Africa risks ‘new digital divide’

According to the WEF Global Information Technology Report 2014, Sub-Saharan Africa slowly continues to develop its ICT infrastructure, especially by expanding the share of the population covered by, and having access to, mobile telephony and by expanding the number of Internet users, which in some countries—such as South Africa—has almost doubled.

These improvements have led to many important innovations that provide more and better services that were previously unavailable, such as financial services. Notwithstanding this progress, the region overall continues to suffer from a relatively poor ICT infrastructure, which remains costly to access, although some notable exceptions exist.

More importantly, severe weaknesses persist in the region’s business and innovation ecosystems, which result in very low positive economic and social impacts. Addressing these weaknesses, not only by developing a more solid ICT infrastructure but also by improving the framework conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship, will be crucial to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide that will be evident in a disparity of the economic and social impacts associated with what has been called the digital revolution.

Mauritius (48th) was the highest-ranked in Africa on the 2014 Networked Readiness Index, which ranks 148 countries on a range of criteria. South Africa was ranked 70th, Rwanda 85th, Egypt 91st and Kenya 92nd. Africa dominated the bottom of the rankings, with Chad ranked last in 148th position, Burundi in 147th position, Guinea 145th and Angola at number 144. Top ranked countries globally were Finland, Singapore, Sweden, Netherlands and Norway.

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