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Access to internet for Africans is not the end goal

Access to internet for Africans is not the end goal

Bridging the digital divide should not be seen as an end in itself according to global internet advocacy group Internet Society (ISOC) which marked 25 years of its work for the open development and use of the internet with the release of its 2017 Global Internet report today.

The report details the challenges and opportunities in the internet ecosystem and makes recommendations for safeguarding the internet over the next five-to-seven years.

Pria Chetty, regional director at EndCode who delivered a keynote address at the Johannesburg leg of ISOC's 25th anniversary celebrations, says the emphasis on policies and laws to ensure access in Africa is no longer the only solution.

"We have discovered that access is only a step towards the real solution. What we need now is detailed understanding of how we access opportunities that are enabled by the internet. We are looking at a maturity in internet laws and policies all around Africa that is translating the initial urgency around access to one about digital opportunities that can be derived from access. It is not just about cables and it is not just about devices or internet speeds. It is about security, privacy and how this ecosystem comes together to promote opportunities for trade and empowerment on the continent."

The report found that the link between security and economic prosperity will grow, leading to the potential of a security divide that separates those individuals or countries who can protect their digital assets and those who cannot.

Sally Wentworth, Vice President of Global Policy for ISOC says the Report found that people from all around the world share a sense of both optimism and disillusionment, in equal measure, regarding the future of the internet.

"While there are no guarantees of what lies ahead, we know that humanity must be at the centre of tomorrow's internet. The internet must continue to benefit people and create new social and economic possibilities to fulfil the premise on which it was built. We should heed the warnings in this Report and begin to take the actions today that will help to keep the Internet working for everyone, everywhere far into the future," adds Wentworth.

The Global Internet report notes that advanced deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence will transform whole economies and societies in the coming years through automation and the convergence of the physical and digital worlds.

This transformation will change the nature of the digital divide from its historical definition as the divide between those that have access to the internet versus those that do not.

The report also states that as internet growth shifts from the historically strong digital economies in North America and Europe to emerging markets in Asia, Latin America and Africa, new innovation leaders and technology hubs will emerge from these markets.

It is predicted that these new entrepreneurs will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the internet economy as a whole.

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