Use of technology in Africa

Posted on June 2, 2017 12:08 am

One of the biggest draws for African students interested in studying in developed world especially Europe and North America is the quality of scientific research. But that trend is changing as more African countries are among the high spenders for research and development in the developing world. There are plenty of top scientific papers in the world coming from Africa, putting African countries like Egypt, South Africa and Uganda at the forefront of new technology and innovations. These impressive accomplishments can prove to be beneficial for local students who choose to study in such countries.African countries are known for adopting new technologies at a faster rate than most other developing countries in the world. For example, it is now the leader in mobile money platforms access in the world. Scientists and researchers from Africa have been responsible for many major breakthroughs and technological developments around the world. In fact, Africa boasts several Nobel Prize recipients, not bad for a continent that has seen civil wars, political turmoil and unequal economic growth for the past six decades.The growth of technology in Africa has had several important results including among them increased opportunities for innovation and design, helping various industries make improvements in their already existing establishments and to improve the quality of their goods. The technology growth has also helped to improve Africa’s economy, as it is now one of the leading regions in the world for importing and exporting goods.Overall, the digital divide continues to narrow in Africa but important divisions persist, and there are clear disparities between different groups in their use of the internet.It’s a pattern that’s been apparent for some time and it has been confirmed through analysis of data on the household use of technology in several African countries.One research in South Africa found 55% of South Africans aged 15 and older were internet users and that 60% of South Africa households had internet access in 2016 up from 42% in 2014.The kicker in these figures is that as more and more South Africans are online, the disadvantage of being offline grows. So as the divide narrows, it gets deeper.Also, teachers in South Africa assume their students have unrestricted access to the internet and set homework accordingly, businesses assume their customers are internet users and shape their offerings online while governments shift resources to digital provision of information and opportunities to interact.Those living in major cities are more likely to have access than those in rural and remote Africa with over 50% of households in Africa’s major cities have access. This falls to 32% for those living inner regional and 9% for those in outer regional and remote, or very remote, areas.

While a thirds of low-income households have access, 90% of the highest income households have an internet connection across Africa. And it’s not just access that is affected by income.Of the lowest-income households, 21% have a tablet in the home, compared to 51% of the highest income households. The mean number of devices used to access the internet in the lowest income households is one compared to four in the highest.This is important because these devices enable individuals in the household to access the internet simultaneously. Homework can be done while someone else plays games while that night’s cook looks up recipes online.The more highly educated an African is, the more likely is to be an internet user with 89% of those with a bachelor degree or higher use the internet. As educational attainment falls, this proportion decreases, down to 69% for those with below degree and Internet use by employed Africans is 88% and for unemployed only 20%.Age is still a key factor in internet use. Just over fiver percent of Africans aged 65 or over use the internet while the corresponding figure of those aged 13-19 is 92%. However, the big drop-off in use is between those aged 50-64 at 90% and those in the oldest age group.There are indications that older Africans who do use the internet are not deriving the benefits of younger users. Surprisingly, internet users aged 24-35 are twice as likely as those aged 60 or more to access health services online.The story is the same for remote areas of Africa. The further you get from physical health services, the less likely you are to use the internet to access online health services.This pattern is repeated for formal education online. Of internet users living in a major cities like Cape Town, Cairo, Nairobi and Lago 21% accessed formal education online compared to 9% living inner regional, 6% in outer regional and 3% who are remote or very remote areas.Africa offers several research opportunities to young, promising professionals. This country-based research is spread all over the continent, and selection is highly competitive. Selection is based on merit, and a proven track record of academic excellence in a must.The opportunity to work in such an impressive and promising environment is a huge draw for local students interested in studying in prestigious universities across the continent. These students will benefit from the technologies available to them, as well as the chance to conduct research of their own.As more and more resources shift online and connectivity becomes the norm for most Africans, the disadvantage faced by those not online or those with limited access, increases. And as faster broadband is rolled out, the relative disadvantage of those on more modest connections will increase. Just as importantly, building the digital capacity of disadvantaged Africans to enable them to take full advantage of online resources remains a critical issue. African countries must ensure that those with the most to gain from the digital revolution are able to fully engage with the online world.

Contador Harrison