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African ICT Ministers call for unified action to bridge digital divide

The Connected Africa Summit 2024 aims to unite Africa ICT leaders and champion digital transformation towards attaining the AU agenda 2063

African ICT Ministers convening at the ongoing Connected Africa Summit 2024, have called for a unified action to bridge the digital divide and propel the continent forward into a digitally empowered future.

Speaking Monday during a ministerial round table at the summit happening in Uhuru Gardens, the leaders, drawn from across the continent gathered to confront one of the region’s most pressing challenges: the pervasive digital gap that hinders progress, particularly in rural areas.

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Ministry of Information, Communications and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary, Eliud Owalo, delivered a compelling keynote address, stressing the imperative for substantial investment in digital public infrastructure. “We must embrace AI and the Internet of Things to propel our continent forward,” Owalo asserted, underlining the need for a visionary leadership to navigate and regulate these transformative technologies.

Echoing this sentiment, Hon. Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s ICT Minister, shared insights into the nation’s resilience amidst past conflicts. He outlined initiatives such as the Universal Service and Access Fund, which aims to ensure that connectivity becomes a fundamental right for all citizens, regardless of geographical location.

Rwanda’s Ms. Paula Ingabire recounted a remarkable three-decade journey of digital expansion, culminating in near-universal internet coverage. She highlighted how digital governance has streamlined and enhanced public service delivery, bringing essential services directly into the homes of Rwandan citizens.

Sierra Leone’s Hon Ms. Salima Monorma Bah offered valuable perspectives on innovative, affordable digital solutions tailored for lower-income groups. She also highlighted the impact of e-health strategies deployed during the Covid-19 pandemic, demonstrating the critical role of technology in addressing public health challenges.

Throughout the day, representatives from Zimbabwe and other nations shared ambitious digital strategies aimed at accelerating progress. Initiatives such as the Smart Zimbabwe Masterplan and efforts to bolster AI and satellite connectivity underscored a shared commitment to not merely keep pace with global advancements but to lead in the digital era.

Advocating for unity, COMESA Secretary General Chilese Mpundu Kapwepwe emphasized the need for collective action towards seamless and harmonized ICT regulations. “To reach our fullest potential, African nations must unite,” Kapwepwe urged, highlighting the strength found in collaborative effort.

The international dimension of the Summit was underscored by remarks from the UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Neil Wigan, who discussed the UK’s role in supporting Africa’s digital growth. He expressed readiness to partner with innovative nations at the cutting edge of technology, including AI.

The Connected Africa Summit 2024 aims to unite Africa ICT leaders and champion digital transformation towards attaining the AU agenda 2063 which envisions a digitally powered Africa.

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