As a celebration of the fifth anniversary of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held in Tunisia in November 2005, and within the framework of Tunisia’s strong will to concretize the United Nations General Assembly’s declaration of 2010 being the “International Year of the Youth”, as well as a response to the initiative of H.E. President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian Ministry of Communication Technologies organized the 5th edition of the ICT4ALL Forum - Tunis+5.

The event held in Hammamet (Tunisia) from November 10th to November 12th 2010, was organized in collaboration with UNCTAD and ITU, and in partnership with UN G@ID, the African Union, UNECA, AFDB, the World Bank, ASIP and UTICA.

Nkem Uwaje was invited to represent the World Summit Youth Award, as well as the World Summit Award at this international gathering that was attended by African Ministers, E-Government providers, E-inclusion advocates, UN agency representatives, representatives of the Tunisian and the international IT industry, as well as high-level Tunisian dignitaries.

 

DAY 1: 10.11.2010

The 1st day of the conference started with various parallel sessions that included employability opportunities for youths through ICT, satellite Internet in Africa, strengthening national cyberspaces and many more.

Nkem Uwaje spoke at the session held at the Russelior Hotel in Jasmin Hammamet with the title "ICTs: Better Employability Opportunities for youths with Disabilities". Other panelists included Dr. Hiroshi Kawamura, the President of the DAISY Consortium, Prof. Mohammad Jemni, the president of the association of the blind in Tunisia

The panel started with an address by the Minister of Communication Technologies and was followed by a brief introduction on the topic of the panel. After which all panelists were invited to speak and present their views and experiences based on the subject matter. Nkem Uwaje spoke about best practices and innovation in e-inclusion, which is one of the categories of the World Summit Award (www.wsis-award.org). To view her presentation, please click here.

The event was highly successful and showed that Tunisia is highly advanced in the inclusion and integration of people with disabilities (including visually challenged, the blind, the deaf, people with dyslexia, people with physical disabilities etc.). Tunisia is carrying out high-level research and development in the field of e-inclusion software solutions. All Tunisian Government website must be accessible to ALL users, including people with disabilities according to government policies that have been passed. Tunisia also has a number of cyberparks across the country that offer equipment such as brail keyboards, screen readers etc. to aid people with disabilities to access ICTs. These centers are also incorporated with assistive technologies like avatar technology that translate text to sign language, which leads to the digital divide being transformed into digital opportunities for people with disabilities. E-inclusion leads to enhanced training opportunities, thus higher skill levels for people with disabilities and finally higher employability. Tunisia also gives ICT training to people with disabilities from a very young age and has included them in the educational system since 2003 using assistive technology, motion pictures and special equipment to ensure people with disabilities are given equal opportunities. Experts predict that full e-inclusion in Tunisia will be reached in 5-10 years.

After the parallel sessions were concluded the official opening ceremony of the ICT4ALL conference was held at the Diar Le Medina Hotel in Jasmine Hammamet. The ICT Minister stated that the youths are the backbone of the future, as well as the core element of development of ICT, which is why it is highly important to include the youth, also known as digital natives, in ICT development. Tunisia's E-Strategy is highly focused on involving the youth in innovative research and development in the ICT sector, planning, decision making and content development. A strategy that should be adopted by developing countries like Nigeria.

The 2nd day of the ICT4ALL conference started with a lovely breakfast in my hotel. After that we jumped right into the panels. The speakers discussed different topics all focused on Youth and the Internet. The consensus of the discussions was that Child Protection on the Internet is a big deal and needs to be spear headed by the by the private sector, so that the Government will be forced to jump on the band wagon.

Questions like "Do you know your child's online personality?" were thrown into the room.

The youth are the "Digital Natives" that need to be put in charge to lead the digital revolution all over Africa, but also need to be protected while using the Internet. In the future the Internet will transform the connection between people even more than it has done up till now, especially with the continued increase in access. In the long term there will be a content evolution that will redefine digital content on a global level.

Thus the Internet will contribute towards the global environment in both positive and negative ways thus good governance of the Internet is key. We need enhanced security, capacity building, privacy protection, protection of culture etc. The more people have access to the Internet, the more people will be involved in cybercrime and other negative behaviors on the Internet.

To ensure that Africa does not get left behind Information Society needs to be the main goal. This means that we leverage on the socio-economic impact ICT can have in developing countries and ensure that all our youths are IT savvy and have basic ICT skills. We need to realize that our teacher and lecturers do not have the skills that are required to be transferred onto the youth, thus we need to ensure that the experts within our society, mainly successful youths who have been able to attain a high level of training in ICT, transfer their skills using a Train The Trainer Model. Furthermore we need ICT Parks and IT incubators built through PPPs. The private sector needs to drive ICT development in Africa. This will ensure that the 2-fold digital divide (1. between Africa and the world and 2. between different African countries)

It was also the day of my 2nd presentation. I had never presented in front of such a large crowd before. As I walked onto the stage and took my seat after the break I first felt nervous, but the warm welcome of the Panel chairman and the other panelists calmed my nerves and everything seemed like child's play.  Our panel focused on enhancing Youth ICT Skills for better Employability. I presented the opportunities for youth to showcase their online content at the World Summit Youth Award, a global e-Contest focsed on the implementation of the MDGs based on the worlds best e-content. My most important point was that the world is understanding the importance of e-Content, but Africa is so far behind, thus most Africans consume foreign e-content. It is important that we have our own content focused on our cultural values, problems specific to Africa etc. instead of consuming solely foreign content. To view a copy of my presentation, please click here.

The following were the conclusions from Day 2:

  • The constant braindrain in Africa needs to be stopped
  • A youth ICT expert database needs to be created
  • ICT Community Centres need to be established where ICT training is offered to youths and owners of SMEs.
  • DVDs/CDs with training material in local languages need to be created.
  • The lack of integration between academia and the industry needs to be tackled by robust partnerships between the two sectors
  • Countries must set their focus on creating accessibility
  • Parents need to be educated to ensure that the development of ICT grows
  • Sources for funding for ICT projects need to be created by the private sector as well as the public sector. Without investments ICT cannot grow, which means that the digital divide increases even more.

All the above conclusions fit so well on Nigeria....I felt encouraged, because Nigeria is not the only country in Africa struggling, but also discouraged that our leaders are allowing the world of ICT to escape from the grasp of the youths in our society. I guess the youth need to take things into their own hands....

DAY 3: 12.11.2010

On the third day the panel focused on ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. The main message of this panel was that the three big E's need to be promoted across Africa Education Employment Entrepreneurs. The panel was rather short, as it consisted of two parts - the discussion and the exhibition of young talented Tunisian developers and startups.

The exhibition was a mix of established IT companies, youths and startups. It was interesting to see how innovation has taken off in Tunisia and I hope that the next conference of this calibre that I attend will be in Nigeria.