Digital inclusion: The future for a productive large population

Digital inclusion, a strategic action to dial up a productive population

Innocent  Emeka Iheanacho
Innocent Emeka Iheanacho

The impact of digitization across the globe, both developed and developing, can not be overemphasized. Countries with strong digital competitiveness, such as the United States, China, Finland, Germany, Russia, UK and Singapore, have continually experienced significant improvements in their economic, political, and social lives. Digitization in these countries has a proven impact on reducing unemployment, improving quality of life, and boosting citizens' access to public services. It has also allowed the governments to operate with greater transparency and efficiency. In 2020, the United States tech sector contributed around $1.99 trillion to the country's overall gross domestic product (GDP), making up approximately 10.5 percent of total GDP.

These developed countries Prioritized digitization by developing and implementing digital inclusive initiatives and policies that would enhance economic prosperity. For them, digitization is a pathway to prosperity. China, for example, implemented a comprehensive push for entrepreneurship and innovation. This initiative would provide state support for ten key sectors in which it aims to become a world leader. Brazil also initiated public and public-private efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship in the country, such as the “InovAtiva Brasil” programme, “StartOut Brasil”, and the National Committee of Start-Up Support Initiatives.

In Egypt, the government has supported the development of six technology parks to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. Also, the Canadian government has invested over $1.2 billion in so-called “Innovation Superclusters” to accelerate business-driven innovation, with the potential to energies the economy. Science, technology and innovation have become key factors contributing to economic growth.

Unfortunately, other countries, especially in Africa, are falling disproportionately behind. For many people in Africa, especially in LDCs, mobile telephony and Internet access remain unaffordable. One reason for this is the cost of broadband Internet access, which remains above the affordability target set by the broadband Commission for Sustainable Development which is 2% of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita for several LDCs. Low literacy level, geographical restrictions, lack of motivation to use technology, lack of physical access to technology, and digital illiteracy contribute to the digital divide. ("Global System for Mobile Communications Association GSMA", also known as GSM).

Africa's digital ecosystem is underutilized as most Africans cannot use digitally designed products such as the mobile phone, internet and other infrastructures needed to facilitate digital inclusion. These might be older people, people living in rural areas, people in lower-income groups, people without a job, people with disabilities, people whose first language is not English etc., and it has continually sealed the African economic potentials in digital inclusion

Over time the countries of the world have been experiencing an increase in population. The united nations revealed that the global population has grown from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.9 billion in 2020. Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent, covering 16.72% of the total world population with over 1.3b people. It is highly imperative to emphasize digitization.

The UN predicted that Nigeria's population would hit 264 million by 2030 and cross the 300 million thresholds by 2036. The current population of Nigeria is 206.1 million based on projections of the latest United Nations data. It is highly significant to create digital platforms and infrastructures that would contribute to rapid technological progress and productivity growth. The government can achieve this through the provision of ICT infrastructures and skills necessary to increase productivity.

The sizeable African population would hugely benefit from digitization as it can open up new opportunities for income generation for millions of poor African people, increase efficient production and distribution of goods and services, enhance connectivity between people, societies, government, and organizations. Unfortunately, Africa is still the least connected region compared to other regions with about 28.2 percent internet coverage and 34% to mobile broadband.

Nigeria being the most populated black nation on earth with over 206 million people, would become better off, as the impact of digitization will positively affect all economic players such as the government, firms and individuals. It becomes imperative that the government and organizations in their CSR agenda create platforms and digital infrastructure targeted at increasing digital inclusiveness in Nigeria.

The government can achieve this using the following strategies.

  1. Partnering with broadband providers to offer low-cost broadband services, most especially in the rural areas
  2. By creating & implementing policies and programs targeted at training and equipping the large populations on modern-day digital skills, most importantly, the less educated, individuals with lower incomes, seniors, persons with disabilities etc.
  3. The ministry of communications and digital economy effectively partners with ISPs and other digital infrastructures providers with the sole aim of ensuring the accessibility, availability and affordability of ICTs in Nigeria.

There are huge social & economic benefits in a digitally managed economy. As the population increases, it becomes more critical to create a smart and seamless mode of operations that would sustain this large population.

"A growing population not well sustained would propel room for unemployment, Income Inequality, poverty and increase crime rate."

‌‌If our large population is digitally informed, there would be room for job creations, especially in the ICTs, and the various sectors of our economy through innovations and inventions, which would boost our GDP. In addition, the impacts would help better the social life of Nigerians as the majority would be able to independently access information, digital tools and skills necessary for economic growth and development.

Nigeria in focus

GDP: $432.294 billion in 2020 compared to $448.12 billion in 2019

Population: 206,139,587 in 2020 compared to 200,963,03 in 2019

GDP per capita: $2,097 in 2020 compared to $2,229 in 2019

OpinionDigital inclusion

Innocent Emeka Iheanacho

Analyst | Economist.