Internet: A key for Africa’s digital transformation

12May 2016
Lucas Liganga
Kigali, Rwanda
The Guardian
Internet: A key for Africa’s digital transformation

Efforts to extend the reach of the internet to the four billion people worldwide that are not yet connected will only succeed if a digital ecosystem approach is adopted where access, affordability, skills and content are given equal attention.

Young Ivorians at an internet festival in Abidjan

This is according to a new World Economic Forum-led initiative, Internet For All, whose key learning and best practices were published on Tuesday.

The report was published ahead of the 26th World Economic Forum on Africa which opened here yesterday, bringing together over 1,200 global and regional heads of government, business and civil society.

The learning is published as a collection of best practices from around the world on how public-private collaboration has enabled internet access and adoption.

Entitled Internet for All: A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption, the report forms the basis of the Internet For All Initiative’s first phase and concludes with a framework for governments and businesses to accelerate large-scale internet adoption.

The framework will be implemented in an initial project with the full endorsement of the governments of the Northern Corridor countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. In these countries, 75 million people representing 67 per cent of the total population have no access to the internet, said the report.

“The internet has become a pervasive, fundamental part of daily life, but low internet penetration significantly impacts a country’s ability to participate in the digital economy, which is becoming an increasingly important priority for development as Africa, like the rest of the world, enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Alex Wong, Head, Global Challenge Partnerships and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

He added: “We know it is possible to break down the digital divide for the 55 per cent of the world’s population that is still not connected: now it’s time for governments, businesses and civil society to make it happen.”

Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, Rwandan Minister for Youth and Information Communication Technology, said: “Achieving Internet for All is a critical priority for Africa to take full advantage of enormous current and future digital opportunities.”

The report provides a clear framework on which Internet for All development strategy is based. In the Northern Corridor of East Africa, the aim is to help bring 25 million more citizens online by 2019.

“There is no greater challenge to development than the digital divide, and the role of information and communications technology cannot be underestimated in helping to enable every one of the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved for every person in the world,” said Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson

In Tanzania, according to figures released by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), the number of internet users by the end of 2015 was 17.3 million compared with 5.3 million in 2011.

More than 1,200 participants from over 70 countries are taking part in the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali from yesterday to tomorrow.
The theme of the meeting is “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation”.

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