ICT Policy Choices and Digital Development in Africa
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policies are a key driver of ‘digital development’ – the extent of integration of a country or region into the global digital world and digital economy. This is because communication, information flows, trade, business, education, finance, industry and even government are today inextricably founded in the digital world.
The ‘digital divide’ refers to the gulf between developed and developing nations in terms of digital penetration in countries and regions. However, the digital divide does not only refer to the divide between regional aggregates and countries, but to the divide that is found within countries too. Several African countries have ‘dualistic’ economies, characterised by a modernised urban sector and poor and underdeveloped rural sector. This economic dualism extends as well to digital penetration, with urban areas covered by fixed and mobile broadband, while many rural areas have little to no connectivity at all. Today, Africa lags behind the global aggregate in terms of digital development and the digital divide, but its rate of improvement is such that it is converging to global aggregates at an admirable pace.
Key to the furtherance of digital development is well thought-out and implemented policies. This is the responsibility of the national authorities that oversee the telecommunications industries – usually departments of communication – but other branches of government can impact the sector too, such the tax authority. This trade brief presents some metrics around progress in digital development in Africa, which has been progressing well, before examining some principles and case studies around ICT policy formation and implementation.
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