The great African digital divide
A character has emerged painting an image of the African who is most likely to be connected to the Internet. This person is an African man living in an urban city situated near the coast. He has the highest chance of accessing and benefiting from opportunities provided by the Internet than anyone else on the continent. Drawn from research done by the 2015 Measuring the Information Society (MIS) Report by the International Telecommunication Union, this raises questions on connectivity in Africa.
Digital innovation is generally on the rise in Africa with the growth and popularity of many tech start-ups. African ICT sectors are growing with about $185 million raised for tech start-ups in 2015 alone, according to Disrupt Africa. Yet Africa is not as connected as it could be, and only a few privileged Africans are taking advantage of the Internet. Internet connectivity, as well as the penetration of mobile-cellular and broadband services, remains low and unequal in most African countries. In the last quarter of 2015, apparently only 71.4 percent of Africa’s population had access to the Internet.
Africa occupied the lower end of rankings in the MIS Report based on last years’ findings. The continent is not experiencing enough economic growth to reduce the great digital divide between it and other regions. To compound the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world further, the divide is replicated between and within African countries. In Nigeria for example there is a huge difference in the quality oft mobile networks, connectivity and Internet coverage in urban and rural areas.
Mobile cellular services are also costly in African countries when compared to other regions. Interestingly, it is the countries with higher income per capita that enjoy lower mobile cellular and broadband prices. In other words, these prices are more expensive in African countries where people pay more of often poor services. This could be due to the poor reach of infrastructure in lower income countries. Either way, it seems all Africans can do to bridge the digital divide is to wait for costs to come down.
What can be done to reduce the wide gap in the digital access in Africa? Share your thoughts in a comment below or on Twitter @rafeeeeta