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Off site, in focus: ICT access in Africa

Hotel Corinthia, Gammarth just outside Tunis

My day started with a failed attempt to check in at the APC stand in ICT4all. Crowds of people were queuing to make it inside in time for the opening of the Summit. Having read Jac's diversity Style information: This term should not be capitalised.

Source: Wikipedia and GenderIT.org">blog

I cast an analytical eye over them. Only one category stood out. Suits.
My day started with a failed attempt to check in at the APC stand in ICT4all. Crowds of people were queuing to make it inside in time for the opening of the Summit. Having read Jac's diversity blog I cast an analytical eye over them. Only one category stood out. Suits.

Fortunately, among the suits there were several friends, including a very heavily burdened (with boxes of APC books) Muroro Dzirunu and Rudi van Staden from Ungana-Afrika and Loe Schout of HIVOS who at that time probably did not yet know that they had been asked by ICT4all organisers to either cancel their event, 'Repression under expression', or move it into the KRAM ('official') space.

I abandoned them all and found a way into getting a ride with a shuttle to a point where I could get a taxi to Hotel Corinthia where the Link Centre is presenting the results Research ICT Africa's work to measure ICT access and usage in Africa.

As with most of the multiple getting-around hassles I have been through since arriving the Summit, staff and volunteers were incredibly helpful under difficult circumstances. On this occasion two volunteers convinced a shuttle driver to 'break schedule' and drop me off at a place where I could get a cab. We communicated in Spanish... well, mine is just about non-existent but still better than my French.

Now here, listening to results of a baseline study in 10 African countries that tries to measure ICT access and use. The results are stark.

Some examples: in Ethiopia 0.1 % of the population have Style information: Do not use e-mail with a hyphen.

Source: Wikipedia">email

addresses, in a country with a relatively high GDP like Botswana it is 2.8%, and in South Africa, the continent's 'most connected' country it is 5.2%. Even mobile phones do not reach nearly as far as much of the hype indicates... 29.9% in South Africa and 0.3 % in Ethiopia. The trends in growth in access to ICTs in the 10 countries surveyed, compared with trends in developed countries indicates that the gap in access is growing.

The research, supported by the IDRC's Acacia Initiative, is groundbreaking. Working with nationally based researchers it is gathering data which should be part of official census statistics. Hopefully governments involved in the Source: APC ICT Policy Handbook and APC Annual Report 2005.">WSIS

will realise the importance of gathering this kind of data on a routine basis.

And the fact that disparities between Africa and other parts of the world is growing, should be taken very seriously by everyone involved in this process, particularly by African governments, business and civil society.

Read more about this on the Research ICT Africa! site.

http://www.researchictafrica.net/
http://www.idrc.ca/acacia/
http://link.wits.ac.za/

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