Indomitable Digitization: 5 Simple Marks on Advantages of the Digital Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa
Figures show that the digital economy is becoming a large part of the global economy worldwide. In many Sub-Saharan African countries, some aspects of the digital economy have already had a huge impact on the daily life of the population. This is particularly apparent for mobile payment. In a country like Kenya, mobile payment represents 10% of its annual GDP.
Other factors, such as the emergence of equipment in the affordable devices market and increased connectivity, reinforce the movement towards digitization of socioeconomics and culture. Consequently, there are many positive outcomes that those countries should focus on and enhance. Here are five such benefits:
1. Digital economy enhances business creativity and entrepreneurship
The link between digital economy and creativity is almost evident. Major technology services of these last years are based on disruptive ideas. Creativity is the driving force that allows us to address issues around us and seize opportunities. Now is the ideal time to break rules, build and innovate culture, find original ways to monetize ideas, and eventually have a deep impact on society. The idea of inventing a Touch Screen Medical Tablet came to a young Cameroonian engineer while he was an intern at a public hospital.
During his internship, he decided to address the issue of a critical lack of heart surgeons by building a device that can perform medical examinations in distant places and transmit results to doctors for interpretation and diagnosis. Being and remaining competitive in this digital era requires you to invent new business models and approaches in relation to customers and access to markets. The good news is that people can be inspired by many successful examples in this current world.
2. Digital economy has a direct impact on employment
There are many potential jobs tied to the ICT field, such as computer and electronic products, software publishing, telecommunications or IT. There is also a demand for specialists in the global ecosystem: mobile app developers, data scientists, and social networks specialists. Of course skilled workers are needed worldwide and this offers the possibility to anyone to foster his/her career locally or globally at anytime, even from the comfort of their own home.
The self-employed and entrepreneurs can take advantage of numerous opportunities available to start their own business. But it is important to mention that people should work together, share new ideas, assess their projects and develop synergies. It can also be relevant for both employers and employees to think deeply on the shift on working habits with ‘Uberization’ of the labor market.
3. Digital economy opens up Africa as global potential market
Unlike what some falsely think, Africa is not a country. But one of the promising prospects of digital economy, especially for investors, is the possibility to look at the African market as a whole or at least as blocks of potential clients with similar purchase power and/or lifestyles. Nowadays, many executives and business developers are targeting more and more the growing African urban consumers as they have become demand boosters.
Africa Internet Group (a start-up founded in Nigeria in 2012) is now operating e-commerce companies in 26 countries across Africa and has recently received additional investments totaling $245 millions to support its continuous growth. Today, entrepreneurs should have African musicians’ mindset as many have been thinking about their art like something to be appreciated in many African countries. And that’s why they list cities which they think they will be successful with their craft: Douala, Abidjan or Nairobi, and even other cities outside of the continent.
4. Digital economy induces positive social impacts
For some people excluded from the financial system, mobile devices have been a channel for access to some financial services. It has even been the first step in connecting them with the rest of the society. Nowadays with mobile money, everyone can buy a plane ticket (or train or bus) from a mobile phone without a bank account that requires proof of formal job, for instance.
There are still ways to explore the alignment of micro credit with mobile money in an optimal way that can address dynamic populations without means and ideal projects in which to invest. In the same way, fields like m-health and m-education are just beginning to be explored.
With digital economy, the production chain is a shortcut and collaboration is a path for great achievements. The fact that information is instantly available for everyone reduces inequalities among citizens. Everyone can be skilled to take his own destiny in hands without necessarily being affiliated with a powerful network. With the potential growth induced by those patterns and if different stakeholders implement good practices, sustainable development is the normal output of those positive impacts.
5. Digital economy amplifies sustainable development
It indeed requires fewer warehouses, fewer objects and sometimes there is no need to have stocks; “dematerialization” is positive for the environment. For instance, if people buy fewer cars because they share with other people via a digital platform, this can effectively contribute to a reduction in traffic in our cities and bring more ecological balance.
Beside the social and economic dimensions, culture is gaining a decisive place in the today’s dematerialized world as stated by a recent report by UNESCO. This is the time to produce local relevant content to be used by an increasing demand on books, music or movies. The quality of numerous tools allow serious artists to create and to propose their work to the world. And it is even easier to access funds via crowdfunding and other digital financial facilities.
The digital economy is emerging in Sub-Saharan Africa as a powerful catalyst for growth and development. But people have to learn to work together and be open to the world. There is a necessity to have creative ideas and find disruptive ways to make things happen. Opportunities are everywhere to fulfill personal needs and help others.
Digitization is the process of converting analog information into a digital format. It involves the conversion of physical records, documents, images, audio, and video files into electronic formats that can be stored, accessed, and manipulated using computers and digital devices. The widespread adoption of digitization has had a profound impact on various industries and sectors, revolutionizing the way information is created, stored, shared, and consumed.
The digitization process typically involves several steps. First, the analog source material, such as paper documents or analog audio/video tapes, is converted into a digital format using specialized hardware devices like scanners or analog-to-digital converters. These devices capture the analog signals and convert them into binary code, which is the language of computers.
Once the analog material is digitized, it can be stored and managed electronically. Digital storage options range from local hard drives and servers to cloud-based storage solutions. The digitized content can be organized, indexed, and archived using various software tools and databases, making it easier to search, retrieve, and share information.
One of the significant advantages of digitization is the potential for improved accessibility and preservation of information. Digital files can be easily duplicated, backed up, and distributed, reducing the risk of loss or damage compared to physical records. Digitized content can be accessed remotely, shared across different platforms and devices, and easily replicated for multiple users.
Moreover, digitization enables efficient information retrieval and analysis. With the help of optical character recognition (OCR) technology, textual content from scanned documents can be extracted and indexed, allowing for quick keyword searches and data mining. Large volumes of data can be processed and analyzed using software algorithms, opening up opportunities for advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning applications.
The impact of digitization extends to various sectors and industries. In the business world, digitization has led to the automation of processes, streamlined workflows, and enhanced productivity. Paper-based transactions have been replaced by electronic systems, enabling faster and more accurate processing of orders, invoices, and other business documents. Digital communication tools, such as email, video conferencing, and collaboration platforms, have transformed the way organizations communicate and collaborate.
In the cultural and educational sectors, digitization has played a crucial role in preserving and disseminating valuable artifacts, historical records, and academic resources. Libraries, archives, and museums have digitized their collections, making rare books, manuscripts, artworks, and other cultural heritage accessible to a global audience. Educational institutions have embraced e-learning platforms, digital textbooks, and online resources, expanding access to education beyond traditional classroom settings.
The entertainment industry has also experienced significant transformations due to digitization. Music, movies, and television shows are now predominantly distributed and consumed in digital formats. Streaming platforms have gained popularity, offering on-demand access to a vast library of digital content. Digital publishing has revolutionized the book industry, with e-books and digital publishing platforms becoming increasingly prevalent.
While digitization offers numerous benefits, it also presents challenges. The digital divide, referring to the gap in access to digital technologies and skills, remains a significant concern. Not everyone has equal access to the internet, computers, or digital literacy, which can result in exclusion and inequality. Moreover, the rapid growth of digital data has raised concerns about data privacy, security, and the ethical use of personal information.
In conclusion, digitization has revolutionized the way information is created, stored, accessed, and shared. It has transformed industries, enhanced productivity, and improved accessibility to knowledge and cultural heritage. However, it also brings challenges that need to be addressed to ensure equitable access, privacy protection, and responsible use of digital resources in an increasingly digitized world.
Author: Mohammed A Bazzoun
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