World Economic Forum, the international institution for public-private co-operation, has highlighted five ways that African leaders can drive digital growth and usher in a technology-driven system.
The forum notes that the majority of Africa’s youth, as well as its small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) lack the basic skills that can enable them to take part in the digital economy, hence, the immediate need to revolutionise the system by providing all citizens with access to online tools and content for learning and doing business.
With this technology-driven revolution in Africa, the forum states that routine white-collar jobs will become automated, meaning that creativity and Information Technology skills will take over traditional know-how, employers will rely less on traditional knowledge, while prioritising innovation and high-skilled jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will also increase.
The key for Africa, then, will be to adopt an innovative mindset and focus on skills development to ensure that digital transformation opportunities can be filled and led by Africans. It will also mean that Africa will now become a creator, and not just a consumer of technology, the forum says, adding that the public sector needs to lead the way, setting the example for inclusive transformation that benefits all.
To drive digital growth, the forum advises that African governments should do the following:
The forum advises governments across Africa to replace traditional approaches to delivering citizen-centric services with innovative solutions powered by technologies such as cloud computing which will enable governments to not only streamline their processes and service delivery, but enhance data collection and analytics.
Also, a regulatory environment that promotes innovative and confident use of technology is necessary, therefore, there must be a balance between the free-flow of data and information, and privacy policies, the forum also advises, adding that as African governments continue to invest in digital transformation, civil servants need to be trained on how to optimize these innovations.
Noting that there is a concern that digital transformation could increase Africa’s income gap even further, as automated jobs leave the working class unemployed, the forum stresses the need to develop Africans in STEM fields, especially artistic and creative ones.
As Africa works to shift from a labor-based economy to a knowledge economy, investments in 21st-century education and skills development is no longer an option but an imperative, the forum further stresses, adding that strategies and policies for future skills and jobs will remain key in transforming lives, generating prosperity and promoting social inclusion.
As more governments decentralize decision-making and increase responsiveness, they are seeking to empower more citizens by putting meaningful data in their hands, the forum notes while asserting that democratization of information will play a key role in leveling the playing field as the prevalence of mobile phones has already enabled more people across Africa to take part in politics, casting their vote and getting in touch with municipalities.
Citing an example with South Africa’s national broadband strategic plan- Connect, the forum states that more needs to be done, especially at the regulatory level, to increase affordable Internet access so more people can participate in the economy of information.
-Create a playing field for new business models
Africans are becoming innovative in finding locally relevant solutions to daily challenges in health, agriculture and education, among other areas. As we move into the new revolution, the forum states that a business-friendly environment and culture of entrepreneurship will be key. Africa needs to enable the growth of businesses that are creators of technology, not only consumers of it.
Governments play a pivotal role in creating an enabling environment for new business models and investment, the forum states, explaining that a locally skilled workforce, updated legislation in the realm of cyber-security and data privacy, affordable bandwidth, and a culture of innovation will promote growth of these types of businesses.
-Collaborate to innovate
As governments in Africa continue to aim for economic growth, good governance, innovation in local economies and the creation of jobs, most (if not all) will continue to encounter many challenges in the delivery of services to citizens, to business, or in relation to intra-governmental operations.
The forum is of the opinion that the ability of these governments to adapt and drive digital transformation across all segments of society will determine their competitiveness. “If Africa can embrace a world of disruption and change, it will endure. It will also deliver on its promise to be the next “growth pole” of the world.”