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COMMUNICATION: A fundamental human right

By Osoro P.J. Nyawangah
Posted Monday, October 25, 2004

Telecommunications in Africa is gaining a lot momentum these days – especially now that telecommunication is no longer seen as a luxury for developing countries, but as a prerequisite for their economic growth. This way of looking at telecommunication in the developing world started in the beginnings of the 1980’s when the Internet was still in its infancy; it owes much of its present popularity to the rapid growth of data communication, via the Internet in particular.

While Africa is bustling with plans for new telecom applications, using the existing infrastructure and for grand new designs. Telecommunications is bound to profoundly alter the economic, cultural, social and political landscapes of Africa.

Last Saturday, the 17th May 2003 was World Telecommunication Day and was marked throughout the world. With the theme “Helping all of the world’s people to communicate” the day reminded us once again of the crucial role of communication in all areas of human endeavor. It again reminded that millions of people in the poorest countries (Tanzania included) are still excluded from the “right to communicate,” increasingly seen as a fundamental human right.

In his message to the stakeholders, the United Nations Secretary General, Koffi Annan said that helping all of the world’s people to communicate is an integral part of the Millennium Development Goals, agreed upon by the Heads of State and Government at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000.

“In particular, the eighth Millennium Development Goals aims to develop a global partnership for development and in cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communication technologies”, he said and stressed that information and communication technologies must be used to bridge the digital divided and accelerate progress in the poorest corners of the world.

Free and informative media are also a cornerstone of the information society and essential to helping all of the world’s people to communicate. At the same time, the ‘content divide’ between developed and developing countries must be addressed, encouraging media organizations and individuals in developing countries to promote local contents in line with the local culture, and in the local language.

Press freedom and pluralism of content can and must go together in our information society.

According to the International Telecommunication Union Secretary General, Mr. Yoshio Utsumi, the history of humanity has been marked by fundamental changes in the way we live work and play. Many of these changes were brought about by revolutions in the communication technology and are reflected in the history of ITU since its creation on 17 May 1965.

In his press release, Mr. Utsumi said that while their role has broadened and expanded over the years, their main mission remain to help the world’s people to communicate. The need is as basic to humanity as its quest for prosperity and peace.

The terms “information society”, “digital era” or the “information age” have all been used to describe this age. Whatever term we use, the society we build must be open and pluralistic – one in which all people in all countries have access to information and knowledge.

2003 will be another notable year in ITU’s history. Business, political, media and society leaders will be meeting in Geneva from 10 – 12 December for the first phase of the World Summit on the information society. This historic summit aims to create a shared vision of the information age we are entering, and an action plan to ensure everyone benefits from the technologies that have created it. The UN view information and communication technologies, as critical tools for the achievement of our common objectives of sustainable development for all people. Its ‘Millennium Development Goals’ provide specific milestones for the alleviation of poverty, hunger and disease.

The stake holders in the sector, the consumers, the industry and the government in Tanzania have a big role to play in creating strategies to address the digital divide by identifying policies that will enable all of us to have access to the basic tools of communication.

The competition in the telecommunication sector has been exciting for a while and consumers are hopeful to benefit later following a wide range of service providers in the country. The fight is leading to price war, which may be detrimental to the industry in other hand.

By working together, and by helping all of the world’s people to communicate we are sure of creating a vision that will fulfill the great promise of the information society. A future where improved communication will make the world a more equitable, peaceful and sustainable place for all!

For this reason we need cheaper prices for handsets and affordable talk-card rates with efficient mechanism to reach the remote areas too.

About the Author
freelance journalist, district political party secretary and african cultural advocate.


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