One billion individuals are connected to the digital world in some shape or form, though this is what we can call ‘the easy half’. The real work now begins to ensure that the rest of the population, the population that is not always easily accessible, also connected.
Connectivity is crucial to the functioning of modern life. In ensuring that digital equity is realised, all invested stakeholders need to look beyond just hardware. Stakeholders must ensure that the population has access to hardware, to the internet, to viable connection speeds and to the skills they need to effectively use it.
Having access to the internet does not mean an individual is getting the full experience of the digital world. All invested stakeholders especially government and the digital sector need to ensure that the correct infrastructure is in place and that the processes are people-centered and that digitilisation does not become just a commercial endeavour.
The people-centered approach needs to extend further than just infrastructure but must also include policy. Policy is important in ensuring that whatever investments take place are sustainable and we are connecting the unconnected. Government policy and thinking must also be practical in approach, if a water or power utility is doing work in a certain area, there is no reason that these resources cannot also simultaneously be used to bridge the digital divide. There is no need for three different utilities to spread costs for infrastructure. If utilities work together there is a costs saving opportunity there for them.
As always there is a need to move away from trying to replicate western standards and solutions for the African continent. We need to innovative for Africa and not based on Western models, Africa’s next Amazon could be the Marabastad market in South Africa.
Watch the full Digital Equity: Ensuring that digital advances are equitable and just session online.