July 14, 2021

How International Organizations are Closing The Urban-Rural Digital Divide in Africa

Video By

Mr. Lacina Koné

Director General, Smart Africa

The ideas and opinions expressed in this insight are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of ITU and UNESCO or the Broadband Commission. The mention of specific companies, products or services does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by ITU or UNESCO or Broadband Commission in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

Rural and urban areas are often viewed as contrasting areas with a greater level of poverty in urban areas. This impression has led to differences in policy direction across Africa and therefore become a self-fulfilling prophecy which has kept the rural community poorer than the urban one. 

The conventional model for providing connectivity, the basic enabler needed to break the digital divide, has not been in favor of the rural area.  A certain level of commercial activity is generally missing in these so-called rural areas, leaving many without basic broadband internet infrastructure. 

At Smart Africa we have adopted a radical view that rural community can offer a significant development and economic benefit given that about 59% of the sub-Saharan population lives in a rural area,  

We believe that technology is the necessary catalyst to unlock this opportunity and bring about social economic development. 

That is why the Smart Africa Alliance has taken steps through tangible projects across the continent, like for example the Smart Village project, in collaboration with the Republic of Niger, and Smart Broadband 2025, which aims to double the broadband penetration among 12 countries with majority rural populations.   

Within the Broadband Commission, we are working with the Working Group on 21st century Financing Model to prepare policy recommendations for fostering innovative funding, financing, and investments to reach the Commission’s target for broadband connectivity and adoption.  

With these initiatives, and in collaboration with key stakeholders, we believe we are well-positioned to bridge the rural-urban divide towards the achievement of a single digital market for Africa by 2030.