Digitizing Botswana and Africa

I recently attended the just ended World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings in Washington DC and in the various meetings and events that i was a part of,the one which really appealed to me were the Human Capital topic which i wrote about on my previous post and the Digital Economy Moonshot initiative which i am going to be talking about on this post.

The Digital Economy Moonshot initiative was launched by the World Bank and its main objective is to have  every African individual,business and government connected to broadband internet by the year 2030. If achieved,this objective can allow African countries to not only be globally competitive in the digital economy but to also improve the quality of life of the continent's populace.

According to Africa's Pulse,a biannual analysis of the near-term macroeconomic outlook for the region put together by the World Bank Chief Economist for the Africa Region office,the digital revolution offers the chance for the continent to unlock new pathways for rapid economic growth,innovation,job creation and access to services, which the continent is in dire need of.The continent hence has to find a way of harnessing all these opportunities which are presented by the digital revolution and that is what the digital economy moonshot aims to help do.

However,before the continent can start enjoying the prospective benefits which will come with being an active part of the digital revolution,the continent has to put in place strong analog foundations which would provide an efficient enabling environment for the success and growth of the ICT sector. These analog foundations include but are not limited to efficient regulations which will foster competition and hence encourage innovation and reduce service prices,skills that will allow workers,entrepreneurs and civil servants to seize opportunities in the digital world and infrastructure which will support the implementation of ICT projects and hence attract private investors.

Governments policies have to support adoption,diffusion and use of digital technology not just in the public sectors but also in the private sector. This is done by raising awareness about the importance and relevance of digital technologies in this era.It is not just an issue of connectivity and access which is the mistake that most African governments make when trying to roll out digital technologies to the population. People have to be educated on why it would be to their advantage to move from the familiar old way of doing things to a modernized otherwise no one is going make use of the technology and millions if not billions of public funds will be wasted.

Nonstrategic investments in ICT projects by African governments is going to be one of the main problems that are going to be faced by the Digital Moonshot initiative. ICT projects are normally very costly to implement and hence have to be done right with proper project management. Governments should therefore put in place rigorous and minutely scrutinizing vetting committees when selecting companies which are going to implement ICT projects. African governments are mostly rife with corruption and mismanagement of public funds and if this allowed to trickle down to funds allocated to ICT projects,the Digital Moonshot initiative will fail dismally,with a tremendous cost.

The Digital Revolution is the 4th industrial revolution and some African countries including Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda are taking significant leaps in trying to catch up with developed countries in the digital economy. If Botswana and other African countries do not take the same leap of faith to catch up with the rest of the world,they will be left isolated and stagnated.

PS:The next post i will be outlining how African countries can efficiently harness the digital revolution.