OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso—Microsoft has signed a strategic partnership agreement with the government of this West African nation to invest in building its Information and Communication Technology capacities, and to support broader e-government initiatives to strengthen Burkina Fasos knowledge-driven economy.
To that end, Microsoft and local partners launched the ICT Best Practices Forum - West and Central Africa here June 7, with the ambitious goal of bringing together governments, donors and experts from across Africa to share specific experiences of technology solutions in education, agriculture, health care and governmental operations.
Blaise Compaoré, president of Burkina Faso, noted that developing nations desperately need to quicken the pace of technology adoption.
"In the face of the digital divide that threatens to increase the marginalization of developing countries, we must step up the introduction of electronic communication infrastructures to seize the opportunities offered by new technologies," he said.
"I would like this forum to be an occasion for African governments, their advisory institutions and ICT experts to share their experiences, so that we can build an inclusive information society to serve the sustainable development of our countries," Compaoré said.
Microsoft and other ICT sponsors, including the African Development Bank and UNECA (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa), said they expect this forum to become a model on which other African nations can build.
Abdoulie Janneh, executive secretary of UNECA, said that "by showcasing ICT at work through the forum, we can help West and Central African countries and stakeholders [hold] dialogue, brainstorm and learn how to practically accelerate socioeconomic development."
Cheick Modibo Diarra, Microsoft chairman for Africa, said that a couple of years ago, some of Africas leading thinkers, politicians, scientists and entrepreneurs had started to talk about ways of accelerating development there.
"We said, What if we shared real examples of the great strides taken in education, agriculture, finance, science and e-government, and created a forum to share best practices? We said, What if we brought heads of state, decision makers, international donors, civil society [and] technology experts, and business strategists together in one place, at one time, for that forum? … And we said, What if we identified which of those best practices could be replicated in our countries, and made that forum about action, not talk?" he told forum attendees.
"Well, today we are here, at that very forum. And I promise, we are going to make it work," he said.
As he traveled around the continent, Diarra said, he was struck by the vision that many Africans shared of a vibrant, productive, competitive Africa at peace with itself, whose people were healthy, educated and mindful of their environment.
"This shared vision is, despite what some may say, not beyond our reach. And it is forums like this, people like us and the actions that we take that will help make this vision a reality," he said.