Q: Do you believe that in the new information-intensive global economy, Africa is heading towards a future of poverty and oppression? Is this why you champion ICT for Africans so strongly?
I rather believe that Africa is about to miss a great development opportunity in much the same way Africa lost on the industrial revolution, unless serious and truly committed efforts are made by Africa to address the rapid expansion of the gap. I appreciate the danger; and I am making the best effort to get genuinely committed folks to increase activities on the ground.
I believe that Africa is about to miss a great development opportunity unless serious and truly committed efforts are made by Africa to address the digital divide
Q: What are some of the dangers of the ICT revolution?
I believe that the failure to utilise ICT in poverty reduction would lead to gross inequalities that would fuel global unrest and threaten peace and harmony. And for those who may question the basis for this caution, even though the entire African community is at risk, nonetheless important sub-groups may be identified. These include rural communities, the urban poor, women, youth, the disabled, orphans, senior citizens, street hawkers, workers, and Small and Medium Enterprises.
The need, therefore, is to define specific programmes in ICT that focus on these groups. The indigenous, on the whole, are an at-risk group which needs special attention. The ICT programmes that focus on these groups should be clearly defined, identified, and addressed as part of the Global BDD Agenda.
Q: How is Internet access and mobile phone technology in Africa narrowing the digital divide?
Regarding the Internet, one might say it is amorphous. In some regards, we have made gains and in other regards we have failed. Groups in metropolitan areas with a good education have certainly benefited in the narrowing gap, but that is not widespread.
At less than 5% Internet user penetration, Africa cannot boast of having narrowed the gap between the developed and developing world. But we can claim that we have achieved that in a decade from scratch, and that is a good momentum for Africa. We see promise in the convergence of mobile phone technology and the Internet.
Q: Explain what you mean when you say Africa needs not only Internet users but also Internet entrepreneurs?
The Internet is a very effective means of increasing economic growth. It improves the supply of services as well as access to the services, and the developing world would want to participate in both sectors. Africa should establish businesses that develop applications, resources and services to serve the domestic and international markets. An economy made up principally of users of internationally supplied Internet services would be at a disadvantage.