Nearly 3 billion people globally, a majority of who live in Africa, are offline. This striking statistic calls for collective efforts to enhance digital inclusion and close the digital divide in the continent and across the world.
In a bid to promote innovation in Africa, the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), along with Huawei Technologies, Intel Corporation, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the GSM Association (GSMA), has announced the 3rd edition of the ATU Africa Innovation Challenge.
The Challenge is an ecosystem-based competition that is exclusively open to Universities and other Higher Learning Institutions in Africa. Jointly, the partners have raised USD 50,000 to be awarded to the winning institutions, with the overall winner expected to receive USD 20,000.
Under the theme, “Innovating for Digital Inclusion: Solutions to Bridge the Digital Divide in Africa,” the Challenge calls on the Institutions to submit established, institutionalised and ongoing Practices within their institutions that support young innovators to thrive. To be eligible for the Competition, the institutions must be from any ATU Member State.
Speaking at the Virtual Launch of the event, the ATU Secretary General John Omo said, “Collaborative efforts with our partners are key to creating a united front against the challenges of the digital divide. Together, we stand as advocates for equitable access to telecommunications/ICTs services across the continent”.
Also speaking at the event, Dr. Bienvenu Soglo, Director, Government Affairs Africa and IGA CTO Liaison (PE), Intel Corporation called on stakeholders to work together in fostering African specific solutions for African Challenges. “Working together is key to spurring innovation and enabling African start-ups to succeed. We have a role to play in bridging the Digital Divide through DeepTech,” he said.
Participants of the Challenge are required to present solutions that focus on affordable connectivity, digital literacy, access to information and services, and inclusive digital solutions for marginalised groups across the continent.
Chief Guest at the ceremony, Burundi’s Minister of ICT and Media, Ms. Léocadie Ndacayisaba challenged the private sector to work more closely with governments, who she said, “possess regulatory influence, vast networks, and a commitment to societal welfare,” and that, “Conversely, the private sector contributes innovation, market-driven strategies, and efficient implementation.
Ms. Ndacayisaba’s sentiments were supported by Huawei’s Vice President for Public Affairs, Sub-Saharan Africa Region, Mr. Wan Wei who noted that Huawei is proud to support this platform. “As a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) solutions, Huawei is committed to partnering with governments, telecom operators, academia and other partners to build reliable and affordable ICT infrastructure, expand access to broadband, and enhance digital skills development in Africa,” he said.
The ATU Challenge is anticipated to culminate in October, with a tentative plan for a physical awards ceremony to take place in Kigali, Rwanda.