Communication has always been an integral part of our continent. Think talking drums, town criers, drawings in caves of Southern Africa, and the hieroglyphics of the ancient Egyptians. With colonisation came other modern forms of communication around the 1870s which included telegraph lines established along railway lines. Today the telecommunications sector in Africa is growing in leaps and bounds with African young men and women taking a lead in the sector. The theme for 2017 is “Big Data for Big Impact”.

The internet has made a lot more possible for the continent and communication has become much easier than ever. The major concerns come with issues of affordability considering that it is a lot more expensive to get access in the continent. However, this has not deterred companies that are continuing to ensure the population has access to the internet. As of March 2017, Internet World Stats reported that internet penetration in Africa currently stands at 27, 7%, countries with the highest penetration being Kenya. Mauritius, Morocco, Seychelles and South Africa.

According to the United Nations, World Telecommunication Day has been celebrated annually on 17 May since 1969, marking the founding of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865. It was instituted by the Plenipotentiary Conference in Malaga-Torremolinos in 1973. In November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society called upon the UN General Assembly to declare 17 May as World Information Society Day to focus on the importance of ICT and the wide range of issues related to the Information Society.

Part of the sustainable development goals require that all people have access  to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020. This is very ambitious considering that 1-1.5 billion people do not have access to reliable phone services  globally, but it is achievable if governments stop frustrating attempts by telecommunication companies to provide services.

The UN reports that, this year’s theme will explore the power of big data for development and examine the opportunities to convert unprecedented quantities of data into information that can drive development. It is also a time to look at the importance of governance and regulation, and the implications for personal privacy and security given the future exponential growth in data and connectivity. This is important in Africa where many activists, journalists, academics and political leaders are wary of being under surveillance  by state agents in relation to their use of ICT.

Today is a day to hope for a better future for the continent. We desire to see everyone having access to telecommunication tools and thus access to information at an affordable rate. The future of the continent is within technology and thus no-one should be left behind.