Bridging
the digital divide

Close the Gap celebrates its 10th anniversary with Desmond Tutu

VTM

Close the Gap celebrated its 10 years on 19 November 2014 at the Deloitte University EMEA in La Hulpe (Belgium) together with Close the Gap’s patron Archbishop em. Desmond Tutu.

On this special day, Close the Gap looked back at 10 years of bridging the digital divide and launched new collaborations and innovative projects together with over 350 CEOs, CIOs and CSR responsibles from European companies. Archbishop em. Desmond Tutu summarized Close the Gap’s mission as follow: “ICT should no longer be a luxury good for the happy few, but a commodity for everyone, including those at the base of the pyramid… the other five billion people in this world. This is what Close the Gap is all about”.

During the event, Archbishop em. Desmond Tutu, Former Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Ms. Neelie Kroes and Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services Mr. Alexander De Croo inaugurated the Digitruck, Close the Gap’s mobile ICT-class on solar energy built in a container to reach the most vulnerable persons who live outside the electricity grid. The Digitruck will be implemented in social projects in Burundi by the Belgian Red Cross Flanders, partner of Close the Gap. “We built this prototype to start offering different variations of mobile and solar units to partners in developing countries. These classes can easily be implemented in the most remote regions worldwide”, says Mr. Olivier Vanden Eynde, Founder and Managing Director of Close the Gap. Close the Gap’s refurbishment partner Arrow Value Recovery already committed to sponsor the second Digitruck in 2015. In addition, the State Secretary of Brussels for Development Aid and ICT, Ms. Bianca Debaets, announced that the Brussels government will fund a third Digitruck for implementation in Kantanga, the Democratic Republic of Congo. For the occasion, kids of the Brussels based non-profit organisation Maksvzw  developed a computer game with as main characters Desmond Tutu and Neelie Kroes.

Keynote speakers Mr. Thomas Leysen (Chairman of Umicore and KBC Group), Mr. Tom Musili (CEO Computers for Schools Kenya) and Prof. Dr. Marleen Temmerman (Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization) emphasized that access to information is one of the most powerful enablers in this globalized and ever faster changing world. “Despite staggering advances in health sciences and technology over the years, women around the world continue to suffer gravely as a result of inadequate access to basic reproductive health services. ICT and mobile health technology are important tools for empowering health professionals as well as patients”, says Marleen Temmerman.

This anniversary was also the opportunity to launch the ICT for Development Alliance, the first worldwide partnership of ICT-development organizations. Six international organizations from Belgium, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Kenya and the Netherlands committed to sustainably increase digital literacy by sharing knowledge and best practices.

During the event, Close the Gap and Deloitte University EMEA announced the start of a new partnership to develop talent, starting with courses on entrepreneurship delivered by Deloitte employees to service partners of Close the Gap and Worldloop in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania). The aim will be to up-skill the local service partners to be successful agents for Close the Gap who distribute, maintain and recycle the technology. The partnership will focus on helping them to become more professional in marketing and sales, business planning, compliance and risk.

Belgian harmonica player, Baron Toots Thielemans, ended this 10 year-event by surprising his old friend Desmond Tutu on stage with a little song.

The event was largely covered by the Belgian press:

Television news: VRT Nieuws 19/11VTM Nieuws 19/11, minute 29:22; TV Brussel

Written press: De Standaard, De Morgen, Datanews, Vers l’avenir, La Dernière Heure

Please find here a press overview provided by Akkanto.