African Countries Should Get their People Benefit from Digitization: Scholars

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Addis Ababa (ENA) November 29/2022 Renowned South African and Swiss scholars said that African countries should get their populations benefit from digitization.

The experts, who were among the panelists at the IGF, noted that Ethiopia’s digitalization efforts could be exemplary to others.

They stated the need to increase digital access, connectivity, inclusivity and equality.

Witwatersrand University, Associate Professor Iginio Gagliardone told ENA that countries in Africa could be more assertive and demand more equality beyond access, connectivity as well as inclusivity of the internet to benefit their people.

“Countries in Africa can be more assertive and demand more. It is not just about inclusivity,” he said stating that digitization opportunities sometimes come with conditions, exploitation and data colonialism.

“We are confident and assertive enough, maybe we can change the way in which not just Ethiopia but a number of countries think of themselves in a digital space,” Gagliardone said.

The internet should be provided in an equitable way to all countries and should not be framed as a data of cold war between major powers, he added.

According to him, African countries are applying and tailoring technology and working on digital transformation but most of the innovation space is dominated by few.

As regards innovation, the US and China are the leading powers in the space, he said and urged  that their digital space should be a space where places like Ethiopia, South Africa could get opportunities to implement ideas and vision that connect the east and the west and advance ideas that are absolutely regional.

Switzerland Federal Communication Office and International Affairs Director, Ambassador Thomas Schneider told ENA that the expansion of the internet has come with new challenges and opportunities for many countries in the world.

There is cultural and socio-economic status—i.e. differences between developed and developing countries and the internet issue needs continued discussion among stakeholders to narrow the difference and decide together, to benefit the users equally, he said.

According to him, repeated discussion of stakeholders is important to reduce the challenges and exploit the opportunities for socio-economic benefit to the people equitably regardless of any difference.

“There are a lot of challenges and opportunities with the internet. If we want to find solutions that work for everybody, we need to sit together, listen to each other, treat each other with respect and find solutions together that offer opportunities for everybody, not just for some and not for others,” he said.

Schneider added “the internet can be a great tool [not just] for welfare and prosperity but also for social development everywhere in the world in all continent;  but again, it needs to be based on a culture where people work and discuss together to use technology in a way that everybody is benefiting not just the rich get richer and the poor poorer.”

He underscored the need to undertake continued discussions about the internet to get satisfactory answers together to narrow the cultural and socio-economic gaps.  

Regardless of who controlled the telecommunication services, be it government or private, the services have to benefit the overall aspects of the people in any country, he added.  

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