Mobile Technology: Bridging the African Digital Divide

Mobile Technology: Bridging the African Digital Divide
Published: 19 May 2015 (2214 Views)

Handicapped by economic constraints, millions of unprivileged people in the developing world continue to be deprived of sufficient access to communication technology, creating strata of information haves and haves-not that widens the digital divide and knowledge gap in today's tech-centered world.
 
Mobile technology is playing a vital role in bridging this gap, easing access to the internet and communications in the developing world, and thus empowering citizens with information at the click of a button.

This week marks the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) – an annual event that raises awareness about the potential of the Internet and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) while addressing means to bridge the digital divide. The Information Society World Summit urged the UN General Assembly a decade ago to declare May 17 World Information Society Day.
 
Although a huge gap still exists between the developed and developing world with regards to access to digital technology and mobile penetration, Africa's mobile unique subscriber base is expected to grow by 7 percent per year, reaching over half a billion or 49 percent of the population by 2020. Sub-Saharan Africa's unique mobile subscribers were estimated at 329 million by the end of June 2014, representing 38 percent of the region's total population.
According to Internet World Stats, Africa represents almost 10 percent of the world internet usage at 26.5 percent penetration rate while the rest of the world represents a little over 90 percent at 45.2 percent penetration. Africa's internet penetration is also expected to reach 50 percent by 2025 as smartphones hit a forecasted 360 million, increasing significantly from 16 percent and 67 million in 2013. With mobile penetration saturation in the developed world, Africa's adoption of smart phones is expected to double that of the US, according to Mckinsey Consultants.
 
Unequal access to information coupled with a disproportionate distribution of income makes knowledge a scarce resource for individuals who can afford it, leading to what researchers coined, the "knowledge-gap." The hypothesis states that people of high socioeconomic status will acquire information faster than less privileged people, simply because they can afford technology and thus acquire knowledge at a much faster rate.
Several attempts by information technology activists have yielded positive results at bridging both the digital divide and the knowledge gap in the developing world. Initiatives include designing cheap laptops or tablets offered for school children in the Middle East and Africa region. Mobile innovations continue to offer unlimited opportunities for the developing world, overcoming cost barriers. Instead of having a laptop to access the internet, people can become netizens or citizens of the internet with a single mobile handset at a much cheaper cost.
 
Sustainable development would be an attainable ideal in the absence of well-informed citizenry. Access to information in developing countries is essential for survival. At times of crisis such as disease outbreaks, African citizens resort to their mobiles for SMS alerts about vaccinations and prevention control tips. Information is no longer a luxury in today's fast-paced world. Lack of vital information makes less-privileged people more susceptible to disease and life-threatening problems.
 
Digital technology is revolutionizing education. Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) provide free education up to university level to thousands of internet users across the globe, arming citizens of developing countries with knowledge at the convenience of their mobile devices. The only obstacle to the proliferation of MOOC is digital literacy and access to the internet.
 
Although the ITU forecasts the number of fixed and mobile internet users to reach 2.9 billion or 40 percent of the world population by the end of 2014, a number of 4.4 billion people or 60 percent will remain unconnected. A conscious effort is needed to bring this portion online to narrow the digital divide and bridge the gap between the information haves and haves-not.
 
Sara El-Khalili is Corporate Communications Manager at TA telecom. She is an independent trainer and consultant in the field of journalism and mass communication. She started her journalism career in the late nineties where she covered political and business news for the Associated Press, Reuters and Cairo Times. She taught media writing and reporting courses for seven years as an Adjunct Faculty member at the American University in Cairo (AUC). She has master's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from AUC.

 

- Meropa

 0

You May Like These Videos

Comments

There are no comments.

Latest stories

PDZ bemoans govt's misplaced priorities by giving chiefs expensive cars

by Staff Reporter | 19 January 2018 | 289 Views

Mnangagwa's regional trips are strategic, critical and promotes regional integration

by Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo | 19 January 2018 | 176 Views

'Aliens' face challenges in registering to vote in Zimbabwe

by Stephen Jakes | 19 January 2018 | 123 Views

Roy Bennett 'suffered a lot in his attempt to build a new Zimbabwe'

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 211 Views

Who is the Representative of God on Earth?

by Tendai Tagarira | 19 January 2018 | 109 Views

Champions at home and abroad gone too soon

by Jacob Mafume | 19 January 2018 | 102 Views

Former deputy minister of education 'Tapela' dies

by Stephen Jakes | 19 January 2018 | 219 Views

WATCH: Mugabe 'forgot' Mnangagwa firing

by BBc | 19 January 2018 | 200 Views

Obert Gutu banned from MDC-T HQ by the Vanguard

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 179 Views

Mnangagwa's message to Davos

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 107 Views

MDC must lead by example in leadership transfer - Mliswa

by Stephen Jakes | 19 January 2018 | 130 Views

Heal Zimbabwe riled by increase in human rights violations

by Stephen Jakes | 19 January 2018 | 70 Views

Free and fair elections is a myth

by Zondiwe Gumede | 19 January 2018 | 113 Views

Why women keep out of political participation and activism in Zimbabwe

by Makho Precious Moyo | 19 January 2018 | 87 Views

About Marriage (Part 1)

by Belinda Chowa | 19 January 2018 | 110 Views

WATCH: Mnangagwa discusses how he hopes to drive economic growth

by Bloomberg | 19 January 2018 | 120 Views

MDC must urgently put its house in order

by Justice Benjamin Paradza | 19 January 2018 | 107 Views

MDC mourns the passing of the struggle veteran Roy Bennett

by Stephen Jakes | 19 January 2018 | 169 Views

MDC-T provincial chairpersons exonerate Khupe

by Tererai Danga | 19 January 2018 | 172 Views

Gukurahundi is not a bygone - Zapu

by Stephen Jakes | 19 January 2018 | 134 Views

'Arrest Obert Mpofu or else chaos will reign'

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 557 Views

Mnangagwa felt sorry for Grace Mugabe

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 484 Views

Axed Bosso players demand outstanding dues

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 137 Views

Varsity student shoplifts perfumes

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 178 Views

Stealing from the dead

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 117 Views

Bulawayo's Luthuli Dlamini takes City to the world

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 144 Views

Sex with late uncle's wife torments man

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 199 Views

Lying ben 10 dumped

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 120 Views

Mudzingwa opens up on Bosso exit

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 121 Views

Teacher forces 'lover' pupil to abort

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 96 Views

Man dumps wife for married girlfriend

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 175 Views

Baboon attack splits family

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 101 Views

R10 stabbing sends man to ICU

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 64 Views

Knives drawn as pastors fight in church

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 119 Views

Typhoid case in Nkayi linked to Mbare

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 66 Views

Woman feasts on own blood

by Staff reporter | 19 January 2018 | 89 Views