By Diego Gutierrez
Digitalisation creates massive opportunities to inclusively transform societies across Africa. We have seen how mobile money systems provide access to finance, remove barriers historically experienced by poverty-stricken households and spark the creation of new businesses and livelihoods. However, to fully take advantage of what digitalisation and technological innovation can offer the continent, Africa must first overcome some significant hurdles:
People need to be supported when it comes to acquiring the correct skills in order to be a part of our collective digital future. The skills our fast-evolving global digital economy needs range from the basic ability to use a mobile phone, the internet and social media to advanced skills in data analytics, app development and network management. Developing these skills throughout the continent will require a targeted approach, addressing both supply and demand challenges. To develop this pipeline of future skills, Africa’s educators should begin by encouraging critical thinking, creativity, cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence to match the way people will increasingly work and collaborate in the 4IR. It’s necessary to speed up moves to skill and reskill the future and existing workforce, making sure adjustments are addressed early within the education ecosystem and refined on an ongoing basis through further education and life-long learning.
The big data analytics market is set to reach $103 billion by 2023. This year, every person will generate 1.7 megabytes in just a second. More data means a larger evidence base to draw upon in making policy decisions, as well as the potential to use that data to forge new solutions to old development problems. This creates an opportunity for Africa to convert data into actionable insights that can be accessed and shared easily. However, policies and standards for the generation, regulation, use and management of data will also need to be developed.
Increase access to technology and infrastructure
Advanced technology in Africa is constrained by infrastructure parameters such as a lack of electricity and broadband penetration. Access to many services, such as healthcare and education, requires access to mobile phones and the internet. There is a major need to increase connectivity across the continent, which will require improvements in technology infrastructure, starting with access to electricity. Developing countries need to cultivate digital industrial capabilities, including high speed broadband, building linkages between digital platforms and domestically produced goods and services.
For Africa to effectively seize the opportunities which the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) presents, there needs to be a unified, cross-border approach through collaborative partnerships between governments and the private sector, as well as policymakers and industry experts.
(Diego Gutierrez is the Chief Officer, Vodacom International Markets).