SEATTLE — A new technology revolution may soon sweep African as a rapidly increasing number of individuals gain internet access across the continent.
In the last two decades, the world has experienced an explosion of internet use, with 3.1 billion people worldwide now enjoying internet access on a regular basis. Yet, despite the recent technology boom, 58 percent of the world still lacks access to the internet. Many of these individuals live in Africa.
This presents an increasingly significant hindrance to countries attempting to develop since much of the world’s global commerce is now conducted online and an internet presence has become an almost prerequisite for a successful business venture.
The Pew Research Center has also found a significant correlation between internet access and a country’s level of wealth. Not surprisingly, findings consistently indicate that the world’s wealthiest countries also tend to be those with the greatest internet access.
Many countries within Africa, however, are making sustainable progress towards changing their current situation. Over the past several years internet use in Africa has grown seven times the global average and mobile phone access has skyrocketed from just one percent in 2000 to more than 54 percent in 2012.
This rapid increase in internet access in Africa is only expected to continue in the coming years, with 700 million smartphone connections anticipated within the continent by 2020. This figure represents more than double the current number of smartphone users.
Such an improvement in connectivity is expected to provide a significant boost to the economies of many African countries with internet and mobile technology projected to contribute to as much as 10 percent to the African GDP by 2025.
Internet access, experts now note, is quickly becoming as important to infrastructure in Africa as roads and energy. A reliable internet connection is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity that many in Africa are eager to take advantage of.
Improved internet access in Africa has begun to allow many countries to digitize their economies, particularly by bringing businesses and government services online. In doing so, these sectors can become more efficient and tap into a larger swath of people than the traditional brick and mortar business model would allow.
The internet has also proved extremely beneficial for quickly and efficiently facilitating financial transactions among both businesses and individuals. For example, M-pesa, Kenya’s electronic money transfer system transfers $24 million per day between users — accounting for as much as 40 percent of the country’s GDP for a given year. Such transfer systems allow customers to easily access and transfer funds, allowing businesses to run smoother and more efficiently.
The road to improved internet access in Africa is far from over as many areas continue to struggle to obtain consistent electricity — let alone the internet. Yet, a considerable amount of work has already been done to bring about a technology revolution in Africa and the future holds promising possibilities as rapidly increasing global connectivity allows many African countries to make significant progress towards development.
– Sara Christensen