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This text is part of the #FASTAfrica Communications Toolkit
Fast, affordable, safe, and transparent Internet should be a priority for African governments. Why? The benefits of access are wide-ranging and significant. Increasing access to a FAST Internet can:
1. Close the digital divide and accelerate development.
In Africa, just one in five people use the Internet. This stands in stark contrast to developed countries, where over 82% of people are already online. Ensuring FAST Internet in Africa will enable billions more to come online, and to take advantage of the life-changing socio-economic opportunities that access to the Internet provides.
2. Improving health care, saving lives
Online health services are already being used to fill critical healthcare gaps, particularly in rural, conflict-affected and other underserved areas in Africa. Access to FAST Internet will expand the ability of citizens to access and use these services. A study by the GSM Association estimates that e-health services, including remote diagnosis, advice, treatment and health education will save over a million lives in Sub-Saharan Africa over five years.
3. Empower women and close the digital gender gap, in line with the AU calling for a special focus on women’s rights in 2016.
Research by the Web Foundation shows that women are 50% less likely to be online than men in urban areas of developing countries, and 25% less likely to use the Internet to find employment. The size of the digital gender gap varies by region, but it is found everywhere. The gender pay gap means that women face higher costs to get online and once online, women are often subject to online abuse. Realising the full range of economic and social opportunities that Internet access enables will only happen when we work to make FAST Internet a reality for all women. A report by Intel estimates that closing the mobile gender gap and bringing an additional 600 million women online could increase global GDP by US$13-18 billion.
4. Contribute to economic growth on local, regional and national scales, including creating 140 million jobs.
If Internet penetration rates in developing countries were raised to those of developed countries, “the resulting economic activity could generate $2.2 trillion in additional GDP … and more than 140 million new jobs,” according to Deloitte.
5. Increase access to educational resources.
Connecting people and schools to a FAST Internet will increase their access to information, educational content, and other resources critical to improving educational outcomes. Rural, poor, and other under-resourced schools will be able to provide their students with affordable or free online content, and their teachers with the background information or training necessary to teach. In remote or conflict-affected areas where schools might be non-existent, an Internet connection can enable individuals to access free and open online courses and to steer the course of their own education. In 2015, only 25 African countries had reached net enrolment ratios of 80% or above, meaning FAST Internet could help millions of children not in education.
6. Improve agricultural production and reduce poverty.
Access to a FAST Internet allows everyone increased access to information. Connected farmers can access information critical to maximising agricultural productivity, including important information on weather, crop selection, and pest control, and can also enable them to connect with markets and determine a competitive market price for selling their goods. According to a study by McKinsey, agricultural growth in Africa is two times more effective in reducing poverty as growth based in other sectors — an estimate that is perhaps not surprising when you consider that agriculture provides 70% of Africa’s employment and contributes 30% to its GDP.
7. Connect people across distances, enhance social well-being.
Social media has become one of the most common ways people use the Web once connected. Social media, email and other online-enabled methods of communication allow loved ones to stay in touch across long distances. They allow refugee and other disaster-stricken communities to communicate and stay up to date on happenings in their home communities. They allow people to coordinate and unite around shared interests and causes, and to organise for citizen-led actions. Though the value of these effects is hard to quantify, the value cannot be overstated.
8. Enhance governance and opportunities for citizen participation.
When an open Web is combined with governments publishing key data sets openly, everyone benefits. New businesses can be built and citizens can spot patterns of waste and corruption. But a new study by the World Wide Web Foundation shows that Africa is falling behind in making critical government data available to citizens. Only Nigeria presents some fully open data to her citizens, and even that is just two datasets.
9. Improve public service delivery, delivering up to $25bn in productivity gains.
Widespread access to a FAST Internet connection encourages governments to move services online, and enables increased numbers of citizens to access public services that might not have previously been available to them — a particularly critical development for those that live in rural areas or areas lacking in government offices and services. Enabling more effective delivery of Africa’s public services could achieve annual technology-related productivity gains of US$10-25 billion by 2025, and can improve both citizen lives and government accountability.