Information and Communications Technology is "providing a pathway to a new and dynamic future for East Africa," said Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale. In her recent keynote speech to the East Africa, ICT and Higher Education Symposium 2010 in Kampala, Uganda, Under Secretary McHale shared some guiding principles, based on the U.S. experience, that African nations may wish to consider as they develop applications and programs for broadband telecommunications and the Internet.
"One of the most important things I have seen and experienced in both the private sector and the government is the critical importance of having a clear, consistent and comprehensive regulatory environment," said Under Secretary McHale. Clarity and consistency in the regulatory environment, she said, are essential to attract the kind of investment necessary to maximize opportunity in the information and communications technology sector.
Government should avoid the temptation to overregulate and should foster, not fear, healthy competition among ICT providers. "As for developing the new regulations," said Under Secretary McHale, "I think it is important for the regulators, those in academia and the private sector, to work together."
Regional differences and special needs should be considered and respected in rolling out the new technologies, she said. "I have observed throughout the world that progress has been impeded because people haven't moved forward enough to understand the country-by-country significance of working with governments and how countries have to come together to address all these issues," she said.
Another important principle is fostering new and innovative content at any level, content that appeals to all users, content that is relevant to the local population and students that are the intended consumers. Under Secretary McHale stressed the importance of providing all students with access to 21st century tools, laptops, mobile devices, and related technologies. "If we put in the infrastructure without providing the tools students need, we are not going to make the headway we need," she said.
"East Africa cannot afford to be on the sidelines," said Under Secretary McHale, and should "move rapidly on all fronts." For its part, she said, the United States government wants to work with its African partners by sharing information, best practices, and facilitating exchanges with U.S. educational institutions. But "at the end of the day this needs to be an initiative owned by the countries and people of East Africa."