Closing the Usage Gap in Africa: Addressing Access and Digital Literacy
Access to the internet is essential in today’s digital age, yet the digital divide between developed and developing countries is still a major issue. Africa, in particular, faces significant challenges in expanding internet access and usage. While the continent has made progress in expanding internet access, there is still a significant usage gap that needs to be addressed. In this article, we’ll explore the usage gap in Africa and discuss ways to address it.
The Usage Gap in Africa: Low Internet Penetration Rates and Urban-Rural Divide
According to a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), only 28% of the African population uses the internet, compared to a global average of 51%. The report also found that internet usage is highly skewed towards urban areas, with rural areas lagging behind. This urban-rural divide is particularly pronounced in countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria, where more than 80% of internet users reside in urban areas.
The Usage Gap in Africa: Affordability and Access
One major factor contributing to the usage gap in Africa is the lack of affordable and accessible internet connectivity. In many parts of Africa, the cost of data is prohibitively high, making it difficult for low-income individuals and families to access the internet. According to a report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), the cost of 1 GB of mobile data in Africa is on average 7.1% of monthly income, compared to the global average of 2.7%. This makes internet access unaffordable for many people in Africa, particularly those living in poverty.
In addition to affordability, internet infrastructure is often inadequate or nonexistent in rural areas, further limiting access. According to the ITU report, 60% of the African population lives in rural areas, but only 18% have access to the internet. Addressing this infrastructure gap will require significant investments in expanding internet infrastructure to rural areas.
The Usage Gap in Africa: Digital Literacy
Another important factor contributing to the usage gap in Africa is digital literacy. Many people in Africa lack the skills and knowledge necessary to use the internet effectively. This is particularly true for older individuals and those living in rural areas. According to the ITU report, only 5% of African households have a computer, compared to the global average of 42%.
To address the digital literacy gap, targeted efforts are needed to provide digital literacy training and education. In Kenya, for example, the government has launched a program called Ajira Digital, which provides online training in digital skills and connects participants with remote work opportunities. Initiatives like this can help to bridge the digital skills gap and increase internet usage in Africa.
Addressing the Usage Gap: Promoting Linguistic and Cultural Diversity
In addition to affordability and digital literacy, cultural and linguistic barriers also contribute to the usage gap in Africa. In some parts of Africa, there is a strong preference for local languages over English or French, which are commonly used on the internet. Addressing these cultural and linguistic barriers will require targeted efforts to promote local language content and increase linguistic diversity on the internet.
One example of an initiative aimed at promoting linguistic diversity is the African Network for Localisation, which works to develop local language software and content. The organization has developed tools for translating software and websites into African languages, making it easier for people to access information and services online in their native languages.
Closing the usage gap in Africa is essential for ensuring that individuals and businesses in the continent especially women in rural and underserved communities can fully participate and reap the benefits of the digital economy.