Alison Gillwald presented at the ICT Africa Symposium, which took place from 25-26 August 2021. The symposium organised by Consortium for the Action in Support of the Promotion and Development of Africa (CAPDA) took place under the banner “Innovation and Internet Development for a Sustainable digital transformation of our cities.”
The ICT Africa Symposium was a bilingual event with a special emphasis on Francophone countries within a broader discussion of African digital transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent acceleration of digitalisation across all sectors of the economy and society was foundational to the discussions on the role of digital technology in Africa’s development.
Some of the stated aims of the symposium included building confidence in national sub-regional and global institutions; ensuring that data benefits accrue to all economies and people as well as promoting digital technologies amongst local communities.
Gillwald delivered her presentation in a round table discussion on the theme “Digital Policy and Regulation, which future?”.
Highlighting the significance of a new digital deal for Africa, she called for a policy shift towards interventions that could more equitably allocate resources to ensure meaningful access to quality public goods in the digital era.
To date, policy reform has been driven by commercial supply-side valuation and allocation of resources, which has resulted in market concentration in the telecoms industry. In countries like South Africa, despite 95% broadband coverage, this has resulted in exorbitant costs for consumers.
Gillwald called for a shift to demand-side valuation to enable public interest governance of data, data justice, entrepreneurship, low excludability and for purposes of planning and democratic accountability. She also highlighted the significance of economic regulation to shift the uneven distribution of risks and harms between and within countries, as a risk mitigation measure amongst others.