Tunis meeting assesses progress in building the information society
Two years after it hosted the second round of the UN World Summit on the Information Society, Tunisia invited experts from Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Quebec and France to a meeting held Thursday (April 5th) and Friday in Tunis to evaluate progress in establishing statistical indicators to assess communications and technology development needs and accomplishments.
"The significance of the meeting called by Tunisia lies in stopping to evaluate the indicators upon which African countries rely to know the extent of their progress or lack thereof in the field of communications technology, because the time of haphazardly releasing figures and conclusions has passed, and we must respect the statistical indicators that were put in place," Thierry Amoussougbo, representative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), told Magharebia. "With the help of more than 40 African universities and the assistance and funding of the American Ford Foundation and the Finnish government, 42 indicators have been established," he added.
Amoussougbo disclosed that of the 53 African nations, only 28, including Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, have put statistical indicators to use to measure their international standing in the field of information technology.
A report prepared for the meeting in Tunis praised those 28 nations’ commitment to the World Summit on the Information Society’s decisions and criticized unnamed nations for what the Information Society considers "disregard for the importance of statistics and their impact on economic growth, good planning and making correct political decisions".
During his opening address to the meeting, Minister of Communication Technologies Montasser Ouaili noted what he called "the commitment of the international group to help establish an information society which will benefit every society and individual". Ridha Ferchiou, Chairman of the National Statistics Council in Tunisia, said, "Statistics are important in a way that governments or nations cannot overlook when they set out their economic, health or education programmes."
In the final report of the World Economic Forum’s January 2007 Davos meeting, Tunisia ranked 35th out of 122 nations included in the report, making it first among African nations and second among Arab nations.
According to a separate 2006 UN report on "The Knowledge Economy", only 44% of a group of 181 developing nations established suitable national plans and satisfactorily responded to the appeals issued by the information society summit in Tunisia in 2005. However, the report welcomed growth recorded in the field of e-commerce, which reached 7% in Africa as compared to 77% in Asia.
The 2005 summit sought to increase Internet availability in the developing world by pledging to help link all rural communities to modern means of communication by 2010. Yet, last year the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported that companies in developing nations are still unable to benefit fully from the economic advantages of using the Internet.
In Tunisia, the country’s 11th development plan for 2007-2011 deemed communication and media technologies a strategic sector, with a growth rate of more than 17% and a share of GDP expected to exceed 13% by 2011.