Curbing The Digital Divide: A Major Factor for Development in Africa

By Neil N Malilwe, BsCom ( Hons)

One of the most important reasons why most developed countries have reduced or eliminated problems and issues concerning the general well-being of their population is because they have resolved or alleviated the digital divide among their societies.

One might wonder, what is digital divide? Why is it a big issue and why does it need to be addressed and curbed in order to influence and push Africa’s development efforts forward? Well, I hope writing this will give some insight and I hope it can stimulate minds and give you some introductory knowledge on the issue.

I will begin by giving you are very brief and concise definition of the divide; the digital divide can be defined as the ratio of those who can access and benefit from digital technology and resources to those who cannot, in this case, the affluent in society versus the not so privileged, the developed nations versus the developing countries and the rural areas in developing states versus the much developed urban areas, collectively, this all defines the digital divide.

Some will read, argue, challenge and question, what is being presented here when we have internet, computers and mobile phones in Africa? Why is digital divide such a big deal? Why should it be curbed? You might be having those thoughts because you are one of the few lucky Africans living in an urbanized area and are fortunate enough to own and have access to these resources. The bleak reality is that a higher percentage of the continent is still very poor and under developed and people still survive on less than a dollar a day, the money some use to buy mobile phone credit and other luxuries they think they can’t survive without.

By now, most people have come to understand that not only tertiary education alone and fixing the industry issues can help speed up Africa’s development, let alone sustain our economies. We usually see infrastructural and technological development in the urban areas and think everything is in place. We see clips of advertisements on tourism channels and think the situation is okay. The unfortunate reality is things are really not so okay.

The digital divide is such a big deal because modern technologies run the world today. If you are not connected by email, social network, mobile phone or any other digital media, you virtually don’t exist. The stock market, airlines, cell phones, digital television and social media are only possible because of digital technology; Imagine what would happen if the internet crashed and the communication satellites in space burned out up today? Tomorrow would really be a bad day.

Reducing the digital divide in rural Africa and many developing societies around the world will advantage those areas to access information that can help them find solutions and knowledge with regard to many problems, for example, equipping a farmer in rural Zambia with a smartphone which has access to the internet and also has a simple app with information, such as weather, seeds and crop information, fertilisers  and many more will help him/her plan properly for the next farming season hence maximising and optimizing the farming yield and having more to sell and eat. An upcoming entrepreneur in rural Uganda looking for comprehensive information on how best to help his business not only thrive but grow can access information on the internet using a tablet or laptop on how best to go about approaching various methodologies of small business entrepreneurship Adolescents in rural Mozambique can access eBooks and educational resources such as video that will supplement to their education with up to date information, the scenarios and examples are many.

I’m getting tired of the cliché knowledge is power being sang. Knowledge will only be power when we can distributed up-to-date information on health, breaking news, current affair’s affairs and many others by curbing the digital divide in African remote places. Every person has the right and need to be able to enjoy and make the best use of modern information and commutations technologies.

Reducing the digital divide will greatly befit the continent in its efforts to achieving and reaching its potential and this will lead to high levels of poverty reduction. The controversial question is this, who is responsible for curbing the digital divide in Africa? Your thoughts and points of view on this would surely be heard and reflected on.



Neil N Malilwe, BsCom ( Hons)
Global Health Corps Fellow
Distance Learning Officer fellow at The Centre for
Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ)
The Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ)
African Centre of Excellence for Women's Cancer Control (ACEWCC)
YIDAL | Think, Innovate, Develop, Lead
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