In a digital world, connectivity governs our lives, therefore, the faster Africa becomes connected, the stronger and more competitive the continent will be on the global economic arena.
The term “digital divide” describes the disparity between those who have effective access to digital (internet) and others who have no access. The term is said to be closely related to the knowledge divide, because a lack of internet technology leads to a lack of useful information which results to a society that has no knowledge. It is defined as the unequal access that some members of society have to information and communication technology (ICT) and the unequal acquisition of related digital skills. Gaps in computer ownership and Smart phones or frequent access contributes to the severe digital divide. Through universal accessibility and availability of ICT infrastructure and services, closing the digital divide will improve contributions to socio-economic development. It will also support the establishment of effective, self-sustaining market-oriented businesses that would continue to expand access to Internet, Information Communication Technology Services (ICTS).
Digital divide is mostly centered on two issues. First, due to high costs and a general lack of infrastructure, including sporadic electricity supplies and scarce ICT facilities, poorer populations have restricted access to digital technologies. The second issue is the lack of opportunities available due to the low attainment of digital skilling, limited access to training in digital technologies, and the lack of opportunities available due to these abilities.
Socio-economic variables can be used to explain Africa’s persisting digital divide, with the cost of devices and data serving as major roadblocks. This indicates the need for a policy change away from the prevalent coverage gap solutions and toward more important macroeconomic concerns, particularly those that result in more widespread and reasonably priced digital devices and data. This necessitates a re-evaluation of universal access and broadband policy, as well as a reshaping of government and stakeholder strategies to address affordability as a major usage gap obstacle.
To close the digital divide Digital literacy needs to be improved for the African nations. Programs should be developed by societies to overcome the shortcomings that now exist across all age groups. The fundamental competencies required, especially in developing nations, are the general entry-level competencies related to information and computer skill sets. The learner can better understand entry-level abilities in other subject areas, such as media, communication, and technology, with the help of these skills, which are referred to as gateway skills. The acquisition of such digital skills, combined with secondary education empowers students to escape poverty and get entry to either semi-skilled employment prospects, vocational training, or universities. Lack of such skills prevents the student from gaining this crucial first step toward formal employment.
There must be non-governmental institution focused on teaching SMEs how to integrate computing into their operations
To bridge the digital divide, it involves the creation of viable alliances amongst all stakeholders involved in information and communication technologies, they should work together and ought to regularly lead diverse campaigns to advance digital literacy. Furthermore, all issues contributing to the digital gap must be addressed in the campaigns. Especially Access to and wise use of information and communication technologies.
The impacts of unemployment, ineffective digital skilling programs, and socio-cultural norms in some economies that deny women equitable access to digital services continue to worsen the digital divide, which is a manifestation of exclusion, poverty, and inequality. Digital skills give the underprivileged a way to empower themselves and escape the cycle of poverty.
The government and private stakeholders need to broadly invest in digital infrastructure that increases connectivity and ensures everyone including women can fully access the digital economy. Investing in digital infrastructure (such as high-speed internet, internet exchange points), the Internet of Things, and data repositories in order to increase access and quality (e.g., data centers, clouds). Satellites are also the key to bridging the connection gap in Africa because most of the rural areas has not electricity hence, they are not connected, besides most of African countries depend on only on the underground broadband infrastructure.
Government, private sector and civil society must come together in dealing with the digital divide A consensus policy needs to be reached across Africa, that will play a major role in addressing shortfalls, including micro smartphone penetration, lack of skills and inadequate coverage in Africa. Many people in Africa are using mobile broadband which does not guarantee quality network, so they need to be connected to fibre, that in most cases is estimated that to about 45% of African population is further than 10 km from fibre network infrastructure in this way the divide is broadened which is why the government and private sectors needs to invest in infrastructure and take the development to rural and peri-rural communities, because now everyone is investing in urban areas.
Government must take responsibility and make it a point that the policies are being implemented and ensure a continued investment in rural areas and come up with innovative thinking and strategic methods that must be adopted for growth and development in the continent
There must also be community networks in low income and largely unconnected areas, community networks support the development, use, and growth of the Internet for the benefit of all users worldwide.
The bridging of digital vibe will create an ecosystem to encourage digital entrepreneurship and innovation.