Building digital public infrastructure: Multilateral collaboration, investment key — Telecel Ghana CEO
• Patricia Obo-Nai — Chief Executive of Telecel Ghana
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Building digital public infrastructure: Multilateral collaboration, investment key — Telecel Ghana CEO

Technology is evolving at a lightning speed and Africa clamous for an enabling technology-led model to enhance and accelerate  growth that is collaborative, equitable, and democratises opportunity at population scale.

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It is against this background that the Chief Executive of Telecel Ghana, Patricia Obo-Nai has made a clarion call for stronger multilateral partnerships and cooperation between industry, government, and investors to accelerate the growth of digital public infrastructure in on the continent. 

Delivering the keynote remarks on ‘Digital Infrastructure and Innovation: Accelerating Africa’s Development’ at the Mobile Technology for Development (MT4D) session of the 3i Africa Summit on Wednesday, Ms Obo-Nai outlined a roadmap for leveraging technology to fast-track digital infrastructure, innovation and literacy across the continent.

"My first call on the topic is for cooperation and partnership between governments, industry, domestic direct investors and foreign direct investors to work together on increasing digital public infrastructure if we are serious about it. Let's not just discuss, let's implement" Ms Obo-Nai said.

She highlighted three key areas that require attention to expedite the integration of technology into public service to benefit every community - infrastructure, innovation, and digital literacy.

1) Future-proof infrastructure

Citing a report on the state of mobile internet connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa that showed that 15% of people on the continent remain without network coverage, and 

59% have coverage but are not connected, Ms Obo-Nai advocated for expansion of safe, resilient and high-quality communication.

"As a service provider, Telecel, we believe in investing in network infrastructure and will continue to do so. However, we also believe in participating in infrastructure sharing and co-investment programmes to close the gap," she said. 

This will ensure the much-needed progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 9 to provide universal and affordable access to the internet across Africa.”

2) Innovation powers progress

Quoting the e-Conomy Africa report which revealed that Africa's digital economy is one of the largest overlooked investment opportunities with a potential to add US$180 billion to Africa's GDP by 2025, the Telecel Ghana CEO also charged stakeholders to invest in Africa's innovative capacity and prioritise invention in schools and industry. 

“Innovation is the fuel that powers progress and drives change. We must be more deliberate and invest in tapping into the innovative capacity of our talents and prioritise innovation in schools and industry to drive development at scale.”

3) Ripple effect of digital literacy

Making the case for the scaling up and adoption of digital literacy programmes in schools to equip African youth with skills for the digital economy, Ms Obo-Nai said, 
"If we have the infrastructure and sort out all the innovative solutions, will we have an African population ready to take advantage of it and accelerate our development?"

With Africa's working-age population projected to increase to approximately 450 million individuals from by 2035, she was optimistic that expanding internet accessibility holds the potential to generate millions of job opportunities and upskill young people for tech opportunities in the digital landscape.

“Governments and businesses must invest in digital literacy programmes to equip African youth with the skills needed to thrive in the digital economy, from coding to digital marketing to cybersecurity and data analytics. Instil digital technology knowledge in our young people right from primary school and build their exposure.”

Crack the code

Ms Obo-Nai advised stakeholders to go beyond the dialogues and implement the shared solutions to ensure the acceleration of Africa’s development through digital public infrastructure.

Together, we must crack the code to realise the full potential of Africa's digital revolution and development."

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