Nigeria ICT4D conference postponed over coronavirus outbreak

Since its outbreak in China then spreading to other countries, the Coronavirus has led to the indefinite postponement and even cancellation of various key events. Among the major industry events that had to be cancelled due to the fears over the spreading of virus was this year’s Mobile World Congress which was eventually called off after various notable brands and exhibitors pulled out.

Even though no event cancellations had thus far been reported in Africa, fears over the possible spread of Coronavirus have led organisers of the ICT4D Conference initially planned for Abuja, Nigeria towards the end of April this year to call off the 3-day forum indefinitely.

The 12th edition of the Information Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) Conference, which was to be held at Sheraton Abuja Hotel, was intended to provide an opportunity for the over 800 delegates to engage in conversations around digital development. The event was expected to draw attendees from public, private and civil society organizations who are “eager to share practical insights on applying digital technology to development, humanitarian, and conservation challenges.”

In the weeks leading up to the event, the organisers had even published advice on various concerns including COVID-19 guidance, Visa requirementssecurity guidance, and general FAQs to assist conference attendees with the planning.

Nigeria had been selected as the host of the ICT4D forum as it’s one of the largest markets in Africa for emerging technologies. The country also has a number of tech and innovation hubs, one of the highest mobile penetration rates of mobile phones and internet access, and diverse and young workforce within the 200 million population, thereby offering unparalleled opportunities for employing digital innovations at scale.

However, on March 4, 2020, the organisers announced via email that Catholic Relief Services has decided to postpone the 12th ICT4D Conference, planned on April 21-23, 2020 at the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria.

“As COVID-19 is continuing to spread in new places across the globe, including Nigeria; and given the latest WHO guidance on top of the increasing number of travel restrictions, Catholic Relief Services has decided to postpone the 12th ICT4D Conference, planned on April 21-23, 2020 at the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria. A new date for the conference will be announced as soon as possible,” stated the announcement.

“We are deeply disappointed by this turn of events. However, the health and safety of our conference participants, the ICT4D community, and the people we serve in our programs must be our highest priority. At this point, we feel that the risks of running this global event outweigh the benefits. The effects – actual and projected – of this unpredictable virus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives, with most of our participants facing travel
restrictions or are needed by their organizations to prepare for their responses to the outbreak.”

The organisers apologized to their participants and partners as well as the event planners who they noted, had worked over the past six months during which time they had reviewed over 600 speaker applications and developed the 3-day event program.

They further promised to support and collaborate with their partners and participants in the coming days, and provide an update on (possible) new dates and developments for the 12 th ICT4D Conference. They are also considering various options to make some of the planned agenda content accessible online, for instance via their monthly ICT4D Webinar Series, articles, and virtual events.

Apart from the ICT4D forum and Mobile World Congress, other major events that have so far been called off over the Coronavirus outbreak are the 2020 Global Health Conference & Exhibition, where President Trump was scheduled to speak; the Ultra Music Festival in Miami; Green Day’s ‘Hella Mega Tour’; Geneva International Motor Show; CERAWeek; Facebook Global Marketing Summit; Mariah Carey concert; London Book Fair; World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China; Microsoft’s MVP Summit and Livre Paris book fair.

Also called off are Nvidia GPU Technology Conference; release of new James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ initially planned for this April; Google’s Cloud Next ’20; Chinese Grand Prix; Facebook developer conference; IBM Think 2020; Google’s I/O developer conference; and Global Gaming Expo Asia according to a list of cancelled events compiled by USA Today.

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