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Africa still lagging behind in ICTs

afrol News, 6 October - The rapidly growing information and communications technology (ICT) industry is set to see mobile subscriptions reach 4.6 billion worldwide by the end of the year, according to figures released by the United Nations telecommunications arm today.

The data, published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), reveals that the ICT market continues to expand unabated, with subscriptions for mobile broadband services topping 600 million in 2009, outstripping fixed broadband by 100 million.

More than a quarter of the world’s population is now online and using the Internet, according to ITU’s The World in 2009: ICT facts and figures.

“ICTs are vital within developing countries to ensure that ordinary people can fully participate in the knowledge economy of the 21st century,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.

“We have seen a positive impact on services such as health and education in markets where ICT growth has been strong,” added Mr Touré.

However, despite making major inroads towards extending ICTs in developing countries, including a number of countries launching the latest networks and services, the statistics in ITU’s publication highlight significant regional discrepancies with mobile penetration rates.

“There is still a large digital divide, and an impending broadband divide, which needs to be addressed urgently,” warned Sami Al Basheer, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

The report noted that in Africa there is only one fixed broadband subscriber for every 1,000 people, compared with Europe where there are some 200 subscribers per 1,000 people, and the relative price for ICT services, especially broadband, is highest in Africa, the region with the lowest income levels.

“Heads of State and industry leaders will collaborate at ITU Telecom World 2009 to identify the right policies and regulations to support and encourage future ICT growth worldwide,” said Mr Al Basheer.

In a related development, the world’s most advanced system against global cyber-attacks was unveiled today at Telecom World in Geneva, a week-long gathering which brings together top names from across the ICT industry.

IMPACT (the International Multilateral Partnership against Cyber Threats) set up its Global Response Centre (GRC) in Malaysia earlier this year as the international community’s foremost cyber-threat resource, to proactively track and defend against menaces on the Internet.

“Every country is now critically dependent on technology for commerce, finance, health care, emergency services, food distribution and more,” said Mr Touré, who spoke at the presentation. “Loss of vital networks would quickly cripple any nation, and none is immune to cyber-attack.”

Mr Al-Basheer said that by facilitating the access for ITU Member States to a global platform, “we are realising effective international cooperation. This is the very first time that so many nations are agreeing to work together to achieve a global culture of cyber-security, and we hope that all 191 ITU Member States will benefit from this unique initiative.”

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