Nairobi — Access to digital technology in Africa remains a huge challenge, especially for persons with disabilities and underserved communities, a new report highlighting the state of digital rights and inclusion on the continent has revealed.
The 2022 Digital Rights and Inclusion Report- Londa is published by Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African organisation that connects underserved young Africans with digital opportunities and ensures the protection of their rights.
According to the report, access to digital opportunities by women and girls including Information Communication Technology (ICT) education requires improvement.
The report points out that as much as governments have continued to increase efforts to bridge digital divide and build digital economies, men have continued to outrank women in various indices, from the adoption and use of ICT tools to employment opportunities
“Despite progress in bridging this divide, men continue to outrank women in various indices, from the adoption and use of ICT tools to employment opportunities. The introduction of prohibitive levies and taxes, which emerged as a common theme in the period under review, further impeded general access, as seen in Ghana, Malawi, and Uganda, amongst others,” the report states.
Speaking after the launch of Londa, the author of the Kenyan report, Jackie Okello pointed out that Kenya does not have a tangible law that tackles internet access.
However, she said the country has a broadband strategy which lays down the government’s plans on how to facilitate broadband access in areas that are not covered by the internet.
The report also decries the introduction of prohibitive levies and taxes, which emerged as a common theme in the period under review, further impeding general access as seen in Ghana, Malawi and Uganda.
Regarding the Universal Service Fund (USF), the report mentions that the fund exists in 22 out of 24 countries reported in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tunisia, Uganda, Togo, The Gambia, Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Benin, South Sudan, Namibia and Botswana.
However, information on the amount of funds raised, transparency, and impact varies widely among the 22 countries.
Londa’s recommendations cover a range of stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society, governments, the media and academia.
By implementing these recommendations and working together, stakeholders can build a strong and sustainable digital environment in Africa where everyone can exercise their rights online.
The report also notes that as emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) gain traction, awareness and adoption are growing on the continent.
“Recent developments with AI tools demonstrate not only the potential the technology possesses to accelerate socio-economic growth but also to aggravate existing inequalities.”
This, the report adds, underscores the need for rights-respecting AI frameworks across all sectors.
“For a continent where frameworks can be an afterthought and legislation often a knee jerk reaction, playing catchup must desist. Frameworks and strategies need to be well-intentioned, adequately safeguard human rights, accommodate emerging trends and issues, and be transparently implemented,” it further states.