Many African countries need to take full advantage of the potential offered by information and communications technologies (ICTs) to drive social and economic transformation, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2015 (GITR). Several African countries have dropped in terms of the report’s Networked Readiness Index ranking.
Speaking at WEF Africa in Cape Town South Africa this week, senior Cisco Executives highlighted the considerable challenge facing most African countries as they seek to develop the infrastructure, institutions and skills needed to reap the full benefits of ICTs, as only 39% of the global population enjoys access to the Internet despite the fact that more than half now owns a mobile phone and Africa having one of the highest mobile phone penetration. Lack of access to the Internet is depriving many Africans of the opportunity to take full advantage of e-learning as well as online financial, data and health services. Cisco Executives stressed that governments can shape policies that will spur development of broadband access.
David Meads, Vice President, Cisco Africa said, “At Cisco, we have learned that technology helps people find innovative solutions to address societal problems. We believe there has never been a better time to combine human ingenuity and technological innovation to improve the lives of all Africans. As home to nine of the world’s 15 fastest growing economies, Africa is ripe for transformation and is an increasingly attractive environment for global business investments. Technology is at an inflection point and African economies need to prioritise ICT adoption to take full advantage of the benefits that embracing digital transformation strategies will offer.”
While Kenya’s Networked Readiness ranking improved, climbing six places to 86th position, the same is not true for other major African economies:
- Nigeria dropped seven places and now ranks 119th
- South Africa dropped five places and now ranks 75th
- Egypt dropped three places and now ranks 94th
Crucial to achieving societal and economic transformation is the ability to embrace the Internet of Everything (IoE), the connections between people, process, data and things, to create unprecedented opportunities for African citizens as well as the public and private sectors.
In order to embrace the IoE, African governments and businesses must be fully digitised, supported by a highly robust and secure network. Becoming digital requires an agile IT model, and the ability to rethink core processes for the digital era. Embracing new security, cloud, mobile, social and analytics technologies required to fully digitize takes imagination, investment and expertise. This is why Networked Readiness is such a crucial indicator of a country’s ability to implement and take full advantage of ICTs.
The GITR report suggests that investing in infrastructure and education; supporting the development of local content; and creating an enabling environment by promoting competition through sound regulation will correct the imbalance in many African countries today. Cisco is committed to working with public and private sector organisations in Africa to work on strategies for the digital transformation, thereby helping them transform their IT strategy, connect everything, embrace analytics, and secure their technology and operations.
Dr Robert Pepper, Vice President, Global Technology Policy, Cisco also agrees that Africa can make massive strides in connecting more citizens and bringing about positive social and economic change by improving its Networked Readiness.
“With political will and commitment from the private sector, progress can be made in bringing the benefit of ICTs to more people. We are already facing the next wave of the Internet – the Internet of Everything (IoE) –Africa needs to prioritise ICT development if it is to benefit from the new experiences and efficiencies that the IoE will bring,” concludes Pepper.