A conference that brings together influential and senior experts in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry from within and outside the SADC region kicked on Wednesday in Windhoek, Namibia.
The three-day-conference is an annual event with the main objective to prepare and approve the projects, programmes and budget for the new financial year of the Southern African Telecommunications Association (SATA).
In her official opening speech of the 35th SATA annual conference, Telecom Namibia Board member, Feitjie Veldskoen applauded SATA members and their Secretariat for their tireless efforts in ensuring that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is interconnected and also connected to the rest of the world.
“Today, all our citizens in the SADC region are using ICT in different facets of their lives. Furthermore, the ICT sector employs an enormous number of people and is the greatest contributor of our gross domestic product. In the last decade, mobile penetration for the region grew from an average of 2 per cent in 2000 to more than 95 per cent by the end of 2014, and continues to grow,” Veldskoen said.
She noted that several SADC countries now have mobile penetration levels that exceed the 100 per cent mark, with others catching up fast, adding that their biggest challenge, however, is still the development of infrastructure and access to rural communities.
“Telecommunications and ICT sectors in the SADC region continue to grow and play a vital role as catalysts for sustainable economic development and growth, she said.
Veldskoen expressed happiness to learn that SADC-member States through SATA and other organisations are making changes within their own countries to include the integration of ICT in the transformation and growth of their respective economies.
“ICT has a huge and positive impact on economic growth as it has the potential to make supply chains more efficient, offer richer collaboration, make financial transactions faster, and more dynamic pricing and transparent processes. ICT can accelerate the flow of goods and services across SADC national borders, underpinned by effective competition; ICT stimulates and improves trade by connecting people and places previously not connected,” she told the meeting.
She also seriously warned SATA members of cybercriminals who are becoming more sophisticated and pose great risks to any country or government in the SADC region.
“Steps must be taken to improve our capacity in dealing with cyber threats and cybercriminals or else they will cause irreparable damage to our economies and countries. We need to step up our capacity building to ensure that our governments and law-enforcement officials remain ahead of existing cyber threats and on the pulse of emerging ones,” urged Veldskoen.
She then strongly appealed to SATA members that the general public and future generations need to be educated to use ICT in a safe and responsible manner.
“We have seen how societal values are sometimes negatively impacted due to the rapid advancement of ICT. Indecency and anarchy can seep in to any environment if not anchored on ethical value. In this regard, our cultural and societal values can come into play. I strongly believe in embracing developments in ICT but that it is also important to not forget our cultural roots and values. We should never, in the name of development, compromise on our values,” stressed Veldskoen.
The conference that runs under the theme: ‘ICT for the Benefit of All: Transforming our Society through Broadband and ICT Development’ ends on Friday.
Participants are from host Namibia and other SADC member States including Angola, Zambia, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa.