Much of the developed world has, over the past two decades, been transformed by what are now termed information and communication technologies (ICTs). These technologies exert great impact on most aspects of our lives—in economic activities, education, entertainment, communication, travel, and so on. Also they have inextricably linked with economic prosperity and power (Davison, Vogel, Harris, et al., 2000). At present, Africa is at the bottom of the ICT ladder. This has serious implications both for the continent and the entire world. This is because ICTs are enhancing the economies of those countries that are ICT-rich faster then those that are ICT-poor, thus further widening the development gap between Africa and the industrialized world (Ya’u, n.d.) The realization of the importance of ICTs in economic advancement led the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD) to devote the 1995 through 1997 to the study of the linkages between ICTs and development. One of the important results of that effort was the placing of the digital divide on global development agenda. Since then, there has been an internal consensus that there is the need to bridge the digital divide. As a result of this consensus, there has evolved various bridging strategies, actions and initiatives at international, regional, continental and local country levels. Learning from these efforts, African countries have, under the leadership of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), been developing national, sub-regional, and continental initiatives to overcome the digital divide and to promote the greater inclusion of Africa communities into the cyberspace (Ya’u, n.d.) In this chapter, efforts are made to define digital divide, unravel the status of Africa in the global digital map, enumerate the causes of low level of ICT diffusion in Africa, efforts at bridging the divide, discusses future trends, and concludes with steps that can address the divide.
Key Terms in this Chapter
E-Government: The use of or application of information technologies (such as Internet and intranet systems) to government activities and processes in order to facilitate the flow of information from government to its citizens, from citizens to government and within government.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT): Also known as information technology (IT) refers to the technology that combines the use of computers and telecommunications for information storage, conversion, processing, protection, transmission and retrieval.
Networks: A number of computers and other devices that are linked together in order to facilitate sharing of data.
Digital Age: The current development era in which social, economic and political activities/processes are driven by application of ICTs/digital technologies.
Internet Hosts: These are computers that are connected to the Internet.
Cybercafés: Places where entrepreneurs provide Internet public access services for a free.
Telecenter: This is a place where inhabitants of a community can use ICT components such as the Internet, computers, telephone, etc. People can also acquire ICT skills in a telecenter.