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ACP-CTO roundtable stresses Broadband’s crucial role in development

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Brussels, 23 October 2011: Heads of ICT regulators in the ACP region emphasized the importance of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) as a driving force behind development, and called for increased broadband penetration in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries at a roundtable event on Thursday.


The conference, co-organized by the ACP Secretariat and the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), aimed to increase awareness about the latest technological developments and policy trends in Broadband, and its key role in promoting e-governance and e-society.


“I want us to understand and agree that broadband is not simply a technology, a frequency, an ICT instrument or a mere telecom terminology, but rather it is a veritable facilitator of economic development through rapid knowledge acquisition, storage, processing, distribution and utilization,” said former CTO head Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah of Ghana in his keynote address.


He pointed to academic research showing the “direct causal relationship” between broadband access and general economic growth. The World Bank estimates that a 10% increase in Internet penetration leads to a 1.38% increase in GDP growth amongst low-middle income countries.


However, penetration rates in ACP regions need improvement, with only 7.46% in the Caribbean, 1.9% in Africa, and 1.6% in the Pacific (not including Australia and New Zealand). This is compared Europe, where 65% of the population are regular internet users.


“Today ACP and CTO countries should quietly be striving to ensure high levels of public and private sector investment in ICT, of which broadband is the main thoroughfare of the multimedia super highway,” said Dr Spio-Garbrah.


He used the acronym P-R-O-F-I-T to highlight the importance of policy, regulation, operating environment, funding, infrastructure and technological advancement, in mainstreaming Broadband in the ACP block.


Meanwhile, the European Commission’s Director for Audiovisual, Media and Internet Mr Gerard De Graaf pointed to recent ICT achievements in the ACP, including the mobile boom, new submarine cables and satellite-based projects, and the use of mobile phone technology for other services such as banking.


He added that some “destructive perceptions” resulting in the lack of attention to ICT development in EDF programmes. These misconceptions include the idea that investing in ICT is not a priority; that ICT does not need sector-specific attention; and that the transformation into “knowledge economies” can be left to market forces alone.


Mr De Graaf called for governments to take prime responsibility to intensify reforms and mobilize funding to promote ICT.


The conference was held from the 20 to 21 October at the ACP House in Brussels. - END-


(Pictured from top: Dr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Former CEO of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation and Chairman of the CRO Ventures Co. Ltd., the commercial subsidiary of the CTO; Participants in the conference; Somalian representative amongst ACP delegations at the ICT roundtable)

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