The future of Africa up for debate at AfricaCom 2011By Ryan Noik 30 September 2011 | Categories: news
While the upcoming AfricaCom 2011 congress from the 9th to the 10th November in Cape Town will host discussions and presentations on LTE and the impending 4G wave, key topics, which are particularly pertinent to the African continent, such as rural telecoms, connectivity and planning ahead for future progress, are expected to dominate.
“The importance of reducing the digital divide in the Southern Hemisphere, to ensure economic development is paramount to achieving sustainable global economic success,” explained Julie Rey, research director of Informa Media and Telecoms, the organisers of the congress.
Some of the barriers that have been identified to the continent integrating into a first world economy include a lack of broad based broadband, inadequate speeds of interconnectivity and the lack of basic infrastructure that supports communication amongst the mass and scattered population.
The congress organisers asserted that broadband service is still limited across the continent, owing to the lack of backbone infrastructure. The shortage of competitive submarine cables, along with the high cost of international voice calls and internet connectivity, renders Africa far from being first world in its communications. However, there is hope within this bleak picture.
Rey added that the provision of a working, yet dynamic, infrastructure that encompasses the current ‘have-nots’ across the continent, and allows them access to education and social development advancements, is critical to achieving economic growth.
The impending migration to digital should open the playing fields and trading grounds, allowing for more digital citizens and bridge the knowledge divide. Additionally, it is expected to narrow the current information gap and redress prevailing inequalities in information technology.
This will ultimately lower the entry cost of communication and generate more businesses to contribute to GDP, which will in turn benefit the global economy. According to the organisers, any major growth in information communication and technology access has come mostly from the mobile telecommunications arena, where private investment has been the main driver.
However, there are several issues that need to be discussed. These include affordability of smartphones to support attractive content, cost-effective services and most importantly, how the role of the operator should evolve to support this changing telecoms, media and ICT ecosystem. The development of skills to support and maintain the infrastructure similarly requires significant in-depth deliberation.
“We anticipate that AfricaCom 2011 will provide the ideal staging ground for this debate with no doubt its own fair share of controversy. We encourage delegates to attend this year’s congress to lend their voices to shaping the future of Africa’s economy, where speed limits need not apply,” concluded Rey.
More information on the congress, which will be held Cape Town International Convention Centre, as well as details on the event programme and keynote addresses can be found here.
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