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Africa’s hunger for greater access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) demonstrates that technology is perceived as a solution to many socio-economic demands. As the global digital divide threatens to widen even further, African countries have expressed the desire to bring technology to their citizens as quickly as possible. However, there are concerns that private and foreign investors will create a demand for usage that meets commercial interests instead of social needs. Careful forethought about the relevant social, economic and cultural contexts is necessary if Africa is going to capitalize on the new access to technology. If Africans are going to take advantage of the opportunities offered by ICT to advance socio-economic development, they will need to acquire relevant applications and skills.

Several critical principles define the best way to improve the impact that ICT can have on local communities, including:

Undoubtedly, two central challenges for African countries will be how to regulate and govern. Local forecasting of the market demand of ICT services is crucial. Appropriate and systematic measurement and evaluation is necessary from both a quantitative and qualitative sense, so that solutions can adjust to the shifting demands of the end-user. The principles highlighted above are a step in the right direction. Different needs create different uses that can’t yet be predicted. What needs to be taken into consideration is that simply providing a platform is no panacea. In the future, each country needs to manage its different stakeholder interests appropriately. By understanding their underlying and competing agendas, countries can ensure that investor interests are closely aligned to national socio-economic requirements, for the true benefit of their citizens.

-- MM & SW