African countries could boost their economies by increasing high-speed Internet access and affordability, according to a report by the World Bank.
For every 10 percentage-points of increase in high speed Internet connection, the authors found that economic growth rises 1.3 percentage points.
“In this report there’s a lot of evidence that where you have broadband, you have innovation, you have lower transaction costs, and you have higher trade and exports,” said the report’s editor Christine Qiang.
Sub-Saharan Africa Ranks Lowest
The seven countries that ranked lowest on affordability, access and usage of Internet and Communication Technologies were all in sub-Saharan Africa.
The reason less than one percent of Africans have access to high-speed Internet is because it is still too expensive and the quality is sub-par, explained Philippe Dongier, another author on the report.
Still, progress is being made, he says. For example, in countries along the east coast of Africa, the World Bank is working with private investors to install underwater fiber-optic cables.
Mauritius a Tech Success Story
Mauritius also serves as good example.
In 2000, before the government started implementing reforms, Mauritius was ranked near the bottom, along with Ethiopia.
“The government was very vigorous in terms of sector reform,” Qiang explains. “And now eight or nine years later, Mauritius scores about an eight, on a scale of one through 10, which I think is quite outstanding.”
Public-Private Initiatives Key
The authors say the report is proof of how important it is for governments to create a market mechanism for the Internet and communications industry.
“This is a sector where the private sector has been really the engine for growth. And in that sense, it’s not about aid. It’s really about policies to make markets work so that the economies can grow.
“It’s also important for governments to partner with industries, to go even faster than what the market can do, so that they can really take part of this global phenomenon and be part of the global economy,” Dongier says.