High-level policy session 13: ICT applications and services

10 Apr 2019 11:00h - 12:00h

Event report


The session, moderated by Ms Sabrina Cohen Dumani (Executive Director, Fondation pour la Formation Professionelle Continue [FFPC]), focused on ICT applications and services.

Mr Samuel Mutungi (Member of the Universal Service Advisory Council, Communications Authority of Kenya) shared that mobile money uses Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), which does not require a smart phone, allowing people to benefit from digital services. He added that in the past year, some 3 billion mobile money transactions amounted to USD$80 billion. He mentioned that their priorities were food security, responding to sustainable development goal (SDG) 2; affordable housing (SDG 3); manufacturing (SDG 8); and healthcare (SDG 3). He highlighted the Kenyan e-citizen portal and the national identification system to consolidate all forms of identification for citizens.

Mr Pierre Mirlesse (Consultant) talked about smart cities, noting that cities are different and roadmaps should be specific to cities. He emphasised the need for ICT and innovations to be focused on citizens. He highlighted that cities around the world were developed for industrialisation, with cars, access, and buildings in mind. In the new era, and with SDG 11 in mind, cities should be made human settlements that are inclusive, safe, and resilient for citizens. He also talked about City 2.0, which was about having city policies and how technology could help the city, currently 3.0, which is about engaging citizens and in future 4.0, which will focus on sustainable, inclusive, and safe cities. He shared an example of the Ushadi in Nairobi, Kenya, which mapped areas that were not mapped before. He concluded that it is important to identify problems to be solved and then trust citizens to be part of the journey.

Regarding key components for digital services provision, Mr Bocar Ba (Chief Executive Officer, SAMENA Council) reminded participants that at the end of 2018, an important threshold of connecting 51 percent of the population was achieved, though there is need to connect the remaining 49 percent. He mentioned the need for digital services in the private sector relying on governments to stimulate demand, literacy, affordability, and relevance, noting that if people do not know the benefits of the Internet, they will not get online. In terms of mechanisms, he emphasised the fourth P (People) to Public-Private Partnerships, working with policy makers and incentives and connecting minorities like women, children, and those with low incomes.

Prof. Nabil Abdennadher (Head of inIT Research Institute) focused on e-sciences, defining it as not just a reliable high speed Internet connection but high computing programming, data science, and high computing and simulation of science contexts. He added that in science currently, even when research is not based on computation, IT is still needed to extract and process data. He noted that e-science for researchers today is what cloud computing and the power grid was for businesses two decades and two centuries ago, respectively. He highlighted the Swiss-funded EhnanceR project, which establishes national e-science support for teams to work together in a network in a sustainable business model.

Mr Richard Kerby (President LLC) spoke concerning his role on a team helping twenty-two Arab countries to implement regional strategies. He encouraged countries to look at long-term strategies and have the right political will. The project helps countries to work together seamlessly and develop trade and policy blocks to allow people to migrate. In terms of capacity building, he mentioned the need for knowledge to be transmitted so that systems are in place. He gave an example of hackathons where over 50 percent of the population is young, noting that countries are not producing, but using technologies from other countries.

Dr Graham Alabaster (Chief, Waste Management and Sanitation, UN Habitat) mentioned that although urbanisation is not an easy process to understand, it is important to have a good understanding of how to implement technologies. He added the example shared by Kerby, in which the twenty-two countries are unique, and even if they are Arabic-speaking, they have different dialects. He also added the need to understand patterns, giving an example of small urban centres that trade together with complex interactions, and refugee communities also now integrating into urban centres. He highlighted the need to work with local authorities to support decision-making. He shared another example of the Nairobi City Water Company that provides a system that collects and analyses data on water usage.

Mr Samuel Varas (Director of Information Technology Division, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation [FAO]) mentioned that SDGs are interconnected economic, social, and environmental features, which brings complexities and challenges that FAO is facing as an international organisation. He added that the transformation process will bring increased productivity, resilience, and adaptation to climate change and improve food security. He highlighted some risks associated to the transformation that need to be mitigated by different types of applications, including cybersecurity, property rights, data regulation, digital divide, gender inclusion, and loss of traditional jobs. He added that artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things require new orientations and applications.

Dr Abdulkarim Oloyede (Senior Lecturer In Wireless Telecommunications, University of Ilorin, Nigeria/University of York, United Kingdom) shared that the education and ICT sectors had become more innovative in recent years. Regarding challenges in using ICT in education, he talked about its use to bridge the digital divide, the cost of acquiring infrastructure, failure to develop tools dedicated to problems, corruption, and not doing enough. He highlighted data privacy, which has not been well embraced in Africa. He shared examples of the graduate Information Technology Forum by the Carnegie Mellon University in Rewards, which is looking at setting standards to develop local solutions. In terms of disaster recovery, Oloyede mentioned that in Nigeria, the Internet of Things solutions and community networks are used to create resilient networks that can withstand disasters.


By Sarah Kiden