Digitalising Africa: A Look at the Obstacles and Opportunities
Siemens recently conducted a Maturity Report on Digitalisation in Africa – focussing on the four African countries with the fastest growing economies, namely South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. But what does digitalisation really mean in the case of Africa?
According to Sabine Dall’Omo, CEO of Siemens Southern Africa, it’s about using new technologies like data analytics, the cloud and the Internet of Things to merge the virtual and real worlds.
Applying digitalisation in Africa has, up until now, remained a challenge due to macro-economic factors such as regulation and infrastructure. Infrastructure in this context implies access to international bandwidth, mobile-network coverage, internet and mobile phone penetration as well as the costs of broadband and mobile-phone access.
Dall’Omo explains that there is an opportunity for government as well as the private sector to roll out services for digital access and use – as is the case with traditional basic services infrastructure.
At present South Africa remains the digital leader of the four countries in the report (at least in most areas) due to its large and diverse economy; not to mention the extensive, high-quality mobile broadband infrastructure. However Kenya is also fast maturing.
Siemens believes that through digitalising Africa, a new kind of “grey collar” worker can be born which refers to humans and machines not competing for jobs but rather working together and creating the need for a new type of talent. “The challenge is whether or not government and industry are investing enough into the development of these skills,” Dall’Omo says.
Right now one of Africa’s primary challenges when it comes to digitalisation lies in the energy sector. As not all countries have access to stable electricity supplies, it can be difficult to do anything digitally. However some argue that digitalisation could also encourage the use of decentralised power generation and alternate energy sources. Advanced technology certainly has the unique potential to solve huge socio-economic problems in the continent including those within the learning and development field.
iLearn believes that digitalising education can unlock social and economic opportunities in developing African countries. But the idea that online education can strengthen education sectors is not a new one. With the application of the latest technological innovations, online learning sites are creating more interactive and individualised educational experiences across the globe. And we have no doubt that Africa is following suit, considering that the e-learning market has doubled since 2011.
In keeping up with the latest technological developments, iLearn will be expanding its portfolio this year to include an industry innovation that will engage online learning methodologies to improve the learner experience.
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