Digital exclusion may lead to greater inequality

Online since 1.03.2017 • Filed under Safety & Security • From Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017 page(s) 49
Digital exclusion may lead to greater inequality

In the view of Dr Miriam Altman, Commissioner of the National Planning Commission in the SA Presidency, South Africans must become digitally enabled or they will be left behind economically, exacerbating inequality in the country.

According to Dr Altman, the negative implications of digital exclusion are far reaching and require urgent action. ‘Digital inclusion has to be delivered urgently. Either it can help us drive a new source of competitive advantage for industrial development and job creation, or Africa can be consumers of foreign technology and foreign capability,’ said Dr Altman.

Speaking at AfricaCom 2016, Dr Altman and other industry leaders highlighted the necessity for all levels of the population to be able to access, utilise, communicate and transact over the internet to fully partake in the new economy. However, efforts are still hamstrung by smartphone penetration, data costs and internet accessibility.

Skills development and education are some of the key drivers. Nurturing the skills that can enable Africans to develop African-specific solutions must be a priority.

Charles Murito, Google Country Manager for Kenya, added: ‘Education is a critical component for us. What holds Africans back is the lack of digital skills.’

In 2015, Mckinsey reported that by 2020 Africa could benefit to the tune of $340 billion of GDP value thanks to the growth of the eCommerce and digital ecosystem, and the equivalent of an additional $340 billion in productivity gains.

Karen Nadasen, CEO of PayU South Africa, an online payment provider, believes that accessing digital platforms to buy and sell goods and services offers the biggest opportunity in South Africa and across the continent. ‘Real grassroots upliftment can occur once people are able to transact easily and securely. If companies make it easy for users to buy and sell online, we will see the ecosystem grow and communities flourish,’ she maintains.

Dr Altman asserts that we need a firmer push towards broadening the scope of digital uptake, something likened to a roadmap to digital roll out. ‘Government is going to have to step in, not on the back of universal service obligations but to roll it out the way they roll out other infrastructure. Countries that have successfully embraced digital have done it this way,’ Altman insists.

He proposes implementing measures to compel people to get online and get familiar with the digital world. Enforcing the use of digital material in, for example, schools, at home affairs and health services registration will drive the transition at the required levels.

What is clear among industry experts is that the current situation could give rise to global centres of excellence on African problems, just as South Africa’s industrialisation developed off the back of solving problems for the mining industry. The goal being to solve local problems that offer niche capabilities that can be exported. For more information, visit

Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017

Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017

This article was featured on page 49 of SABI Magazine Issue 5 - March 2017 - August 2017 .

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