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Development - other

2019

Research ICT Africa published a report on The state of information and communication technology (ICT) in Uganda with special focus on Digital Uganda Vision which provides a framework to uphold the national Vision 2040 through building a digital society that is “… secure, sustainable, innovative, transformative … to create a positive social and economic impact through technology-based empowerment.” However, for Vision 2040 to achieve its desired outcomes, the report pinpoints some policy interventions and lack of government coordination that threaten the effective implementation of the vision. According to the report, these include a) regressive social networking and mobile money taxes which broaden the income and digital inequality, b) low internet and mobile penetration due to poor ICT infrastructure, poverty, and digital literacy, c) lack of affordability of data and devices for the majority of Ugandans, d) telecommunication market concentration particularly outside Urban areas where there is duopoly, e) demand stimulation to encourage people to shift from passive consumption to productive use of ICT, f) lack of cost-effective strategies to support mobile money for the unbacked, and g) lower cost access and use models to promote dynamic spectrum use in rural areas.

On 22 May 2019, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a report in collaboration with EQUALS Skills Coalition and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development on the gender digital divide under the title: I'd blush if I could: closing gender divides in digital skills through education. The paper highlights the importance of education in bridging the gender digital divide through digital skills but also in altering the mainstream mindset vis-à-vis gender, technology, and who should use it. To this aim, the report includes a policy paper on rationales and recommendations for gender-equal digital skills education. It outlines the persistence and severity of digital skills. The policy brief is complemented by two think pieces. The first looks at information and communication technology (ICT) gender equality paradox which provides that the more the country has digital equality, the less it has women with degrees in computer science and related subjects, and vice versa. The second investigates how female voice assistants use submissive language that promotes gender-based insults and provides recommendations to avoid broadening the gender divide with the proliferation of digital assistants.

The government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) imposed high fees of USD 450m on the renewal of mobile spectrum licenses in Pakistan which could adversely impact mobile connectivity. If operators did not pay the fees, their operations would come to a halt. GSMA sent a letter to the PTA and the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) highlighting its concerns regarding the high fees which will encumber the capacity of operators to support affordable services and thus the transformation to digital economy. The licenses of the largest mobile operators – Jazz and Telenor – will expire on 25 May, while the third operator Zong will also have to renew its license this year. ‘It’s consumers that will lose out from imposing unfair conditions that put operators’ businesses in jeopardy. We’ve already seen the damaging consequences that high spectrum prices have on coverage and quality of service in other countries. It’s important that Pakistan doesn’t repeat these mistakes, and place gaining inflated revenues from spectrum licenses above the connectivity of its citizens,’ stressed GSMA Head of Spectrum Brett Tarnutzer. 

The UN forum on science and technology for development addressed the opportunities and the risks of new technologies. During its twenty-second session, the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) presented a report on ‘the impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development’ with special focus on the key principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “We need a painfully honest discussion on the impact of frontier technologies – including the good, the bad and the ugly,” said the head of UNCTAD’s division on technology and logistics Shamika Sirimanne. The report elaborates on the opportunities offered by rapid technological change with regard to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) which include a) accelerating and monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, b) improving food security, nutrition, and agricultural development, c) promoting energy access and efficiency, d) enabling economic diversification and transformation, productivity, and competitiveness, e) promoting social inclusion, f) confronting disease and improving health, and g) improving access to educational learning and resources. In the end, it accentuates the importance of international cooperation and multistakeholder engagement and provides policy recommendations to reap the benefits of STI for sustainable development.

ITU celebrated the 50th anniversary of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) under the theme “bridging the standardisation gap” with special focus on a) the participation of developing countries in ITU’s standards-making process; b) empowering local experts in the standardisation process at the national, regional and international levels; and c) promoting the implementation of international standards in developing countries.​ 'International standards provide the technical foundations of global markets. They create efficiencies enjoyed by all market players, efficiencies and economies of scale that ultimately result in lower costs to producers and lower prices to consumers. And this has an important impact on what ITU is doing to connect the world,’ said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. This year the celebration included an award ceremony and an expert panel discussion on how inclusive international standards help countries use technology to improve lives. The ITU international standards contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) through ensuring interoperability, unlocking global markets, and promoting innovation and growth.

Research ICT Africa published a new study assessing Internet access in ten African countries. It revealed that many African countries are far from global target since they do not have complementary policies required to harness new technologies and Internet-related services, which adversely impacts the current inequalities. The Internet penetration is less than 25% in many African countries which demonstrates that these countries do not reap the benefits of network associated with economic growth and development. The research also showed that some countries. i.e. Lesotho, Rwanda and South Africa, have more than 50% Internet penetration rate, however, considerable percentage of the population remained unconnected. For many countries, the main challenge is affordability of smart devices and data services and lack of awareness. Therefore, the study suggests that the digital inequalities is not between the connected and unconnected but rather between the haves and have-nots of skills and financial resources which represent the biggest policy challenge in the region. As a result, the study provides a number of policy recommendations to overcome the challenge of having extensive coverage with large proportion of the population unconnected.

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