5 May 2020
Egypt Chairs AU STC-CICT Bureau Extraordinary Meeting

The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Amr Talaat has chaired the Extraordinary Meeting of the African Union (AU) Specialized Technical Committee on Communication and ICT (STC-CICT) Bureau, organized via videoconference. The aim was to discuss the efforts of the ICT sectors in AU Member States, in support of the national efforts for curbing the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

The meeting was attended by the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission (AUC) Amani Abou-Zeid and a number of ministers from the Member States, representing Burundi, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Djibouti.

During the meeting, the ICT Minister stated that the current crisis reflects the importance of developing national strategies for building a digital society to serve as the backbone of development. He highlighted the significance of having a robust ICT infrastructure to ease access of citizens to all basic services, with respecting social distancing.

Talaat presented the efforts of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) to support the State’s plan for facing COVID-19, which encouraged the citizens to stay at home and supported e-learning. This is in addition to supporting the Ministry of Health’s efforts to raise awareness of COVID-19, rendering high quality telecommunication services to the medical staff and promoting Egypt Post’s role as an outlet for providing financial services to irregular workers suffering the repercussions of COVID-19.

MCIT, also, launched an initiative for supporting the affected families, in collaboration with the telecommunication operators, within the framework of their social responsibility, added Talaat.

Moreover, the ICT Minister underlined the significance of leveraging the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s technologies, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI), to create applications to help overcome the crisis, in coordination with the AU Working Group on AI. The Working Group was formed as per a resolution issued at the AU STC-CICT ministerial meeting, with the aim to reach a unified African situation on AI, following Egypt’s initial proposal in this field.

Talaat, in addition, referred to the African App Launchpad (AAL) presidential initiative that targets empowering young Africans to develop applications to overcome common challenges. He highlighted the importance of developing e-health applications to overcome COVID-19, as well as the applications enabling remote work.

Although Africa is facing unprecedented challenges, there are still many opportunities to seize, through synergizing efforts, working hand in hand and establishing partnerships with stakeholders, Talaat said. He commended the initiatives launched by the international development partners and the private sector, and praised the relentless efforts exerted by the governments to overcome COVID-19 economic and social repercussions.

For her part, Abou-Zeid underlined the importance of the ICT infrastructure in enabling the African countries to address the economic and social challenges caused as a result of the spread of COVID-19. She, also, called for implementing the African strategy for digital transformation to help the AU Member States facing some difficulties and challenges achieve the digital transformation.

She added that the current crisis has proven that the countries where digital transformation projects were carried out successfully, did not suffer as much the economic and social repercussions of the virus. This was achieved through providing educational, health and economic services via mobile applications, e-platforms and websites. In addition, such technologies provided platforms for social communication during the closing periods.

Abou-Zeid, also, stressed on the importance of focusing on data protection and security on the Internet, especially for children as they use modern technologies.

The meeting discussed the ICT sector’s vital role in providing technological solutions for supporting the AU Member States’ efforts and plans for facing COVID-19 and curbing its spread. It also discussed the Report of Experts and adopted the work plan for the current and the coming periods, including key measures and policies and the partnerships with ICT companies and financial institutions, for leveraging ICT in overcoming COVID-19.

Furthermore, the meeting witnessed issuing a declaration for the coordination of efforts between the African countries to overcome COVID-19 using ICT.

It is worth mentioning that Egypt was elected the Chair of STC-CICT Bureau, for two years, from 2019 to 2021, while Burundi, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Djibouti were elected members of the Bureau. This was during the STC-CICT Third Ordinary Session, held in Sharm El Sheikh, last October.

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