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ITU Telecom Africa – Reaching the unreached

Haru Mutasa, Highway Africa News Agency, reporting from Cairo

Ten years ago a Japanese man, on his first visit to Egypt, asked himself why there were boomerangs in Pharaoh Tutankhamen‘s collection at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The question puzzled him so much that when he returned to Japan he perused encyclopaedias for the answer to his question but found none.

A couple of years later, that same man, using a popular search engine on his computer, looked up the answer to his question and was left more than pleasantly surprised. “The boomerang is not unique to Australia,” he said, “It was used in several parts of Africa and even India back then.”

That man was Yoshio Utsumi, the current International Telecommunications Union (ITU) secretary general. Addressing a large delegation at the official opening of the sixth ITU Telecom Africa conference in Cairo last month, Utsumi hammered home the message that “Internet Communication Technology (ICTs) has the potential to forever change the whole world if we take the right course of action”.

This was the rationale behind the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in December last year – a rationale that will be carried forward to the second phase in Tunisia next year and was implemented at the conference in Cairo.

The Cairo conference showcased technology that could be used to improve access to African people, while the forums and debates allowed delegates to discuss possible projects to achieve this goal.

Egypt’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Dr Ahmed Nazif, echoed Utsumi and called on delegates at the conference to strive for an e-enabled and e-knowledgeable African society.

“Problems in Africa are severe and difficult to overcome but success stories are evident,” he said, “We must support Africa’s development through active participation. All African countries are qualified to reach this goal. But to reach it we need to work together to turn the digital gap into a digital opportunity.”

The two delegates, along with Egyptian Prime Minister Dr Atef Ebeid, officially celebrated the launch of the ITU Telecom Africa by signing a beautifully created papyrus parchment – an ancient Egyptian paper still used in some sectors of society today.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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