Digital public infrastructure – online solutions enabling public and private sector delivery – is transforming Africa’s economic and social potential by creating new markets, unprecedented consumer choices, and enabling the continent to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution. This presents huge opportunities for governments, businesses and the public, but advances must be safe, inclusive and open. These principles are at the core of JUMO’s work, ‘And that’s why we’ve endorsed the Digital Public Goods Charter,’ says JUMO President Joe Mucheru.
The power & perils of digital infrastructure
Internet access is rapidly increasing throughout the African continent. Even in some of the region’s most rural villages I’ve seen kilometers of internet cables being laid; internet satellites being erected; and governments or business rolling out Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces so communities get online for free.
There is no doubt: these are signs of Africa’s digital coming of age. Today, almost one-third of the continent’s population has internet access, and – according to projections – by 2030 the region will reach parity with the rest of the world, with three-quarters of its population online.
Many African nations are already taking advantage of the booming internet penetration to drive tangible improvements for citizens. From using AI to manage supply chain processes and ensure health facilities are reliably stocked with medial supplies, to running pan-African digital skills online training sessions and boosting future workforce capabilities.
The region has also become a global fintech hub, registering almost half of the world’s mobile money accounts.
I am proud that JUMO is driving progress in this space. JUMO is enabling investors and partners to provide credit and savings options to unbanked or under-banked entrepreneurs. In turn SMEs can grow and thrive, having significant positive multiplier effects on workers and communities.
At its best, digital infrastructure can protect the privacy and security of citizens, eliminate financial barriers to accessing goods or services, and enhance government transparency.
But with promise, comes perils. Digitalisation can also risk exacerbating inequalities, facilitate criminal activity, expose countries and citizens to critical infrastructure sabotage, or undermine trust in public institutions.
Digital public infrastructure: a common vision
The difference between a positive and negative future state, depends on whether digital public infrastructure is designed, implemented, and governed to service the public good. For this, a comprehensive common vision must be implemented.
That is why JUMO has endorsed the Digital Public Goods Charter. This is a commitment framework aimed at mobilising governments, businesses and initiatives around an agreed understanding of their roles – and the actions they must take – to achieve online solutions that work for everyone.
The Charter commits organisations to work towards five outcomes:
- Establishing and maintaining a diverse set of sustainably financed products that meet countries’ needs.
- Enabling governments to plan, regulate and evolve digital goods in line with national strategies.
- Supporting countries to have the funding, technical ability and processes to build and scale online solutions.
- Ensuring countries have adequate legal and technical measures to reduce risks and maximize benefits.
- Supporting think tanks and other institutions to safeguard and advance digital public goods.
For JUMO, the endorsement demonstrates our continued and unerring commitment to ensuring digital technologies empower citizens and drive prosperity.
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