Of all the technological discoveries made in the past decade, none of them has brought the world closer as the World Wide Web. Thanks to the internet, people previously separated by distance can now connect in a much faster and more frequent manner. This has led to an increase in cross-cultural and intercontinental interactions. It is reported that there were 4.13 billion internet users by 2019 which is tantamount to 53.6% of people in the world .
The internet’s ability to connect people renders it a powerful tool for socioeconomic development. Today, people use the internet to run businesses and manage other commercial services such as tourism, travel and online shopping.
Internet access however has not been uniform across all demographics and geographies. Closer to its inception for instance, half the US population had access to the internet, but about 99% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa did not have access to the internet in 2000 . Fast forward to today, this gap still exists even though the number of internet users in Africa has increased over the years. Currently, Africa’s internet penetration is at 39.3% compared to 62.9% of the rest of the world .
This internet disparity has systematically stunted the growth of African economies, making it harder for the continent to catch up with the rest of the world. In 2012, only 1.1% of Africa’s GDP was attributed to the internet but 3.7% for developed economies .
More significantly, the devastating effects of Africa’s internet deficiency were brought to light by the COVID-19 global pandemic. As the number of COVID-19 cases increased worldwide, governments took drastic measures to shortchange the spread of the virus. Accordingly, businesses were physically shut down, as well as social gathering spaces and schools.
Consequently, the internet became a crucial tool in reconnecting people and helping companies and other sectors to keep operating safely. Even though coronavirus cases have been relatively lower in most African countries, the region still experienced the burden of disease with regards to socioeconomic implications.
The pandemic has exposed the need and urgency to close the internet gap between Africa and the rest of the world. While some countries have slowly transitioned to relying on the internet for most tasks, most African countries are having a harder time adjusting due to the internet gap that already existed before. For instance, in the United States most schools resorted to online learning as an option. However in most African countries, education completely came to a halt, leaving a lot of students frustrated by the uncertainty of their futures and multiple educators out of jobs.