Leveraging Broadband for e-Government and Development in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges

Leveraging Broadband for e-Government and Development in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges

Stephen Kwamena Aikins (School of Public Affairs, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijpada.2015070101
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Abstract

This study investigated the extent and benefits of Africa's broadband connectivity, its impact on e-government and economic growth, and the challenges and best practices for addressing them. Studies by the UN and ITU over the years have revealed Africa lags behind in the global broadband connectivity and e-government diffusion. The Connect Africa summit held in 2007 by the ITU and its partners came out with five specific goals to connect the continent and help improve its economy. This study reviewed the Connect Africa Outcomes Report, and analyzed the publications of three independent studies conducted by: a) the ITU, b) the World Bank and the African Development Bank, and c) Informa Telecoms and Media. The findings reveal that Africa has made substantial progress in international connectivity and mobile broadband penetration. Additionally, broadband connectivity has contributed toward some improvements in e-government initiatives and economic growth. The study concludes with recommendations to address the existing challenges to consolidate the gains made.
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Introduction

This study aims at determining the extent and benefits of Africa’s broadband connectivity, as well as the challenges and best practices for addressing them. The diffusion of broadband Internet infrastructure is shaping modern society and the nature of traditional information and telecommunication technology (ICT) sectors. The impact of broadband can be analyzed in three different contexts: economic, political and social. In the economic context, broadband is measured in terms of efficiency, productivity and economic growth. In the political contexts, broadband has an impact on e-government and e-democracy, and promotes democratic forum in the cyberspace. Finally, in the social context, broadband diffusion leads to a better quality of life, by providing better healthcare, expanded education opportunities, and increased responsiveness by governments to citizens (Ferro et al., 2006). Broadband as a tool for e-government can assist citizens to be more informed and improve access to government information and service delivery. Indeed, some studies (e.g. Ferro et al. 2006) have revealed a positive relationship between broadband availability and the implementation of e-government services. Generally, governments are able to influence broadband markets either on the demand or on the supply-side to improve e-government infrastructure and private economic activity.

In recent years, a variety of studies have detailed several benefits of broadband networks. These benefits include the ability to expand economic opportunities and innovation, increase trade and productivity, reduce business costs, create jobs and encourage foreign investments (Lehr et al., 2005; Qiang et al., 2009; Kelly & Rossoto 2011). These benefits have been linked to the transformational effect of broadband throughout the sectors of the economy, raising productivity and efficiency (Kelly & Rossoto 2011). Mobile broadband has been found to have a higher impact on GDP growth than fixed broadband, through the reduction of inefficiencies (Thompson & Garbacz, 2011). Broadband lowers costs of international communication and improves the availability of information, enabling companies to access foreign markets more easily and become more competitive. In a study of 27 developed and 66 developing nations, Clarke and Wallsten (2006) found that a 1 percentage point increase in the number of Internet users is correlated with a boost in exports of 4.3 percentage points and an increase in exports from low-income to high-income countries of 3.8 percentage points. Qiang et al. (2009) suggest although this study was not broadband specific, it is safe to infer that broadband would have an even bigger positive impact.

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