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Creating a digital Angola

Interview - February 28, 2012
The Centro Nacional das Tecnologias de Informação de Angola (National Information Technology Centre) is charged with implementing Government policies with regard to information and communication technologies. Globus Vision talks to Mr. João Manuel de Azevedo Leão, Director General of CNTI, about his institution’s role in Angola’s development

After the peace agreement of 2002, which put an end to 27 years of civil war, Angola has made remarkable progress. Considering the short time in which this progress was made, what do you believe was the key to this Angola´s success?

I believe that the strategic vision of our President and Chief of the Government, Mr. José Eduardo dos Santos, along with the optimized use of human capital and of financial and material resources in implementing national policies and programs were the groundwork of such important successes of Angola and its people, as they positioned Angola on the path to economic growth and sustainable development.

The National Reconstruction Program includes a major expansion of the telecom sector... What would say are the main telecommunication areas that the Government must encourage and foster in order to achieve an optimum development in Angola?

For the Telecom and Information Technology sector the government has prioritized the expansion of information and communication technologies - ICT, so as to give people access to information.

To achieve this goal, the Government has invested in the expansion and modernization of telecom network, namely in the optical fiber structure and satellite connectivity, in order to provide people throughout the country with general access to quality broadband services at low price.

The Government has also encouraged the private sector to join this venture, and build proper infrastructure to train people for the information and communication sector.

Moreover, the Government created the conditions to strengthen people´s participation in the economic, political and social development of Angola by promoting and consolidating citizenship in a more participative democracy.
The government has also been promoting the use of ICT in public Institutions. 

As CNTI is a reality, Angola now has a modern institution that promotes Internet knowledge through NGOLA DIGITAL project; in addition, it makes possible the researches, consulting, technical-scientific events and publications. Could you tell us a little more of the history of CNTI and the main successes and challenges faced so far?

The National Information Technology Center, CNTI is a public Institution created to promote and foster the development of an information society in Angola. It arose from the need to institutive an organism that would serve as an executor arm of government policies and strategies for the ICT sector.

Within its responsibilities, it is in charge of managing the technological platform of the Angolan Government website and of the citizen website. In addition, it has a series of program and projects of great importance in the field of ICT.

N’GOLA DIGITAL project for instance, consists of classrooms equipped with computers and broadband Internet. The ICT rooms are built on mobile platforms and are equipped to train and instruct people on the use of ICT so they can have access to public information and services, search for information, access forms and other available publications right from the Government website.

N’GOLA DIGITAL, aims for the digital inclusion of all Angolans, bearing in mind that digital inclusion is an important item for social inclusion, in this era of information and knowledge.

Angola now has an important tool that will contribute to the strengthening of institutions and to the technical competence of its members. What do you believe are the main benefits to be attained by the students with the creation of this institution?

CNTI, within its mission to promote the development of the information society in Angola interacts with the educational sector, from where it recruits people to join the institution itself.

Students’ formal education is therefore complemented by technical and professional training programs, sometimes conducted overseas.

Students have so the chance to consolidate their knowledge and develop new techniques and work methods.

Students also benefit by the encouragement to develop academic works and projects with practical application in this ICT field. The academic community and companies are challenged to develop technology solutions that meet specific needs in the areas of education, health, justice, and others. In this respect, the needs of CNTI are satisfied thanks to the collaboration of the academic community and ICT companies in Angola, which provides employees with the opportunity and potential to develop and be strengthened.

Combining theory with practice, CNTI will bring the latest in management to generate the specialization of skills necessary to increase quality, productivity, modernization and efficiency for both public and private companies with respect to information technology.

Could you comment on your expansion plans for the near future?

The National Information Technologies Center was established as a public Institute two years ago. Its management model is focused on results with high level of quality commitments. We intend to profit from the advantages of competitiveness among companies and from academic potential. We are still in our consolidation phase in our role on behalf of the Angolan society and Government. CNTI’s vision for the near future is to be recognized as an centre of excellence with regards to information and communication technology – not only in Angola but beyond borders.

CNTI also works through studies, social and environmental development projects, exclusive or allied to its activities, disseminating management practices with the view to protect the environment, strengthen citizenship and empower institutions. What is your opinion on the importance of doing business with social and environmental responsibility in any of the subjects CNTI is involved with?

Programs and projects that CNTI develops are in the field of information and communication technologies. As in any other field it is always very important to adopt good environmental friendly practices, and it is also essential to concentrate on the use of technologies focused on people´s welfare. This is the way we work; in fact our institutional image highlights precisely the ICT humanization component.

Investments in ICT infrastructures, policies and programs, the creation of a competitive market where companies and academia participate in creating technological solutions that meet social needs, bearing in mind respect for the environment, all together contribute to reduce famine and poverty and help sustainable development. In fact these are in line with the development objectives for this millennium.

Today there is very important attention from public and private institutions in vocational training and acquisition of new knowledge and working techniques. This initiative is in line with the Government's Plan for 2009, which focuses on technical training and new specialists’ recruitment. What role does CNTI play in the qualitative stride Angola is making right now?

In today´s information and knowledge era, it is known that information and communication technologies play a crucial role in sustainable development. It is also known that the cumulative effect on countries that do not adopt ICT results in increasing difficulties in trying to catch up.

In Angola, the race towards information and knowledge is a reality that has already had the government´s attention. Indeed, it was approved in 2011 the White Book of the information and communication technologies sector, which establishes the ICT as a factor of socio-economic progress, social inclusion and modernization.

The White Book is a strategic instrument that aims to stimulate the development of the information society in Angola, encourage social and economic development in Angola, give its contribution to job opportunities and therefore encourage the eradication of famine and poverty; in addition it contributes to increased digital literacy in Angola.

Still in the subject of Book, special attention is paid to the aspect of technical-professional education and training.

The role of CNTI is to manage Government policies and strategies with regards to ICT; as you can imagine it is a role of paramount importance for the sustainable development of Angola.

Foreign investment is crucial for companies to achieve their goals and challenges, not only for the resources but also for the contribution that more advanced technologies, products, markets, research and personnel training can bring. What is your opinion of the foreign investment environment in Angola right now?

The results of the Angolan-German Summit held in Berlin in July 2011, demonstrate the understanding of the parties with respect to mutual advantages for both sides.

The opening of Angola to foreign investment implies business opportunities for investors, and I believe the Summit has created a favorable atmosphere for foreign investment in Angola. 

Following the Angolan-German Summit held in Berlin on the 13 July 2011, in which meetings took place between the Angolan delegation headed by President José Eduardo dos Santos and senior representatives of the German private and public sector, the creation of a credit line of US $ 2 billion for German companies seeking to invest in Angola was discussed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. As Director General of CNTI, what are your hopes for the future cooperation between German and Angolan companies?

Cooperation agreements are welcome, in the sense that partnerships may eventually be created between Angolan and German companies with mutual benefits, Angolan companies can benefit from the experience and German know-how, strengthen themselves and thus better contribute for the country´s economic and social development.

If you had the opportunity to send a message to Germany's business and political elite about investment opportunities in Angola, what would that message be?

The message I would send to the German business and political Elite would be a message of confidence: Angola is a safe country to invest in.