27-30 October 2015 – Addis Ababa
The ITU in conjunction with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of Ethiopia and EthioTelecom, pulled out all the stops in bringing together representatives from the entire African continent to attend this workshop – and it is truly inspiring to see regulators and policy makers, ministers and representatives of cabinet open to using the indicators and ICT data to inform policy.
The opening consisted of a fair representation from industry, with the CEO of Ethio Telecom proceeding with opening remarks along with an address by the Regional Director of the ITU Africa-Andrew Rugege. Once the importance of statistics and indicators was emphasized enough we all gathered together for a group photo with the dignitaries. What was impressive about this however was that the group of workshop attendees was so large (close on 150) that we needed to have about three large group shots taken. Despite the large turnout, there was still poor representation by National Statistics Offices, with only one NSO representative present (from Zimbabwe).
The first day progressed with the historical placement of the ITU within the international multilateral framework on ICTs, and after an outline of the work on iCT measurement in the region by Mactar Seck from UNECA, we got into the meat of things with two presentations by Ivan Vallejo, from the ITU HEAD office in Geneva. Ivan, a soft-spoken man whose quiet confidence draws the audience in, walked the delegates through the importance of measuring the information society. He appealed to the latest ICT development index, with an intuitive explanation of how the index is formed, and interpreted. Relevant to the African context, the transition from an explicit ICT indicator in the millennium development goals, to treating ICT’s as an enabler to achieve multiple SDG’s was outlined. This was presented in conjunction with the Connect 2020 Agenda and the broadband commission.
After a delightful lunch break, more practical examples of the use of ICT statistics at the national level were presented. I had the honour of presenting South Africa’s broadband strategy plan (SA Connect) after a presentation by Balcha Reba from the Ethiopian MCIT on Ethiopia’s national ICT strategy. There was definite overlap between Ethiopia’s broadband strategy and SA Connect, but the SA connect presentation was far more in-depth – appealing to the indicators that were used to develop the policy, and the indicators that will be used to monitor each component of its progress, all within the context of a regulatory environment that fosters trust and inclusion -thereby stimulating investment).
What stood out to me the most, both from presenting and as a conference attendee, was the level of engagement by the audience. There was not a single presentation after which the representative of the Ghanaian regulator (Victor Teppeh ) did not ask a question. Even though ample time was allotted to q&a’s after the presentations, there would be more than two rounds of five questions which made for stimulating debate.
The evening ended with an invitation to dinner by the Ethiopian MCIT to 2000 Habasha, a very tourist friendly destination, where we were fed injera, local wine and beer. We were graced by the deputy prime minister’s presence, and as the day came to a close a conversation between Ivan and I left me thinking about the change in both the receptiveness and willingness to learn by the plethora of African leadership in the ICT field. This did not change when we got to the second day of the conference, which started with a heavy debate on broadband indicators…