Presented by ZTE

Bridging the digital divide in Africa

ZTE is committed to working with African operators and governments to improve connectivity on the continent.

This is according to ZTE Senior VP James Zhang, who was speaking at MWC Africa.

Zhang said the best way to provide equal opportunity is through high-quality, service-rich broadband services and by bridging the digital divide.

There are two main factors that cause the digital divide: the connection gap – where people don’t have access to connectivity – and the usage gap, where networks are not used effectively.

Zhang explained there are three steps that must be taken if Africa is to address the digital divide:

  • Cloud network digital infrastructure – Affordable and accessible connectivity for all.
  • Application development – Build localised apps that are useful to users.
  • Digital culture – People will value relevant digital technologies in their day-to-day lives.

Zhang said unique digital cultures also make it important to analyse local demand and usage when developing content and applications.

These applications and content must make full use of modern network capabilities and edge computing platforms to allow for low-cost trial and error during development.

“This will give developers the ability to develop content and apps at large scale for different regions as well as enable rapid iteration,” said Zhang.

Case study

Zhang used the example of China for how the digital divide can be reduced.

China has achieved 98% optical fibre network coverage in rural areas to provide almost everyone in the country with fast connectivity.

Thanks to this, developers have been able to accelerate their efforts to create rich applications that cover all areas of life in China.

There is now a unique and powerful digital culture within the country and even those over 60 years old are now frequent online shoppers.

Digital culture has been elevated to an even higher level during the pandemic, including e-government, pandemic information dissemination, vaccination inquiry support, and many other use cases.

This was possible because of China’s embracing of digital technologies in everyday life.

Collaboration is key

Zhang explained that ZTE has been working alongside African governments and operators for 20 years to discover the best ways to develop localised communications solutions.

“Through network deployment, we are enabling equal opportunity and digital transformation for public services such as healthcare and education,” said Zhang.

The cloud network platforms ZTE has built alongside operators are also triggering the creativity of thousands of African application and content developers, who are creating valuable apps.

Over time, and provided key industry players continue to collaborate, these creatives can develop solutions that benefit even more Africans and will play a key role in developing a comprehensive digital culture in the region.

“Bridging the digital divide will require every one of us to collaborate,” said Zhang.

“This is also our responsibility and historical mission.”

ZTE joined hands with partners to carry out 5G + innovation practices in 15 industries such as iron and steel, metallurgy, electronic manufacturing, ports, rail transit, mining, power grid, media, cultural tourism, and implemented more than 60 demonstration projects worldwide.

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Bridging the digital divide in Africa