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UN summit aims to harness technology for Africa

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have strongly endorsed a summit to be held in 2007, which aims to boost information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in Africa to advance development on the continent. The Connect Africa Summit, to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 29 to 30 October, will bring together the private sector, governments and international organizations so as to seek ways to address the “digital divide” across the continent and to promote the use of information technology to achieve development goals.

While investment in ICT infrastructure in Africa has improved dramatically in recent years, representing a total of $8 billion in 2005 — up from $3.5 billion in 2000 — and growth in mobile phones has increased by as much as 400 per cent, Africa has fallen back in overall connectivity, according to the ITU. While mobile telephone use has surpassed fixed line telephone access, fewer than 4 out of every 100 Africans have Internet access; broadband penetration remains below 1 per cent; and 70 per cent of all Internet traffic within Africa is re-routed outside the continent, driving up costs for businesses and consumers.  The Connect Africa Summit will be organized by the ITU, the World Bank and the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID), in partnership with the African Development Bank, the African Telecommunication Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

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