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Jun 13

2024

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Connecting Africa, One Digital Footprint at a Time

Africa is a young continent, with 70 per cent of its population under the age of 30. However, a large number of young individuals on the continent still lack access to reliable internet connections and digital devices, more so in rural and low-income areas. This can be attributed to challenges such as limited or insufficient internet infrastructure, high cost of internet/data, varying levels of digital literacy, gender disparities (women and girls disadvantaged in terms of digital access more so due to socio-cultural norms) and widening digital divide.  Expanding internet access and providing digital skills training are instrumental as they improve economic opportunities and educational outcomes for young people in Africa. 

Digital Divide

In a world which is quickly progressing to an interconnected future, the digital divide has become a new form of inequality. The divide is not only about access but also about the quality and affordability of access with implications for education, economic empowerment, employment and civic participation. 

As much as there has been increased Internet usage globally, the latest report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows that out of 5.4 billion people, which translates to 67 per cent of the world’s population, in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Americas, about 90 per cent of the population use the Internet. Sadly, only 37 per cent of Africa’s population use the Internet today.

The Why

It is against this backdrop that Paradigm Initiative (PIN), a non-governmental organisation advocating for digital rights and inclusion has launched the #AfricaConnected campaign which seeks to support efforts geared towards addressing the digital divide in Africa. This initiative aims to inspire and empower individuals, communities and organisations across the continent to bridge the gap in digital access and opportunities, turning digital inclusion into a revolutionary force for positive change. PIN has on its part connected under-served African youth with digital opportunities over the last 16 years, impacting more than 150,000 livelihoods.

Bridging the Digital Divide in Africa

In order to narrow the digital divide on the continent, it is critical to gain considerable support for initiatives geared towards building/supporting digital infrastructure, affordability and digital literacy. This can be realised through engagement with stakeholders including governments, the private sector, international organisations, tech multinationals and the civil society. Public awareness campaigns aimed at addressing this challenge should emphasise the need for affordable internet and digital infrastructure, as well as the benefits such developments come with such as increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment opportunities, investments and policy support. 

At the same time, amplifying efforts aimed at addressing the digital divide provide opportunity for collaboration with regional bodies such as the African Union which can then align national and regional strategies. Tech companies can also support innovative solutions such as satellite internet. This should be supported by leveraging media platforms and social networks to share success stories and on-going projects such as Paradigm Initiative’s (PIN’s) LIFE Legacy programme that can lead to increased participation and investment.

Paradigm Initiative has continued to play an important role in promoting digital inclusion across Africa. Through this campaign, the organisation will utilise strategic communication channels including social media platforms, newsletters, and the media to showcase the organisation’s successful projects and their positive impact on communities. This will be in addition to engaging in thought leadership by publishing blog articles, opinion pieces and speaking engagements to further highlight the organisation’s contribution, engagement, expertise and dedication to digital inclusion.

Showcasing Digital Inclusion Heroes

During this campaign, PIN will celebrate and recognise the organisation’s funders and partners who have contributed towards its inclusion efforts. Their support has been through provision of resources and replicating digital inclusion efforts in the continent. In doing so, PIN will be highlighting their innovative approaches and successes which have contributed towards bridging the digital divide. By celebrating our heroes, we will be entrenching a narrative that emphasises the impact of digital inclusion efforts with the aim of motivating further action. In doing so, we are cognisant of the opportunity to achieve a multifaceted impact which is capable of setting up comprehensive solutions. 

As strong believers in the power of collaboration and partnership, we will continue to work with like-minded stakeholders to widen our reach as we continue to positively impact lives through our cause. 

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