RIA at the 7th Africa DNS Forum

7thAfrica DNS Forum | 22 – 24 July 2019 | Gaborone, Botswana|Avani Hotel

RIA presenter : Dr Onkokame Mothobi

Panel: Africa Digital Economy. A reflection and an overview of key initiatives, current challenges and interventions and Digital ID & Africa Free Trade Zone as a single digital Economy

 23 July 2019 -11:00-13:00

Live stream link: https://livestream.com/internetsociety/afdnsf2019

The increasing significance of digital economy globally draws on evidence that investment on broadband investment contributes to job creation and accelerate economic growth. Evidence suggests that Africa can leverage digital platforms to provide essential services to the poor, who are generally left out due to the high cost of providing those services. A more holistic understanding of the effects of the digital economy and the indirect effects that widespread Internet adoption has on economies and society, including those who remain unconnected is critical for policy formulation and the success of the digital economy.

Global indices such as the ITU’s ICT Development Index Network Readiness Index, Affordability Drive Index, have been largely used as the point of reference for assessing countries’ digital economy readiness and used for policy formulation. Despite these indices being able to identify areas of weakness and or strength within the digital economy, they are unable to explain the root causes of specific areas of weakness, making it impossible to identify specific recommendations. Global indices rely on the supply-side data, obtained from regulators by the ITU, which in most cases cannot be disaggregated by sex, location, income or education as is required for policy and planning purposes.

The After Access survey shows that despite the hype, created by the use of supply-side data, that a number of African countries have mobile penetration rates beyond 100% and Africa surpassing Latin America to be the second most mobile connected market, Internet use and mobile adoption in Latin American countries is higher than in African countries. The discrepancies in the data are mostly attributed to the use of supply-side data which turns to inflate penetration levels in African prepaid markets.

While it can be argued that broadband generally contributes to economic growth, the net effect of the digital economy on employment and well-being remain largely unknown. It is well known that these disruptive technologies have changed the labour market structure, creating jobs and at the same time destroying jobs in other industries. The automation of processes. In some instances, the digital economy which relies mostly on data, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation may create may destroy in occupations that require routine tasks that can be automated. On the other hand, developing countries that are digitally constrained are likely to receive the least benefit, largely because they are yet to establish an ICT ecosystem that can optimise on the benefits of digitisation.

The 2017/18 After Access survey shows that Internet use is broadly aligned with gross national income per capita. Latin American countries, relatively high-income countries, are found to have higher Internet use as compared to African and Asian countries. Even though South Africa is regarded as having the most advanced ICT market in Africa, it is found that almost half of its population do not use the Internet, while all other surveyed countries have Internet use less than 35%. This implies that the majority of African countries have not yet reached the network effects required to benefit from the broadband connection. Hence the need to look beyond supply-side data for policy formulation and the assessment of digital readiness.