ICT ministers representing the fifteen member countries that make up the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have moved a step closer to formal approval of the region’s revised Supplementary Act on Universal Access and Service.
This legislation is set to replace the 2007 Supplementary Act, currently in place to underline best practices in ICT and digital access goals for the region.
The latest revision of the Act was drafted by ECOWAS in partnership with internet lobby group Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).
Isaias Barreto da Rosa, ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunications and IT, said, “I have profound gratitude for your [A4AI’s] unrelenting support and for the very fruitful cooperation between A4AI and the ECOWAS Commission.”
Although the revised Act is yet to be made public, A4AI has revealed that it includes updated definitions according to the current digital context, outlines guidance on good practice institutional arrangements, a new capacity building framework, guidance to unlock investment opportunities for multiple players in the market, and calls for an increase in targeted interventions (e.g., public access projects, programmes to address skills gaps)
The Act is now awaiting formal approval by the Council of Ministers before the end of the year, after which ECOWAS countries will be responsible for “domesticating” and implementing the Act it in line with their own local context.
This latest development for the ECOWAS bloc follows approval for free regional roaming regulation for member countries by the same group of Ministers last month.
Barreto da Rosa described the decision on roaming as historic. “This is expected to touch the lives of ordinary ECOWAS citizens and bring tremendous contributions to our regional integration process as we strive to establish a single digital market in the sub-region and as we move from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people.”
Implementation of the approved free regional roaming regulation is planned for the beginning of 2018.