Deliberate ICT policies will show the difference between winners and losers in the Africa tech space
From the governmental perspective, the African countries that will win in the technology race and become the locations where global tech organizations want to open offices, and where startup’s want to expand to and grow in , will have to heavily engage in developing deliberate ICT policies that will provide a road map of growth and will direct the development of a systematic tech enabled environment for their citizens and investors.
Countries that win will have deliberate ICT policies that cover these areas;
Broadband (Affordability and Accessibility)
There is a proven correlation between a country’s increase in internet use and GDP growth.
Africa is last frontier is the next frontier for internet growth.
A clear policy should have detailed and set out responsibilities to enable economies of scale and efficiency in its aim to provide accessible and affordable internet.
According to the GSMA, there are now more than 3.8 billion mobile internet subscribers globally, representing 49% of the world’s population. However, adoption has not been equitable, with mobile internet adoption standing at 26% in Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2019.
The World Bank has stated that, achieving universal, affordable, and good quality internet access by 2030 would require an investment of US $100 billion. This will not happen without deliberate policies that address the infrastructure issue, how people get access to the internet and also deliberate polices on how to ensure that 1GB of data is affordable (where affordability is calculated as percentage of average salary).
In a country like Rwanda where there is an effective national broadband policy, the cost of 1GB of data has fallen from 20% to 3.39% of the countries average monthly income, making it easier for most people to buy access.
The Accessibility policy needs to incorporate policies to ensure that the digital divide between rural and urban areas are bridged in an effective manner.
Countries like Tanzania created a main policy framework named the National ICT Policy. This policy helped create the country’s, Universal Communications Service Access Fund (UCSAF). This fund was created with the understanding that, even the private sector had the main mandate to provide communication and internal services; there were some areas where it was not economically viable to provide broadband services in certain rural areas.
According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet, the fund mandates that the government allocate funds for supporting rural ICT investment, strengthen collaboration with service providers to participate in rural ICT investment, ensure access to ICT products and services to society, and encourage financial institutions and development partners to give particular support for investments in rural ICT services.
Additionally, these efforts are augmented by private organization that have joined the access to internet fight. One of such companies is Facebook, which is building a 37,000-kilometer long undersea cable around Africa with 1 billion USD to provide it with better internet access. The subsea cable will interconnect 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Government E- Services
African countries rank at the bottom of the United Nation’s recent Electronic Government Development Index, however there are countries that are making significant strides in that area.
According to NEC insight “The Irembo Digital Platform is a web portal which offers government services to Rwandan citizens via the Internet. The platform was launched in 2015 and allows Rwandans to access 85 government services online, such as applying for a birth certificate, registering for a driver’s license and land title transfers. The service has been so successful that the government plans to add 100 more e -Government services over the next three years. So far, the platform has processed over 2.7 million transactions from 2.4 million unique users, which happens to be relatively high number given the country’s population of 11 million people.”
Ghana government under their ICT4D (ICT for development) policy clearly articulates the need for government to offer online citizens and non- citizens.
The services provide an online portal which integrates the Tax Authority , the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority , the National ICT Agency, the National ID Agency , The births and deaths registry , the Police Service, the Authorism Authority amongst others.
The government also has a payment platform for payments of the government’s services by citizens and corporate organizations.
The Government of Kenya was one of the first countries and is currently one of the countries with the most expansive government services on the continent ensuring citizens can access and conduct business with government online.
Digital Skills and Talent development (with an eye on Inclusion and diversity)
Africa has the youngest continent globally and has the propensity to become the workforce for the globe and it is imperative to have a digitally astute workforce.
Rwanda developed its National Digital Ambassadors program in 2017, and has hopes of bringing five million Rwandans online, through practical literacy training. Over 5000 citizens, 50% of whom are women are equipped to train other members in their community on how to use their mobile phones and other useful digital skills.
As reported by the Alliance for Affordable Internet, by December 2019, R-DAP had provided digital skills training to 41,980 women, youth, and rural populations across 12 districts.
I4Policy run by the Innovation for Policy Foundation is an interactive policy-making process that has been implemented nationally in more than a dozen countries. I4Policy also establishes an ontology of democratic innovations. The group has heavily influenced startup policy conversations across the continent.
In Senegal, they supported youth leaders to organize a three-month open forum involving hundreds of Senegalese youth to help their government co-create the national youth strategy.
In Rwanda, they led the technical and consultative elaboration of a draft Startup Act and a Tech-Enabled Innovation Policy, and we partnered with the We, the Internet to embed a countrywide youth dialogue to address the most pressing internet governance questions into the national internet governance forum.
In Kenya they supported the startup community in their process to consult upon a Startup Bill. The co-created feedback-document has now reached the Senate and cannot wait to support the ecosystem further in this important process.