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Wednesday, Dec 11th

'Include all or lose out'

'Include all or lose out'

Telecommunications companies in Africa are urged to reduce costs in order to include more people in the digital economy.

According to a new report by Pathway for Prosperity Commission titled, Digital Roadmap: How developing countries can get ahead, access to the internet needs to be restructured.

"A common fix around the world is geographical cross-subsidisation whereby network operators make a loss on some rural customers but set slightly high prices across the board to offset these losses," the report said. "However, in developing countries, many of the poor already live in urban areas and simply cannot afford the static prices set by these providers."

The report suggests rolling out flexible pricing based on the user's ability to pay and that networks invest in low-cost public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Policy makers are advised to make the human element central to the development of the digital economy. If more people are left out of digital services, economies in Africa might face a slowdown effect.

Strive Masiyiwa, co-chair of the Pathway for Prosperity Commission and founder of Econet, said, "Digital technologies offer powerful tools to grow businesses and nations alike, enabling entrepreneurs access to markets and giving governments innovative ways to deliver better services.

"However, without visionary policy planning and 21st century skills training for virtually everyone, the same technologies over time could lead to job losses and further financial exclusion of the poorest in our society."

Melinda Gates, fellow co-chair of the Commission, said that gender bias, especially against women in technology, widens the gap.

According to the report, "The use of digital technologies will not automatically lead to the inclusion of the poor and marginalised. Throughout our consultation and research it has been clear that a large proportion of society is being left behind by technology change."

It added that the digital trickle-down effect is not enough to include all in the digital revolution. It challenged the policy makers to create and design for inclusion.

Research shows that there is growth in the number of people accessing the internet.

According to the GSMA's Mobile Economy Report released in Kigali in June, there were 456 million subscribers by 2018 with a penetration of 44% - representing a steady growth of people accessing the internet, 239 million people (23% of Africa's population) using the mobile internet regularly.

Africa – hot mobile property

Hassen Hamza, Presales & Business Development Manager MEA, Nexign, recently referenced a report from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), titled The State of ICT 2019, which stated that smartphone penetration in South Africa in 2018 nearly doubled from that of 2016 at 81.72%.

While mobile data traffic in South Africa in terabytes has shown strong growth over the period that the ICASA report reviewed, increasing by 55% in 2016, 67% in 2017 and 68% in 2018.

There is a new sense of shared optimism about the future of mobile technology on the African continent, according to Devon Meerholz, chief creative & operations officer at cloud communications software and solutions provider IMIMobile SA.

"After years of talk about potential, there's a real sense in the mobile industry that Africa is now," said Meerholz. "Coupled with this realisation is the understanding that collaboration is the only way to explore opportunity in Africa."

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