Consultative Regional Meeting, 8 September 2011 - Kigali, Rwanda
The meeting kicked off with an energetic session centred around a group of young students from Rwandan universities in Kigali and further afield, to explore African youth perspectives on the use of ICTs and broadband. A number of Broadband Commissioners and other high-level invited guests were also present. Around 250 students were asked several questions and presented with various scenarios using roaming microphones on the floor so they could voice their views and opinions. The video transcript from the day captures both the enthusiasm and the gravity with which students took this opportunity to be heard. To initiate discussions, the audience was asked what they understood by the term ‘broadband’, and afterwards, what they use broadband for (or would like to use it for) in their daily lives. One participant suggested he would like to be able to book bus tickets online, while another explained how convenient it would be to make a doctor’s appointment via mobile, and not have to walk miles only to be turned away. Yet another noted that he ran a popular website in Rwanda, but needed greater bandwidth to be able to share ‘cooler’ content (especially video). An insightful intervention came from a young lady who noted that by prioritizing broadband at the same level as water and electricity, governments can make more efficient use of their resources by laying down infrastructure simultaneously (instead of digging trenches for water pipes, and then separate trenches for fibre). Training and capacity-building were also highlighted as key concerns, as was the need for regional networks to help the development of local content.
High-Level Panel I: Africa’s Future Built on Broadband
The official opening of the meeting began with a high-level panel of the day featuring various Broadband Commission panellists: H.E. President Paul Kagame, Mr Carlos Slim Helú, Dr Hamadoun Touré, Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal, Ms Suvi Lindén and Mr Cheick Sidi Diarra. The panel also consisted of three young entrepreneurs who were given the opportunity to share their experiences and offer suggestions/challenges to the Broadband Commission. The local youth remained in attendance, and were treated to an engaging discussion by the panellists. Under consideration was the future of Africa’s international competitiveness, key to which is the ability to leverage ICT skills and training for younger generations, as emphasized H.E. Kagame: “You are tomorrow’s promise, because of today’s possibilities”.
Panellists spoke from their own experience, and were happy to offer advice, as well as give indications as to where the next major areas of growth in the industry will come from. Panellists noted that we now need to move beyond telephony and voice services to data services. With respect to data, one panellist noted that we are currently still moving at the speed of horse and cart, but over the next decade we shall be approaching the speed of light. Another key issue highlighted was the benefits that broadband can bring in particular to SMMEs, which are the building blocks of many developing economies and which can now enjoy the same kinds of services that larger businesses have had access to for years. The floor was then opened to the youthful audience, who were given the opportunity to make a two-minute address. One young participant voiced: “I would like to challenge panellists to try and identify affordable broadband solutions for Africa’s people…”
High-Level Panel II: African Success Stories – What Youth Entrepreneurship Really Means
The second high-level panel of the afternoon continued building on some of the same themes and provided further opportunities for young participants to interact with the invited guests. Moderated by Dr Touré, the Panel consisted of Broadband Commissioners Mr Carlos Slim Helú, Dr Sparanza Ndege and Mr Leong Keng-Thai, as well as several other invited guests. The session explored how to leverage broadband technologies for the benefit of young Africans, drawing on positive experiences from other areas of the world. At the heart of the session was the issue of youth entrepreneurship which can be greatly bolstered by access to high-speed Internet.
Official visit to the Millennium Villages Site at Mayange, outside Kigali
Thursday’s programme concluded with a visit to the Millennium Villages Site at Mayange, just outside Kigali. The visit was hosted by Commissioner Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who is a strong advocate for the transformative power of ICT and broadband in rural settings. The cornerstone of the visit to the village was a practical demonstration of the power of ICTs to transform the work being undertaken by the community health centre there, which relies on ‘community health workers’ in the village to track and share medical information via mobile. The system is underpinned by software which collects the data sent via mobile and tabulates it, allowing the Health Centre to track and monitor individuals’ health in the community. The information tracked currently relates most often to malnutrition, child mortality rates and maternal health. This system has resulted in unprecedented improvements in health among the community, including:
- No maternal deaths in the past 6 quarters;
- 100% coverage of measles vaccinations;
- The incidence of child diarrhoea is down from 24% to 7%;
- The percent of children with diarrhoea who receive ORS has risen from 43% to 66%;
- Skilled birth attendance has risen from 66% to 96%;
- The use of modern contraceptives has risen from 14% to 49%;
- HIV testing during pregnancy has improved from 32% to 92%;
- Mosquito net utilization is up from 3% to 44%;
- Malaria incidence is near zero.
While ICTs are not necessarily directly responsible for these gains, they remain an undeniably useful tool in the fight for improved health conditions in rural areas, through tracking and coordinating health monitoring and response efforts. The Millennium Villages team are eager to test the benefits that broadband could now bring to this already fully functioning system, and will be investigating opportunities for scaling-up and synergies with the Broadband Commission.
Friday - 9 September 2011
Closed meeting (Commissioners only)
At this meeting, the Commissioners present debated the future strategy, direction and work programme of the Commission going forwards, as well as the draft programme of the Broadband Leadership Summit. Commissioners emphasized the need for the Commission to bring something different to the table – a compelling argument making the link to the MDGs. Commissioners were keen to showcase successful projects and identify key milestones that can be achieved, using the MDGs as a set of clear targets, and to quantify the impact that ICTs has on achieving them. To engage in wider advocacy, some Commissioners thought its work should best remain at the strategic level; implementation can follow.
Consultative session: Gearing up for the Broadband Leadership Summit
Following the ‘closed’ meeting of the Commission, the programme for the Broadband Leadership Summit came under scrutiny from a broader group of Commissioners and external guests (Ministers, CEO and regulators from the surrounding region). Valuable feedback was gained from Commissioners to enrich the programme and content materials for the Broadband Leadership Summit.