UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
1) Building political leadership in telematics for development.
ITU, UNECA and UNESCO will co-ordinate the creation of a continuing high-level lobbying effort on telematics for development. Its focus should be aimed at promoting the necessary political decisions and establishing clear priorities for telematics development at national and international levels. The communique of the Symposium should be addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations, the heads of the relevant UN agencies, the OAU, bilateral agencies and banks, and to the heads of state of all African countries. In particular it should be put on the agenda of the next meeting of the OAU Heads of State in June 1995 and the G15 Meeting of November 1995.
A high-level committee should be organized to plan a coordinated programme for the sensitization of relevant policy makers and development assistance agencies concerning the increasingly critical role of telematics in support of development.
On the basis of the above preparations, it is proposed that Secretaries General of the UN and OAU convene a meeting of African Heads of State and all concerned international organizations to set priorities and strategies and to mobilize resources.
2) Collaboration and Co-ordination
ITU, UNESCO and UNECA should:
Promote the establishment of national associations of representatives of significant user groups and service providers for rapid and ongoing exchange of information about needs, activities and plans. Such associations should ensure that national interests are represented in regional and international networking initiatives and events. They should provide current data on national telematics services and usage, and should facilitate harmonization of facilities such as training and telecommunication channels.
Promote the establishment of an African Telematics Association (ACTA) for facilitating ongoing dialogue on activities and plans among telematics service provision initiatives. Membership will be drawn from each of the stakeholders-government, telecommunication operators, service providers and users.
Establish an African-based electronic information distribution mechanism to support information exchange; create and maintain a database on national-level telematics services and experts; and promote the study of specific experiences, with an emphasis on evaluating their impacts.
These information products should be made as widely available as possible through African and international electronic access mechanisms as well as existing media outlets.
Where appropriate, funding and international development assistance agencies should explore co-financing of projects and keep each other informed on program and project plans and priorities. The Bellanet initiative for promoting collaboration within the development assistance community should adopt telematics for development as one of its initial priority areas for collaboration. Bellanet's Advisory Group on Information Needs (AGIN) should provide a mechanism to keep development assistance organizations informed about related capacity development needs in Africa. Agencies should build telematics components, utilizing local services and resources, in all projects they support.
3) Regulatory Issues
The ITU and PATU, in collaboration with UNESCO and UNECA should: Set up a programme for helping Member States to develop a regulatory framework that will encourage the development of telematics services. The framework should, among other things, take into account:
- Relaxing regulatory requirements for importation, sale and type- approval of telematics equipment.
- Simplifying and speeding up radio licensing and frequency allocation in connecting telematics services.
- Tariff reform with a view to stimulating the use of telematics services.
- Permitting competition in the provision of public telematics services.
- Facilitating experimentation with new services and equipment particularly those jointly undertaken by users/service providers and telecommunications operators.
- Promotion of consultations and partnerships among telematics service providers, regulators and users, including the recognition of commercial and private user associations.
Set up a working group to address the current regulatory constraints which impede the exploitation of radio-based technologies in the development of telematics services for humanitarian, social, educational and scientific objectives, particularly in rural areas. This would also involve the preparation of a Declaration, and/or and African Telecommunications Convention, intended to promote the streamlining of licensing procedures and the cross subsidization of public services from commercial services.
UNITAR, UNECA, UNESCO and ITU, in cooperation with other concerned governmental and non-governmental organizations, should launch a common strategy for telematics training programmes in Africa.
Given the highly specialized technical nature of the communications situation in Africa, the supply of any external human resources in training should be determined by the recipients.
The training strategy should: Establish a moderated list server for national, regional and international organizations and centers involved in this effort to discuss and define the initiative.
Establish an online list server for providing a forum for local initiatives in this area.
Set up a steering committee to coordinate the development, funding and implementation of a strategy to make use of the above mechanisms and monitor and assess the progress of the initiative.
5) Connectivity and Participation
Full internet connectivity should be achieved in all African countries as expeditiously as possible with due regard to existing national networking initiatives.
Concerned international organizations, including FAO, ITU, UNCTAD, UNIDO, UNESCO, as well as NGOs should co-ordinate their support for pilot projects for the establishment of community telecentres as a shared telematics facility for development. Existing community institutions such as schools and public libraries could act as hosts for these services. The international Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and UNESCO, working closely with UNECA should initiate a program to link major libraries in Africa among themselves and to the users and to develop common electronic bibliographic and document delivery utilities.
In view of the role of women as the primary agents of economic production in Africa, UNESCO and UNECA should appoint a consultant/coordinator for gender and information technology whose main role will be to ensure gender equity at the policy level.
In view of common technical language but the high degree of separation between the principal language groups inherited from the colonial era (Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone) special efforts should be made to link projects across these divides.
6) Technical Innovation
ITU, UNESCO and UNECA should identify, promote and sponsor research and development for improving telematics technologies for African conditions. In particular these projects should focus on:
Offline interfaces to online information services, Facilities for language translation and text to voice translation Interfaces for the non-literate such as text to voice output, touch screen, image and voice services.
Improved and alternative transfer protocols, mirroring and caching services for reducing network traffic between hosts and between hosts and users.
Uniform directory services of African users and information sources.
7) Broadband and multimedia perspectives.
ITU, UNESCO and UNECA should:
Undertake studies on using new technological developments and existing telecommunication and broadcasting facilities in providing new telematics services in Africa. These should take into consideration the impact on international and national regulations and other policy issues.
Sensitize, in co-operation with the Union of National Radio and Television Organizations in Africa (URTNA), national decision makers, African telecommunications organizations, broadcasters and funding organizations on the role that such new services could play in social and economic development and on the need fond solutions to problems of international and external financing.
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