Mbeki Pledges African E-Renaissance

[Okinawa, JAPAN] Speaking after the conclusion of the G8 summit on the Japanese
island of Okinawa, South African President Thabo Mbeki pledged to bring the African
continent into the electronic information age.
Mbeki, who had earlier secured a G8 commitment to the launch of an investigative “Dot
Force”, said that the availability of technology and its dissemination is crucial for the
economic and social development of Africa.

The South African President, along with Nigerian President Obasanjo and Algeria’s
President Bouteflika, was instrumental in lobbying for the ‘Dot Force’ that will
investigate ways in which the poorer nations could harness the Internet and
e-commerce for economic upliftment.
Speaking on Monday at a post-summit leadership program, Mbeki evinced memory
of his landmark ‘African Renaissance’ speech that spoke of a vision of a new African
unity.

Mbeki intimated yesterday that for his initial vision to reach fruition, the focus would
need to be on e-enabling a continent that, excluding South Africa, boasts fewer phone
lines than either Manhattan or Tokyo, a sparse 14-million.

This will be an immense task, especially when one considers the gap between even
South Africa and developed countries.

At the end of last year, there were only 829 engineers and 1,416 IT professionals in the
South African public service, a number which Mbeki pointed out as being a fraction of
the comparable statistic for the U.S. or European countries.
“If the government is to play a leading role in the process of ensuring that our country
is not left out of the information society, then we need to act urgently to bring
appropriate skills and training to the public sector,” he said.

The Digital Opportunity Task-Force, or ‘Dot Force’, will present its findings at next
year’s G8 summit scheduled to be held in Genoa, Italy.

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