For many of us in Sub-Saharan Africa who basically live online, it would take a minute to grasp the fact that millions more are still digitally excluded due to different factors. But the truth is that yes indeed we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to leveraging on enablers like mobile broadband to push towards digital inclusion.
Where are we falling short?
One of the major reasons is the lack of compelling online content. And as much as affordability is certainly up there among the reasons why we are still digitally excluded to a good extent, there are other factors. For instance, are we producing and promoting relevant, language sensitive content that adds value? Content that is good enough that people will see the need to purchase data bundles and come back for more?
There is no denying that a lot of players in the digital arena are certainly doing their part in content creation. Giant telco Safaricom for example has a good partnership going with Ed-Tech company Eneza Education to provide learning materials to learners through Shupavu291. As much as this is an older partnership, it has come to be very significant in these days when students are staying home and Safaricom has enhanced the partnership to increase on-boarding by more students.
Other than Shupavu291 which can be accessed via *291#, Safaricom is also promoting E-learning and Viusasa for free access to digital learning materials, enabling primary and secondary school learners to take online lessons for free.
Other examples of efforts to bridge the digital divide are the partnership between Telkom Kenya and Nairobi City Council to provide free internet connectivity to Nairobi CBD, and Airtel’s partnership with Longhorn publishers to offer free e-Learning for primary and secondary school students.
Huawei has also played a major role in several sectors, one of them being offering university students online ICT courses on routing and switching, WLAN, as well as security and cloud. Huawei is carrying out this initiative through its ICT academies and what’s more, students who finish their online course are also provided with cash and data bundles as incentives to completing their courses.
All the above point to good, highly usable content.
At an online Mobile Broadband Inclusion Roundtable organized by Huawei recently, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa for GSMA, Akinwale Goodluck said that relevant and customized content targeted for specific markets was key in driving more people online.
While talking about the importance of valuable content, Akinwale also emphasized the importance of Governments taking some of their work online in an effort to encourage digital inclusion, and called on telecommunication operators and governments to collaborate in committing to boosting this aspect.
“It is not necessarily about affordability. If users have compelling reasons, they will get on board. So there is a lot of work for everybody to do,” Goodluck said, adding that if the content is right and relevant enough, people will see the value, accept the cost that comes with it and they will go online and do what they need to do as long as it profitable, and rewarding.