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Africa's Internet leaders call for rapid growth - 11/2000

Accelerated development of the telecommunications and Internet industries

Accelerated development of the telecommunications and Internet industries in Africa is necessary if the continent is not to be left behind, said speakers at last week's Africa Internet Summit and Exhibitions (AFRINET), held in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Nigerian Communications Commission commented that the current status of AfricaƖ[is] a cause for concern for all African communities and said that the main hurdles to be overcome were [the lack of] adequate infrastructure, restrictive decisions and inappropriate policies vis-a-vis global telecommunications trends.

Speakers at AFRINET agreed that liberalization and privatisation of the African telecommunications industry is essential to increase Internet penetration and use on the continent.

The telecommunications infrastructure, including the country's cellular networks, needs to be upgraded and expanded so that more Africans can get online. To achieve these goals, private investment from both domestic and foreign sources is urgently needed.

Programs to increase computer literacy and Internet awareness in educational establishments, community organizations and small businesses, are also vital to the future success of Africa in an Internet-driven global economy.

President of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Hamadoun Toure, said that the ITU is actively promoting the provision of multi-purpose community telecentres in rural areas to maximize the number of Internet users. Toure also commented that telemedicine, or online medical care and advice, was also being developed in a number of African countries.