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Digital Technology in Africa - Opportunities & Obstacles


Regional experts discuss Africa's rapid digital transformation & areas that could benefit from NATO's contribution & assistance.

Africa - Technology & Innovation - Format: PDF - Size: 1.42 MB - Date: Feb, 2020 - Pages: 12 - Copyright: NATO Strategic Direction South HUB - Tags: Information environment, Cyber, MENA

NATO Strategic Direction South Hub (NSD-S Hub), in collaboration with Three Stones International, arranged an online video conference with various subject matter experts from across Africa to discuss the challenges and opportunities of digital technology on the continent. 

The live webinar shed light on Africa's emerging digital age and its impact on society, economy, security and overall stability. It also revealed how the general population uses digital platforms to communicate, facilitate business, disseminate information, and even entice political activism. 

Background

African governments, business communities and the general population demand and embrace modern digital communication in different ways and for different reasons. Governments may use information and communication technology to offer e-governance services, prevent cybercrime and terrorism but may also abuse the technology to disseminate propaganda and implement digital surveillance of its citizens. The general population and business community generally use digital technology for commercial transactions, digital financial services (e banking), marketing and networking. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are currently active on social media, a useful tool for spreading awareness and knowledge amongst the population. 

Research questions

  1. How is digital transformation reshaping the African continent?

  2. What is the impact of the digital transformation on  social, political and economical sectors?

  3. What are the advantages and challenges of such trasformation?

Key insights

  • Africa is witnessing an emerging digital ecosystem, which has put it on the map as the next big growth market and the new contender in tech economy.
  • Digital technology has allowed easy and open communication amongst the people, the flourishing of businesses and networks, and has become a tool for activism. 
  • Many African countries are on the verge of democratic transition and civil societies  are quickly learning how to use social media to topple long-standing autocraties .
  • Africa is a late player in the global tech industry, but this works to the continent's advantage as it benefits from, what is known as, 'leapfrog technology' bypassing old infrastructures and sidestepping previously observed failures. .
  • Digital technology has certainly brought about economic development and social change to Africa but has unfortunately created new problems and vulnerabilities

Key takeaways

  • The continent's digital revolution will prove to be of historical importance. Africa has already demonstrated its capacity to harness digital technologies; smartphones, affordable data packages, business applications, online retail, egovernance and e-banking services, social media etc. 
  • Internet access has allowed billions of Africans to connect with each other, and to the world but the technology has generated new challenges , with people in power abusing digital tech for their own agenda and criminal groups using its platforms to prey on the vulnerable factions of the population. 
  • Cooperating and exchanging information with African institutions and SMEs on the ground, allows for a better understanding of the underlying causes and effects of these challenges, and for a more comprehensive approach to tackle them. 
  • The African digital development can have a transformative effect across the world by reducing barriers to entry and expanding market reach for businesses, creating jobs, and boosting both domestic and foreign trade in goods and services . Africa's new era of digital technology holds bright promise not only for the region, but for the rest of the world as well.

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