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Commonwealth Pledges to Improve Telecommunications in Africa

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) has pledged its support to ensure that rural Africa has access to the Internet and to other information and communications technologies (ICT).

Bashir Patel is the director of programs and business development at the CTO headquarters in London. He says a (cell) phone has become a necessity for villagers.

"You don't have to send somebody running miles and miles to fetch a doctor because your grandmother or grandparents have suddenly gone ill. So having communication is becoming…the same as electricity, food and shelter."

Patel says Africa is making progress improving telecommunications services.

"You don't build a house overnight. You first start building the foundation. I think many African governments recognize the need to implement the backbone, the infrastructure. Quite a number of them are already embarked on getting the fiber optic (cables) linking major cities. From major cities they are rolling out connections to major towns and smaller towns, and from there it's easier to start serving rural communities."

Patel says the CTO is hoping to facilitate the spread of telecommunications technologies by lobbying suppliers to lower computer prices needed for the projects. He said the technology must be affordable and "serve the needs of communities where ever they happen to be."

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization says over 60 percent of rural Africa lacks access to the Internet, cell phone and other telecommunications technologies.