Analysis: Why Hasn’t Africa Gone Digital?
By Rose Mutiso, Katie Hill
COVID-19 has spurred massive changes in how the world works, learns and does business—changes made possible by the internet and digital infrastructure.
But without power, there is no internet. The entire digital ecosystem relies so heavily on reliable, affordable electricity, from home internet connections to the base stations that underpin cellular networks to the data centers that store the internet’s content. This means that countries with weak power infrastructures—which were already struggling to compete in the new digital economy—are facing bleak prospects in a post-lockdown world in which Zoom, Dropbox and Google Classroom are the new office or school.
Sub-Saharan Africa, where the digital transition has long been touted as a way to leapfrog traditional infrastructure, is especially vulnerable to falling behind. Chronic challenges in the power sector here—such as low electrification rates, high prices and appalling reliability—have significantly impacted the region’s digital competitiveness.
Photo courtesy of Stars Foundation.