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Published On: Mon, Oct 20th, 2014

Global ICT community meets in Zapatista (I)

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By Y. Z. Ya’u

The Zapatista Movement in Mexico had fascinated me for years. They as a movement, not only symbolizes creativity, optimism and determination but also the meeting point where technology and social revolution merged. For years, the image of the movement is an iconic geek-driven, making effective use of internet especially to communicate and mobilize rural communities in Mexico to support its struggle. As an activist and advocate of the information technology, I have somehow, even if anachronistic, that reflected what I am: a social crusader who sees technology as a tool to remake society.

Although red-revolution seems to be going out of fashion (other colors are taking over), the information technology is still unfolding. I have for years now occupied myself with it, following this soft revolution and it was therefore without hesitation that I accepted to be part of an event that reflected me in a country that produced a movement that combined the two of my preoccupations: ICT and social revolutions.

The World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) had in its wisdom decided to host the 19th World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) in Guadalajara, Mexico and it was a unique opportunity to try my curiosity. The WCIT is the largest IT event globally and brings professionals, policy makers, researchers, business people and activists together to review progress and strategize on how to further the contribution of IT in the development trajectory of humanity. Make no mistake of course; a lot has also to with creating market and business opportunities for those of us in the sector, posing as altruistic prophets of the revolution.

World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) is the leading recognized international voice of the global ICT industry, whose members from over 80 countries and economies represent more than 90 percent of the world ICT market. WITSA is dedicated to advocating policies that advance industry growth and development; facilitating international trade and investment in ICT products and services; strengthening WITSA’s national industry associations; and providing members with a broad network of professional contacts.

The congress itself held at the international conference centre, the Expo Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco State of Mexico. Mexico is federation of 31 states. The choice of Guadalajara might have been informed by three factors. First was the willingness of the State Government to host such a major event. Second was of course the bid that the country had won to host the event. Third, was that the Mexican Chambers of Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technology Industries (CANIETI), the local WISTA affiliate itself wanted to showcase Mexican technological development. The excellent

facilities at the Expo make it simply incredible. In quality, size, facilities, and everything, there is none of its types in Africa, certainly not in Nigeria where the whole land of our international centre at Abuja could not fill one of the halls at Expo.

The conception of the Expo itself is remarkable. Within a walking distance, there are over 10 top class hotels, forming a ring around the Expo. This means that whichever hotel you chose to stay, you have no need for taxi to get to the venue. Jalisco had its reason to host the event: to showcase its own success stories not only within the ICT sector but as a major technical centre in the Mexico. The state with a population of 7.3 million people, 1.4million of which is in the capital), it is one of the populous states of the country. It has a total of 61,358 hotel rooms, more than 11,100 of which are luxury. The land of the famous Mariachi music is also a vibrant cultural centre with a number of beaches off the Pacific Ocean.

Although the exhibition was a huge success (3,000 delegates from more than 73 countries: The exhibition area had 11 international pavilions, 52 exhibitors from the IT industry and more than 1,000 business meetings took place during the congress) with more participants spending more time going round the stands at the exhibition than listing to the pious lectures of the ICT preachers (did I not tell you that for many, the event was market and business opportunity), it was lopsided. Exhibition was dominated by companies from the USA, Mexico, Brazil (from the America continents) with only the notable presence of Spain (Europe) and Taiwan. Africa was obviously underrepresented with only Nigeria having a stand. This was not surprising as we are predominantly an ICT consuming continent. We had very little to exhibit. We probably could have gone for shopping but even in this, African is poor performer.

This poor performance of Africa was graphically driven home by the presentation by Dr. Benat Bilbao-Osorio of the Centre for Global Competitiveness and Performance of the World Economic Forum. Giving

the highlights of the 2014 Global State of ICT Readiness, he disclosed that the best performance African country, South Africa is ranked number 70 with the bottom 20 largely consisting of African countries. Nigeria is at number 112, one step ahead of last at 113th. The Networked Readiness Index (NRI) is a comprehensive assessment of the present state of networked readiness in the world, aimed at

holistically assessing the way that countries go about leveraging ICTs and benefiting from them in terms of enhanced competitiveness and well-being.

The four-in-one event actually picked off on 27th October with WISTA Board meetings which were concluded the following morning with WISTA General Assembly at which new leaders were elected. Those elected included Mr. Santiago Gutierrez, CANIETI as Chairman WITSA Board, Mr. Roger Latchman, IT Association of South Africa as Deputy Chairman and Eng. Tarek A. Monem Taha; Egyptian Information Technology, Electronics and Software Alliance (EITESAL) as Treasurer. Also elected regional vice chairman that included our own Engr Florence Seriki MFR; Information Technology Industry Association of Nigeria (ITAN) as Vice Chair for Africa, Mr. Nizar Zakka; Professional Computer Association of Lebanon (PCA) (Middle East and North Africa), Mr. Yannis Sirros; Federation of Hellenic Information Technology & Communications Enterprises (SEPE) (Europe (EU & EEA)), Mr. Takashi Igarashi; Japan Information Technology Services Industry Association (JISA) for Asia Pacific, Dr. Silvia Bidart; Cámara de Empresas de Software y Servicios Informáticos (CESSI) for Latin America and Dr. Boris Komrakov; The Scientific and Technological Association of Belarus (Infopark) for Europe (Non EU)

Of key importance was the presentation on Post 2015 Development Agenda and the Role of ICT. This was done by Mukhisa Kituyi, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference of Trade and

Development (UNCTAD). ICTs were critical to the achievement of many of the MDG goals. In particular, ICTs were to play great role in the actualization of the targets under education, reduction of poverty,

supporting environmental sustainability and enhancing gender equity and justice. Its application in the healthcare sector such as in the form of tele-medicine, e-health initiatives, and would have great

impact and would thus support the achievements of the health related targets of the MDGs. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) between 2003 to 2005, convened by the International

Telecommunications Union (ITU) on behalf of the United Nations recognized this and set up targets that were to aid the achievement of the MDGs. Now that we are talking about a post 2015 development, it

was necessary to see how ICT could be factored in the realization of that agenda, no matter what shape it may take.

The rest of the second day was devoted to a series of technical workshops. These included spaces for open innovation, computer club housing: inspiring youth through technology, health informatics,

technology entrepreneurship, human factors in engineering, cloud computing and closing the skills gap among many others.

The conference proper commenced on Monday, 29th October with a series of statements and a major presentation by Dr. Benat Bilbao-Osorio of the Centre for Global Competitiveness and Performance of the World Economic Forum. The second session entitled Digital Agenda featured three national digital agendas, namely that of host country, Mexico, Taiwan and Nigeria. Both Mexico and Taiwan could be said to have more or less consolidation agenda in the sense that they already have made significant progress. Taiwan raking in the network readiness is 14th, among the top 20s while Mexico is at 79, below South Africa. Mexico performed badly in the digital content (English bias?) and surprisingly in skills). In a way therefore, if there was an agenda to listen to, it was Nigeria. Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Mobolaji Johnson made a good presentation, outlining the four pillars of the country’s digital agenda which are accelerating broadband access, local content, e-governance and digital inclusion. Listening to her one comes up with the impression of a robust agenda. Trouble is

the implementation. Nigeria has always extremely good plans non paper and poor implementation in reality.

The official opening ceremony which followed the second session was addressed by the Governor of the State of Jalisco. Following the opening sessions, the rest of the day was spent in various thematic

sessions including. In all there were 107 speakers participating in 14 panels, 10 keynotes, 14 workshops and 11 special events. The day closed with a welcome dinner. The second day of the conference proper which was Tuesday, 30th September, was also a spent on thematic sessions with delegate of course taking of time to go around the exhibition.

Y. Z. Ya’u via yzy@citad.org

 

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