How Africa Can Thrive In The Digital Age
The way people live, work and connect is being changed by digital technologies. However, they can do so much more for developing nations of the world. Digital technologies open up new possibilities for countries to steer a self-determined road, to grow in ways not seen since the manufacturing boom that lifted millions out of poverty in Asia. Industry 4.0 technologies can also entrench exclusion, create new ways for the powerful to abuse the weak, render obsolete — peoples’ livelihoods and jobs if not properly exploited, managed and scaled. Digital technologies can only be meaningful when essential infrastructure, digital systems, and capital are in place. Many African countries hope to use digital products and services to help them achieve inclusive development, but these products and services cannot materialize in a vacuum. Foundational digital systems, in particular, make huge differences for local innovation. For instance, without a system for processing digital payments, entrepreneurs cannot develop platforms and digital markets to enable trade and exchange
Technology has three mechanisms in changing economic and social systems.
1. Technology can change how things are produces or delivered e.g increasing labor productivity through automation.
2. Technology can change the way different actors connect to one another in systems, societies and markets e.g lowering logistics cost by using digital supply chain management.
3. Technology can change the fundamental design or architecture of a system for instance enabling real time collaboration across value chains.
A foundation pillar/framework to assess readiness will include enabling environment, policy and regulation, digital infrastructure, digital skills and human capacity, digital innovation and government.
African countries can stay ahead considering this points:
1. Develop a digital compact for inclusive development- Country-wide holistic digital strategy remains imperative to any successful digital transformation project. Countries will need to agree a national digital compact to manage technology for inclusive development, with buy-in and support from government, the private sector and civil society.
2. Put people at the centre of the digital future: Whilst technology is able to transform our lives in diverse ways, it is important to note that it is the people who determine how it will benefit nations. Putting people at the centre of digital transformation means equipping them to benefit from the opportunities, and protecting them from the potential harms of the digital age. Trust should be built, citizens’ data should be well protected.
3. Digital essentials should be in place: A digital strategy will only make meaning if digital essentials are in place. Physical infrastructure, foundational digital systems (such as digital identification and mobile money), and capital to invest in innovation are essentials to put in place to thrive in the digital age. Digital finance and digital ID need to work seamlessly together, so that citizens can easily access services, and businesses can establish themselves.
4. Enable total inclusion with digital technologies: Total inclusion means reaching everyone with the internet. This will require new business models to connect the unconnected. The private sector should look critically into how the poorest can have access to internet and mobile data for instance what information will be available to maximize revenue should the poor have access to internet and mobile data.
5. Lead technology for the People: Government can leverage digital technologies to compete with the developed nations by making better decisions through information these technologies provide. Public services are better delivered leveraging real time data. Governments should actively look for opportunities to use digital tools to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and reach of public administration and service delivery.