Introducing our new mini-series, ‘Digital Africa’


During the next few weeks, I’ll be running a blog series on African innovation and technology, “Digital Africa” to showcase creative programs and products that are using the Internet and mobile technology to help reduce poverty in Africa. Even low-tech innovations can have a huge impact on individuals and communities in Africa. By having access to the same types of innovations that we here in the Western world take for granted, lives can be saved and communities can grow.

Africa’s tech rates are booming. Since 2000, internet usage in Africa has increased by 2,357.3 percent. What’s more is that the largest increases in internet usage in the past decade have all been in African countries: DRC (730 fold), Somalia (530 fold) and Congo (490 fold).

So what does this increase mean? Well, for every 10 percent increase in broadband Internet penetration, there is 1.38 percent in additional GDP growth in developing countries. For example, within 18 months of implementing online applications, the Ghanaian government reduced customs processing times from several weeks down to just two days and also increased customs revenue by 49 percent.

World leaders and donors are starting to think creatively about how technology can be leveraged in terms of development, global health and overall poverty-reduction. “We could dramatically expand the reach of care, giving any woman with a cell phone a chance to deliver her child safely,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, the government of Norway and Grand Challenges Canada have all joined forces to seek innovative prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in rural, low-resource settings. With an expected $50 million in funding over the next several years, they hope to take new approaches in technology to solving these problems and aspire to achieve a transformative effect.

Technology making a huge impact in many sectors of African industry, like health care. In an effort to cut down on the transmission of blood-borne diseases, UNICEF has distributed auto-disable syringes that are designed for single use and are inoperative afterward, thanks to an internal one-way valve.

It can also be used to expose crime and corruption in Africa. Satellite Sentinel has teamed up with partners like Google to monitor civil war activity in the North-South border of Sudan, providing an early warning system for thousands of Sudanese people.

There are many more examples like this that I can’t wait to share with you. I’ll be profiling game-changing organizations like mHealth and Ushahidi in the weeks to come, so stay tuned. Technology can make a huge impact on our development challenges and offer a pathway to increased opportunity on the African continent — truly something to be excited about!