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Africans Meet In Ghana In February For Summit

Africans Meet In Ghana In February On UN Information Summit

With the second stage of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) set to be held in November in North Africa, a three-day African preparatory meeting next month in Ghana is to negotiate an action plan on achieving continent-wide distribution of communications technologies.

"We are expecting heated and in-depth discussions and proposals on the global partnerships Africa needs to finance access, particularly in light of the Digital Solidarity Fund proposed at the Geneva Summit by Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, and adopted by the AU Summit of Heads of States in July 2004," said Makane Faye, the Senior ICT Policy Adviser for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

Saying that the continent on which writing emerged should not be excluded today from sources of universal knowledge, in September 2003 Mr. Wade, an economist, proposed levies on communications technology use of a penny here or a dollar there and using the proceeds to help poor countries bridge the digital gap. The African Union (AU) endorsed the idea.

Using the theme "Access - Africa's key to an inclusive Information Society," the Action Plan for Africa and the Knowledge Economy should include concrete proposals for attracting investment in ICTs and recommendations on e-strategies and their uses for developing such sectors as education, agriculture, commerce and human resource management, the ECA said.

"We are aiming for very concrete results, based on critical questions, such as the need for a common (cell phone) GSM card for Africa and the removal of regulatory obstacles to facilitate content provision, using different technological platforms and media, including the Internet, digital radio and television services," said the ECA's Aida Opoku-Mensah.

In Accra, after some pre-conference discussions and workshops from 28 January to 1 February, the preparatory meeting will take place from 2 to 4 February. Participants will represent Government administrations, parliamentarians, civil society, the private sector, academia, local authorities, African regional institutions and international organizations.

The first phase of WSIS took place in December 2003 in Geneva and dealt with over-arching concepts. After three global preparatory meetings, combining regional contributions, the second phase of the summit, which Tunisia will host from 16 to 18 November, aims to address worldwide implementation.

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