Full benefits of opportunities linked to digitalisation require that all individuals, businesses and governments have reliable and affordable access to digital networks and services.
BY JUDY OGUTU
The pace of digital innovation and transformation has been on a roll. Markets across the globe including transportation, logistics and e-commerce are being disrupted and reinvented. Each innovation presents the world with numerous potential for more.
Globally, 40 per cent of the world population is connected to networks. Slightly over two decades ago, connection to networks stood at four per cent.
In June 2017, a group of ministers gathered in Paris, France under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and developed the document – Going digital: Making the transformation work for growth and well-being. The ministers agreed that digital transformation can spur innovation and productivity across many sectors as information, knowledge and data become available.
Technology and capacity
The leaders also suggested that it would be instrumental for governments to address pressing policy challenges, which include injecting efficiency and transparency into the delivery of government services.
The discussions stressed that benefits from such policy changes were likely to go hand in hand with challenges to jobs and skills, privacy and security, markets and taxation, social security systems and public financing as well as social interactions.
Full benefits of opportunities linked to digitalisation require that all individuals, businesses and governments have reliable and affordable access to digital networks and services. This requires a wide coverage of digital networks and targeted measures for disadvantaged people and firms, including Small Medium Enterprises (SMES) and marginalised regions.
As we discuss the economic situation in marginalised areas, we also need not forget the important role played by SMEs in realising economic growth in the continent.
SMEs have to surmount numerous challenges especially in the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and important opportunities such as global e-commerce to access new markets and improve their performance.
Particularly of great interest is improving their access to finance and policies on access to digital technologies, which play an important role in fostering social inclusion, strengthening access to financial services and skills development. SMEs have capacity gaps in delivering goods and services effectively.
To harness their potential for growth, catalyse them for growth to ensure they make a valuable contribution to the current economic activities, this sector requires holistic support. In an era of technology and the digital transformation, technology can be leveraged to bridge those capacity gaps.
Currently, Kenya leads in mobile penetration and has earned global recognition as a technology hub.
An article published by Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss in Africa Journal of Management, Vol 3, 2017 Issue 3-4 indicates that in 2016, the number of individuals who had mobile phones stood at 420 million. By the year 2020, the article predicts that the numbers will have risen to 535 million.
Titled Making sense of Africa’s emerging digital transformation and its many futures, the two authors point out that between the end of the year 2000 to mid 2017, internet penetration rates increased by 8,500 per cent to connect 31 per cent of the population.
According to the article, Smartphone adoption doubled in Sub-Saharan Africa from 2015 to 2017, reaching 200 million. It is projected to further increase owing to availability of low-cost smartphones. Consequently, mobile data traffic is projected to increase by a factor of twelve over the next five years.
The above statistics are a clear indication that digital transformation has changed how businesses and societies operate by improving connectivity and access to information.
Indeed, technology can play a huge role in transforming businesses by linking them to other markets, connecting them to information and knowledge, financing opportunities, market and business opportunities.
Judy Ogutu is a freelance writer based in Nairobi Email: firstname.lastname@example.org