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UN commission calls on Africa to commit to information and knowledge economy

UN commission calls on Africa to commit to information and knowledge economy

With information and communication technologies (ICT) spinning off new industries in Africa, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) today called on the continent's governments to commit themselves to policies that create information and knowledge economies.

Already Africa's ICT environment was leading to the creation of technology parks, globally-operating call centres, cyber-cities and a growing software development sector that was seeking a share of the global $260 billion software industry, ECA Deputy Executive Secretary Josephine Ouedraogo told the opening meeting of the fourth session of the Committee on Development, "CODI IV," held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Some estimate that African software companies could become the single largest contributor to their countries' gross domestic product (GDP), she said.

CODI is one of the seven subsidiary bodies of the ECA, established in 1997 by the 23rd meeting of the Conference of African Ministers responsible for Economic and Social Development and Planning. The last CODI meeting was held in 2002 on the theme "Information and Governance."

The role of information in driving economic development had expanded dramatically over the last decade, in line with the shift from industrialized societies to information societies, Ms. Ouedraogo said.

She praised the Enterprise Development Facility (EDF), launched in 1997 by ECA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to increase the participation of African women entrepreneurs in the information economy, and she called for similar initiatives to build an inclusive information economy for young people and civil society.

Despite the EDF initiative, however, "ICT resources in Africa do not take women's needs into account and current policies of deregulation and liberalization of communications do not address issues of communication for empowering women. We need to address this imbalance by adopting gender-sensitive policies," she said.