The United Nations telecommunications agency and technology giant Microsoft have announced a new partnership to help bring the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) to millions in Africa, a key aim of a global summit that kicked off today in Rwanda.
As part of the partnership, announced today at the Connect Africa Summit, the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Microsoft will launch ITU Global View, a virtual earth-based online platform to showcase and track ICT-related development projects on the continent.
They also agreed to support programmes providing skills development and capacity building, particularly for young people, the delivery of relevant applications and services in Africa, and collaboration on cybersecurity.
The Connect Africa Summit brings together governments, industry, development banks and international organizations to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources required to expand the development of ICT infrastructure and ensure that it is used effectively to close the technology gaps throughout Africa.
"Connect Africa is a call to action for the private sector, and we are encouraged by the progress we have made together with Microsoft to broaden the scope of capacity building in Africa," said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré.
Michael Rawding, Vice President, Unlimited Potential Group, Microsoft Corp., referring to the 1 billion people already connected to the Internet, stated that "bringing the benefits of technology to the next 5 billion people will require new approaches to development and new partnerships between international organizations, governments and the private sector."
The company is seeking - through its Unlimited Potential vision - to work with governments, organizations and industry partners to reach the next 1 billion people who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology by 2015.
The two-day Summit offers a venue for leaders from various sectors to focus on the crucial factors needed to advance ICT investment and boost growth in Africa, including the expansion of broadband infrastructure.
"This meeting illustrates the power and potential of public-private partnerships," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates, noting that the Summit brings together the African Union, the African Development Bank, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, African governments and the private sector to address the barriers to connectivity in the region.
In a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, Mr. Ban said that narrowing the digital divide is part and parcel of global efforts to achieve development for all.
He noted that information and communication technologies have much to contribute to the fight against poverty, disease, hunger, illiteracy and environmental degradation - all key aspects of the global targets to be achieved by 2015 known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The benefits offered by ICT must be made available to all segments of society, in urban and rural areas, and in all regions, especially in Africa, the one region not on track to meet the Goals by 2015, Mr. Ban stated, calling for redoubling efforts and forming a true partnership for development.