South Sudan accelerates ICTs in all sectors
The first South Sudan Information Communication Technology for Development Conference (ICT4D) was held in Juba, South Sudan culminating with key recommendations to accelerate the integration of ICTs in all the sectors of South Sudan. The three day conference from 25 – 27 February, 2015 brought together over 200 participants, including experts from other countries, all drawn from ICT organizations, academic institutions, senior government officials, IGOs, NGOs, private sector, civil society, diplomatic community, media practitioners, as well as bilateral and multilateral donors.
Speaking during this conference, Hon. Rebecca Joshua Okwachi, Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services (MoTPS) informed the participants that information and communication has become an indispensable pillar for competitiveness as well as a cross-cutting growth engine especially in socio-economic development, job creation and poverty alleviation, wealth generation including citizen access to government services.
This was echoed by Mr Salah Khaled UNESCO Country Representative, who abhorred the lack of ICT facilities especially internet access outside the urban areas of South Sudan and recommended support to establishment of community learning centers and community owned and managed radio stations.
The conference was organized by UNESCO, the Youth Technology Development Organization (YTDO), the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal services with the support of UN Women, Huawei, Ericson, and Forcier Consulting.
Delegates identified the ICT gaps, discussed solutions and made recommendations on the way forward. Participants also deliberated on key aspects of the role of ICTs in development including:
- concerns over ICTs penetration in South Sudan,
- the fundamental Infrastructure,
- level of uptake of ICTs by Government ministries, institutions and parastatals in service delivery,
- lack of human and technical capacity,
- innovative ways of use of social media to promote peace and development; and
- the role of ICTs in promoting gender equality
Mr. Thomas Muto, YTDO Chairperson emphasized the importance of this conference, noting that being the first South Sudan Youth ICT for Development Conference is ground breaking for YTDO as a youth Organization for the young people, who are a backbone of this new and young nation and at the same time, it helps put a foundation stone to the nation.
A key highlight of this conference was the presentation and demonstration of skills acquired by 43 South Sudanese youth, who have been undergoing training supported by UNESCO and Zain, on mobile applications development and use of Innovative technology.
Ms Martha Chumo, Director of The Dev School (Kenya) and the trainer on mobile raised great concern over lack of equal number of women and men venturing into technology, stating that "the gender disparity in technology only becomes apparent as learners get into high school and one sure way to ensure gender equality in technology is to introduce concepts such as mobile apps development, game development and hardware hacking to children while they are young and build a learning environment that both girls and boys can excel in".
Concerns were raised over the limited use of information technology in South Sudan due to the low penetration rate of personal computers as a direct consequence of the very low level of household income, computer illiteracy and the very limited broadband infrastructure.
The participants also deliberated on the importance of use of ICTs to empower people with disabilities in South Sudan. Dr. Toyin Aderemi working with the light of the world, outlined accessible ICTs for people with disabilities and called on the government to develop & update ICT, disability & education legislation and policies to include accessibility and integration of Sign language interpretation in newly developed educational plans, including Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET). In this regard, the conference participants urged the policy makers to promote and mainstream inclusive education at all levels.
Calls to establish an Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in South Sudan and having a neutral institution to champion and facilitate the establishment of an IGF chapter in South Sudan and to also serve as a secretariat was one of the key recommendations.
UNESCO’s call for the dire need to establish a technology innovation hub for the youth was strongly recommended by presenters and participants. In this regard, UNESCO committed to spearhead and mobilize partners to support this initiative as a laboratory to incubate information and technology ideas and with a view to creation of jobs and youth self-employment.
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