency and public participation through the use of mobile phones in citizen journalism.
To try to measure the value and impact of these tools in support of rural development, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, SANGONeT’ seventh annual conference will focus on Information Communication Technologies for Rural Development (ICT4RD) with a theme titled, “Rural Realities, Real Solutions”.
The conference will bring together more than 250 key innovators, implementers, social entrepreneurs and thinkers from across the developing world to explore how ICT innovations can benefit rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa. It will assess the current state of ICT4RD projects, products and policies; create an environment for matchmaking and deep knowledge-sharing; and contribute to the successful use of ICTs in response to the realities of rural development.
The conerence will be held from the 1-3 November 2011 at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg