Affordable and universal Internet access is key to Africa’s growth and development, Communication and Digitization Minister Ursula Owusu-EKuful has said.
“Connectivity is essential and we need to work on making it more affordable; we can’t leave anyone behind and we need to look at a mix of new technology to deliver to unserved and undeserved areas,” she stated.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful spoke on the side-lines of the recently held 2023 Ministerial Alliance for Digital Nations in London, United Kingdom, where she participated in a ministerial caucus session on Cellular solutions for nationwide connectivity and said the potential for digital growth opportunities in Africa is immense – but it will depend on ensuring that digital access is affordable and widespread.
This, she added, calls for heightened collaboration and partnership in bridging the continent’s yawning digital divide through the provision of affordable and universal broadband access.
Even though Internet use on the continent is on the rise, Africa remains a region where only a third of the population has access to broadband connectivity, according to Broadband for All: ‘a digital infrastructure moonshot for Africa’ – a joint report prepared by the African Union, the UN Broadband Commission and the World Bank Group.
The report highlights that achieving universal, affordable and good quality broadband Internet access in Africa by 2030 would require connecting nearly 1.1 billion new unique users and an estimated additional US$100billion be mobilized to reach this goal.
Acknowledging the task ahead, Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful made a passionate appeal for the continent’s leaders to “bring all the necessary minds together” to address the thorny issue of universal Internet access and affordability on the continent.
“There’s no point in delivering hi-tech solutions that only a select few can utilize. Then the problem will still persist. As governments, we need to see what we can do within the regulatory environment to facilitate the growth of this critical sector,” she urged.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly accelerated African digital innovation and demand for more digital infrastructure across the continent, making universal and affordable Internet access an ‘indispensable’ commodity.
“There’s no way you can do without a connectivity solution. We are not just talking about a luxury product. We are talking about a utility like water and electricity, and that’s one lesson the pandemic left us with. So, it’s not a question of if but when we will have universal broadband connectivity,” Mrs .Owusu-Ekuful stressed.
2023 Ministerial Alliance for Digital Nations
The 2023 Ministerial Alliance for Digital Nations was organised by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation.
It sought to facilitate collaboration between member-states in the area of information and communication technologies (ICT) toward addressing ICT-related issues.