It is critical that African governments and the public sector work together more closely than ever to deliver universal broadband access across the continent if it is to drive economic growth, create jobs and provide a range of economic and social benefits.
That’s the key theme of this week’s Intel Africa USF & Broadband Leaders Forum, which will bring together regulatory authorities, Universal Service Fund Managers, Government Ministries and broadband stakeholders in Zanzibar for a four-day summit.
Ralph Corey, Director within the World Ahead Program at Intel, says the forum provides a way to help Universal Service and Access Funds (USAFs) Leaders share experiences, challenges and ideas that contribute to building capacity throughout the region. Among the topics of discussion will be the latest issues and best practices in utilizing USFs for broadband adoption, broadband strategy and national plans and examples of Demand Creation programs to engage the citizens and help reduce the digital divide.
“It’s vital that USF funds are utilized for broadband adoption if we are to unlock the transformative benefits for all Africa’s people, as many remain un-served,” said Corey. “The importance and value of this dialog is critical to share our collective best practices so that we can elevate our economies, improve social benefits and cascade these benefits down to our citizens.”
USFs play an important role in the transition of developing countries to full broadband-enabled societies, says Corey. This primarily includes the transformation of education systems through technology, and sustained job creation in industries that benefit from having access to information and global markets.
The Forum will have a special focus on the delivery of USF programs, including real solutions to obstacles in program development, implementation and operations. The event will also include a special section on skills development and capacity building for regulators, fund managers and ICT-focused public and private sector attendees.
“We have a great digital divide in Africa to conquer, and we will fall further behind if we don’t act quickly,” said Corey. “I hope that we can all take to heart what we learn, and act aggressively to implement it, so that we can take full advantage of broadband’s ability to elevate our countries and citizens to successfully learn, compete and thrive in the new digital, global marketplace.”