The event provided an opportunity for discussion among various stakeholders within the ICT industry, including ministers, telecoms and IT companies as well as NGO's from across the African continent.
Some of the key issues discussed included the rollout of the correct policies and regulations to take place in order to increase infrastructure development, the creation of innovative business models in order to mitigate Africa's challenges and the necessity of skilled personnel to sustain ICT growth in Africa. Also highlighted were the learnings from the experience of developed countries, and how creating a new development strategy for the African continent would be critical to addressing the continent's environment and specific challenges.
"It is essential that Africa put the correct business models in place in order to effectively improve ICT infrastructure development within the country", said Head of ICT Africa, Chantel Lindeman, at global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. "These business models will effectively aid Africa in mitigating its current challenges such as poverty, education, and health and service delivery".
It was also noted, in a statement by the National Communications Minister, Dina Deliwe Pule, that Africa would require "accelerating investment in robust and secure infrastructure" in order to develop the African economy as a whole.
There was a common impression/sentiment that government will drive broadband infrastructure development through new policy implementation. However, during the Critical Policies Session it was highlighted by the panellists that it is crucial for government, and all stakeholders involved, to first understand "what ICT infrastructure Africa currently has in place" as well as "what infrastructure development" is needed in order to meet end user needs.
Mr. Mamadou Toure suggested that industry and government should co-develop a regulatory framework enabling both parties to work together to reach sustainable growth and a secure economic future for the ICT sectors within the continent.
Mr. Sam Pitroda, Entrepreneur and Policy Maker in India, noted that ICT development in India has resulted in better education through e-learning and in mitigating the challenge of teacher shortages in the country. Other sectors that are benefiting from ICT business models are the health sector, via low cost e-health diagnosis; e-agriculture, thereby increasing productivity leading to better food security logistics and distribution; and service delivery through e-government applications.
"Once the correct business models are in place, Africa will begin to see a marked improvement in these sectors", said Frost & Sullivan ICT Research Analyst Naila Govan-Vassen "The key would be to create African solutions for African problems, and not to take on, or model, the standard ‘American approach' to issues our continent are facing".
During the Partnership Forum Session, Africa was regarded as a region that is exciting and more lucrative to invest in than some other markets. Mr Y. Lalude made a valid point that "good management can make a bad situation better; it is when bad management is faced with a bad situation, where there is almost no hope. So, good management is required and must be appointed!"
Although there are a number investment opportunities for the ICT industry in Africa, Frost & Sullivan believes government and other stakeholders need to work closely in order to excel in the policy making strategies, and create the right ICT business models to address the continent's challenges. As official Research Partner to the ICT Indaba 2012, Frost & Sullivan will be distributing a white paper highlighting the key messages and discussions from the event.
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