How to develop appropriate strategies for linkages between ICT and sustainable development goals

5 May 2016 11:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

Dr Cisse Kane (President ACSIS) posed two questions: How to develop appropriate strategies for linkages between ICT and the sustainable development goals (SDGs)? How can Africa benefit from this link? The session aimed at shedding the light on the link between ICT and the SDGs as a global enabler.

Hon. Dr Yaya Abdoul Kane (Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Senegal) asked how we could put ICT into practice to achieve sustainable development. In Africa, people do not have access to the Internet and to ICT. The fundamental objective is to fight again the digital gap and facilitate access to ICT for all sectors like agriculture, medicine, and education, to achieve a digital culture. This will help to respond to the need to reinforce building the capacities of human capital, reducing the digital gap to bridge ICT and SDGs, and reinforcing human capacities, all of which can be done by ICT.

Hon. Dr Tahani Abdalla Attia (Minister of Science and Communications, Sudan) said that infrastructure is the basis of development. The country is 80% covered by infrastructure and has 33 000 km of fibre optics connected to its neighbours. Under the international standard of the ITU, ICT falls under the umbrella of the Ministry of Communication. The country’s strategy is to concentrate on poverty reduction. There is a strong political will to reduce poverty, to increase the number of schoolchildren receiving primary education, to bridge the gap in education in rural areas, and to increase the employment rate. The country suffers from US sanctions which affect the economic development of ICT. 

Ms Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize (Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, South Africa) mentioned that African countries share common challenges when it comes to ICT development, including high levels of poverty and inequality, and economies that fail to produce jobs in a poor country. When it comes to ICT, they have poor infrastructure, literacy problems, low institutional capacity, and high connectivity costs. These are integrated in the national integrated plan and the public-private partnership sector through an ICT policy review to meet the SDG to connect the next billion. 

Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director Diplo Foundation, said that we need to prepare for a marathon to endure the effort to reach the SDGs. The real impact is happening in the long-term perspective. There are really good, solid long-term development to transfer social and economic changes. This converges in the development of the SDGs for capacity development from diplomats and African leaders. He asked what the impact is on institutional diplomats, NGOs, businesses, and universities. To achieve individual capacity development, there is a need for a cross-ministerial community, multistakeholderism, and multi-integrated policies.

Mr Peter Major (CSTD Chairman) noted that there are concerns about financial solutions. He stressed the important of capacity building, and referred to the work of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development.

Ms Anriette Estherhuysen (Executive Director APC) looked at WSIS goals, successes, and struggles. She noted that the Geneva Declaration is a very strong document. Because of the participation of developing countries, there is a poverty reduction strategy to implement ICT. What has not happened is a strong vision of how ICT can drive socio-economic development. There is no integrated vision. The government is investing more in policy on security and not policy on human capacity building. There has to be a development and social vision, and not only for ICT. Human rights should be included in that vision of transparency, accountability, and public participation.

HE Dr Francois Xavier Ngarambe (Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the UN) gave a national perspective on finance. The universal wisdom is that we view education as experience. ICT can help bridge the digital divide. Rwanda’s new vision places ICT as its core pillar; the country is committed to utilising ICT to reach the goals. There is a need for the vision to be consistent with strategy to implement ICT to achieve a knowledge-based economy through innovation, invention, adoption and implementation of new technology and policies.

Mr Master Seck (UNECA, Addis Ababa) stated that we should have youth on the panel because ICT is not for us but for the youth first, the environment second, and the economy third. Social innovation for sustainable development is needed. Since 2003, WISIS has placed importance on economic development, to create employment opportunities in ICT, and to track the Ebola disease in a few African countries.

Ms Constance Bommelaer (Senior Director, Global Policy Partnerships, Internet Society) highlighted that ICTs are a great enabler for SDGs. The Internet Society’s work involves building the human capacity of technical people, and building technical and sustainable communities to relay knowledge to other people.

by Hamza Ben Mehrez