The Smart Africa Initiative has become a reference point, for boosting digital transformation on our continent. But it’s what we actually do that makes a difference.
For example, last year in the eastern Africa region as the minister of ICT just mentioned, we established a One Area Network: traffic numbers are up 400%, prices went down and revenues went up. Everyone was a winner.This required no extra investment besides political will.
So, imagine how much more we can achieve together, right now, with what we have, if we maintain this momentum.
In Africa, we are fully aware that our continent has often missed opportunities to accelerate development. In placing ICT at the core of our transformation agenda, we can make sure that Africa is never again left behind.
There is never a good explanation for why we are left behind in the first place. We have the right strategies and plans. But technology is first and foremost about people. Let me offer a few points in that spirit, as we move forward.
First, the ICT dimension has to inform everything we do in government, and outside of it. Just as with women’s empowerment, it cuts across all departments and portfolios. This means everyone is responsible for integrating ICT into the work of their institutions.
Second, technology is not just about gadgets, but results on the ground that benefit citizens. It can transform the lives of people who may have never touched a smartphone themselves.
Behind the scenes, ICT enables government to provide more efficient and accountable public services. This leads to better health outcomes, quicker customs procedures, and computerized land titles.
Just as important, is what the private sector is able to offer thanks to the enabling environment that has been built.
Let me give one small example, which again demonstrates how we can use technology to get results with the resources we have.
A few years ago, the City of Kigali gave a unique address to every plot. At first, this did not seem particularly useful and many people did not even bother to learn their own address.
Now, working with partners, the new system is integrated with Google Maps, spurring the growth of new retail delivery services that create employment for motorcycle taxi drivers, customer service specialists and web designers, while giving existing businesses new ways to reach customers.
And of course, none of that would have been possible, without earlier investments, to make the internet accessible, faster and more affordable.
The third point, is that ICT is increasingly making access to world-class education and information, affordable to everyone.
Africa can no longer be excluded, from globalization. We can develop our human capital and productivity using the same methods that are taken for granted in many other places.
But that doesn’t mean anything will be easy. The existence of technology doesn’t automatically change lives. A mindset of curiosity, responsibility, and hard work is very necessary, if we are to become our best selves and compete effectively in the wider world.
Of course, technology brings new risks and challenges, which is why we are working to enhance cyber security and protect consumers and ourselves.Our aim is to unleash the energy and unexploited talent we know exists on our continent, particularly among young Africans who constitute the majority of our population.
I hope we will take full advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience present at this summit, and the global partnerships we have forged to drive Africa’s digital revolution. And it should be a revolution in the real sense, not just good words.
Slightly edited version: Speech by President Paul Kagame at TransformAfrica Summit 2015