African governments need to work with the private sector to set up innovative and affordable broadband security infrastructures, the Information and Communication Technology Best Practices forum held earlier in June in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, has recommended.
The forum was organized jointly by Microsoft Africa, the government of Burkina Faso, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
It provided a platform for high-level officials from different regions of Africa and other developing countries to share their experiences and give examples of where ICT solutions were successfully used in their countries, with the goal of helping create an enabling environment for Africa to increase its competitiveness.
The list of forum recommendations was contained in a document titled "The Ouagadougou Declaration," which was released after the event ended, and included a call for African governments to develop appropriate e-governance policy and strategies that are supported by legislation, as well as linked to strategic development objectives of countries and National Information and Communication Infrastructure policies.
In addition, the governments of these countries need to work with the private sector and civil society to develop sustainable strategies so that all citizens can reap the potential benefits of e-government by ensuring that public information and services remain accessible to all, it said.
African governments also need to support start-up initiatives implementing e-governance solutions through appropriate incentives and enact specific procurement law to promote e-government systems, the declaration said.
The public sector also needs to collaborate with the private sector and academic institutions to provide financial incentives for innovative ICT applications that add value to social and economic development in Africa.
The forum is one of the many initiatives Microsoft is sponsoring under the banner of its Unlimited Potential program, which is designed to bring computing access to another billion people by 2015.
The software giant also believes that partnerships with other technology companies and governments, as well as with local and international organizations, is the only way to help governments use of technology to become more competitive and efficient and bring computing access to its citizens in a more significant way.
Orlando Ayala, senior vice president of Microsofts Emerging Segments Market Development Group, used the forum to reiterate the software companys belief in, and commitment to, the region, which is racked by poverty and unemployment.
He also repeatedly pointed to Microsofts Unlimited Potential initiative, which aims to give an additional billion people access to computers by the year 2015, as one of the potential solutions to help solve these issues.
Africa, where 60 percent of the population of 1 billion are less than 30 years old, has enormous potential, as its youth can contribute greatly to their countries and societies going forward, Ayala said. He added that broad access to PCs and technology needs to be a right, not a privilege, for every citizen in the world, especially given the dramatic reduction in the prices of hardware, software and memory.
With regard to regional and international development organizations, the declaration called on them to develop and adopt an international core list of e-governance indicators with data collection methodology and analysis.
These organizations also need to work with regional economic communities at the sub-regional level to support the development of an ICT best practices portal and the establishment of an e-government observatory.
They also need to act as facilitators in the exchange of best practices between countries and at a sub-regional level, and base their overall support of e-governance initiatives on partner countries national development strategies, the declaration noted.
"The Technology in Government Award is an important African initiative that should be continued and further supported. The Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank, Microsoft and others should all be involved in supporting and financing such initiatives and best practices to ensure sustainability," it said.
The forum, which was held in Burkina Faso from June 7-9 and attended by more than 350 participants, discussed strategies and practical solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector institutions through the use of information and communications technologies.
The forum also recognized the importance of good governance to promote sustainable development and to help alleviate poverty and enhance the quality of life for all citizens, while acknowledging that access to information was essential to the health of democracy and that a sizeable portion of the society did not have access to information or the required skills to use ICT effectively.
"E-government, which holds huge prospects to make governments efficient, responsive, transparent and legitimate, is a technical, economical and social and legal challenge," it said.
The declaration also called for the full involvement of women in the "operationalization" of all aspects of e-governance, as well as the active participation of youth in e-governance decision-making processes in Africa and in the African Union institutions.
"Young entrepreneurs should be encouraged to develop innovative applications to solve social and economic problems of the citizens with regard to the delivery of public services, based on sustainable economic models," it said.