Africa is a continent rich in diversity and contrast. One similarity that can be found among several African countries is the willingness to adopt technology for various purposes, something that will continue going into 2023. The Network Readiness Index 2022 measures the levels of digital transformation worldwide. Regarding the African continent, Rwanda stands out among the middle-and low-income economies as being highly efficient in its digital transformation and the highest-ranked economies in Africa are South Africa (68th), Mauritius (72nd), and Kenya (77th) due to their contribution towards digital inclusion, boosted by infrastructure, connectivity, digital governance and their ability to bridge the digital gap.
Many African states are striving to implement their own strategies and policies to develop their digital transformation, but given their disparity, there is a great discrepancy in the digital readiness and needs of the different countries on the continent. Kenya’s government has announced a plan to digitize 90% of government services between the next six and 12 months, up from the current 15%. This will necessitate the government’s accelerated adoption of digital tools to ensure enhanced service delivery, regulatory compliance, and access to government services going forward.
This increased adoption of digital services by African governments is buoyed by the fact that by 2025, 1 in 6 of the world’s internet users is expected to be in Africa. Approximately 1 in 3 of all new mobile subscribers globally could be from sub-Saharan Africa with the number of smartphone connections in the region expected to more than double the current capacity. That will build on over 300 million African people who have gained internet access between 2010 and 2019.
An increased focus on digital literacy is also expected to support tech adoption by governments. With low levels of digital literacy outside urban centers in many African nations, the impact of digital tools implemented by governments is diminished due to slow and ineffective adoption by many citizens. Therefore, as more governments actively seek to implement digital solutions, they will also make concerted efforts to expand the capabilities of citizens.
According to ITU, there is a significant gap in ICT skills across Africa. Skills levels differ for the five countries for which data is available, with Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, and Zambia showing basic skills levels above 10 percent. Zambia is the most advanced, with a basic skills level of 43.6 percent, a standard skills level of 25.2 percent, and an advanced skills level of 6.6 percent.
Technology cuts across several sectors, but we are most likely to see developments in digital identity projects, as the promotion of reliable and secure digital identity represents the cornerstone of e-government and a prerequisite for the delivery of many services to citizens. It is also a prerequisite for more inclusive e-governments. But digital needs are rapidly increasing in various areas as the external environment becomes increasingly digital. African governments, for example, are increasingly aware of the importance of Big Data as support to effective data-driven governance and management. Adopting e-government solutions can improve all public and basic service delivery areas.
Overall, African governments have already sought out digital solutions to meet their needs, and that is due to an increase, as opposed to a slowing down, in 2023. However, to ensure that the adoption of technology is effective, there will also be great efforts made towards boosting the supporting environment. As Africa continues its digital revolution, we are likely to see new states explore the development and implementation of technological solutions to build upon the strides made in recent times and better prepare themselves for the evolving needs of their citizens.