‘Africa’s digital infrastructure needs a fixed broadband boost’

African countries are lagging behind G20 countries in digital infrastructure, a crucial element for economic growth, according to a new report.

The report, titled “Digital Economy Foresight Africa 2024”, stated that in the face of a rapidly evolving digital frontier, African economies could seize the opportunities by investing in an inclusive digital economy.

It was noted that the continent could be at risk of falling further behind due to significant gaps in infrastructure, technology and skills.

To bridge the gap, the report says policymakers must prioritize expanding fixed broadband, address affordability and increase access to digital infrastructure, especially for marginalized communities.

Although mobile phone use has increased, fixed broadband is essential for high-speed internet access and robust digitalization, the report said.

It noted: “To strengthen Africa’s digital infrastructure, policymakers must expand fixed broadband by 2024.

“While the increase in mobile phone use across Africa in recent years has been encouraging and the potential for 5G infrastructure exciting, fixed broadband must be a priority to ensure that high-speed internet becomes more accessible and affordable and that businesses are able to to digitize within the continent.”

According to the report, addressing broadband affordability was also crucial as mobile and internet connectivity remains expensive for many countries.

It advised policymakers to consider cross-subsidization by regulating prices for lifeline packages, increasing competition among ICT companies by auctioning spectrum licenses, and pooling demand from government buyers to drive network expansion.

“In some economies, the digital divide is a symbol of exclusion, poverty and inequality, exacerbated by the impact of unemployment, poorly functioning digital skills programs and socio-cultural norms that deny women equal access to digital services.

“Governments can play a key role in prioritizing disadvantaged communities, including subsidizing the loss of revenue for ICT companies in marginalized or poor communities by requiring industries to increase the cost of services in cities or by using Universal Service funds resulting from taxes on the ICT industry. as long as the management of the funds is more transparent than in the past,” the report said.

The report suggested three key areas where policymakers should prioritize to accelerate digitalization in African economies by 2024: improving access to digital infrastructure and platforms, developing digital skills in line with demand trends, and promoting digital financial inclusion.