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December 10, 2003Africa's dicey situation. Africa fears being left behind as the world rushes into a high tech future, with a stunned audience hearing from the secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) this evening, that New York has more telephone lines than the whole of Africa!
The Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo puts it bluntly. "We are still struggling to provide the basic necessities of life... While faced with these challenges, we are also confronted with the digital revolution. We are, therefore, placed in a dicey situation."
"Almost everyone in the developed countries has access to ICTs, whereas in sub-Saharan Africa, overall fixed line teledensity is about 1 to 130 inhabitants while internet, computers and television are available to only a handful of elites," he added.
Earlier, Senegalese strongman Abdulaye Wade had raised hopes of the emergence of a new concept of digital solidarity. But the Nigerian president seemed more downbeat, his baritone voice conveying the sad message that there appears to be a lack of political will to tackle a widening digital divide. He called, again, for a Digital Solidarity Fund, as "a practical measure for redressing the digital imbalance."
It was not all bad news. The President enthused about the strides which he says Nigeria has taken in catching up with the rest of the world. An independent telecoms regulatory is in place, which "has led to increased foreign investment as well as the intensification of competition. within the past four years, fixed telephone lines have increased from about 300,000 lines to 720,000 while mobile telephones increased fro m less than 50,000 to about 2,500,000. Direct foreign and domestic investment in the sector amounts to about four billion dollars."
More on this from Andy Carvin...