The Enabling Architecture for a Digital Economy
The book The Enabling Architecture for a Digital Economy by Prof. Kwaku Appiah-Adu, and Mr Franklin Asare, is a comprehensive and informative guide to the digital economy.
The authors employ illustrations and case studies to illuminate the various facets of the digital economy from skills through cybersecurity.
I have summarised the key themes thus:
● Digital skills rendered as a foundational element in harnessing the digital economy. The emphasis in this chapter is that the digital landscape is more about the people than the technology itself. The authors share statistics on the demand for digital skills in the Ghanaian labour market estimated to reach nearly 9 million by 2030. They emphasise the important complement of tech hubs where many African countries are channelling skills to innovation, and go further to make recommendations for the traditional educational system, including:
i. Revision of syllabi to embrace digital skills as a requirement.
ii. The adoption of digital skills in instruction (digital pedagogy).
iii. Direct feedback loop between industry and education sector regulators.
In an era being revolutionised by generative artificial intelligence, I think the call for a revision of our approach to education and learning is crucial.
● Digital storage – recognises the Cloud as the new approach to storage, and as the backbone of the modern Internet and the myriad of applications dominating our lives. There is a note on the need for African nations to catch up with local cloud infrastructure - advocating local solutions. It has been noted that recent major breakthroughs in AI have been driven by advances in storage and in compute power.
● Connectivity – as foundational infrastructure, the pipes through which we experience the digital economy in all its facets.
● Digital integration – many of us have come to appreciate the importance of “interoperability” in our experiences with how mobile money connects across telcos, banks and other financial services. They refer to the magic of APIs and share examples including the tax identification number in Ghana being based on integration with the national ID, which also links to national health, social security and other services. The authors call for outstanding gaps in integration to be bridged with a common architecture on a national level across all public sector applications.
● Databases – a deep dive is presented in this chapter where the authors point out the need to overcome siloed data sets, posing the question: “how many times have you had to get in line to register for one government service or another”? – from birth registration to marriage, census, mobile number registration, etc.. They make a call for national leadership to streamline data collection across a citizen’s lifetime and put forward practical solutions on a national digital strategy for citizen data linked to the national ID, consistent with the examples shared in the chapter on digital integration.
● Digital applications – a reference to how most of us experience the digital economy, through the applications we use everyday for communicating, banking, entertainment, productivity, ordering groceries or lunch, et al.
The authors highlight the different application platforms such as USSD that enable feature phones to participate alongside smartphones, and essentially what has enabled the pervasive growth of very important applications like mobile money.
They recommend national frameworks and standards for public sector applications to ensure they are citizen friendly and inclusive.
● Business intelligence – here the authors focus on decision-making aided by digital technologies and highlight the need to emancipate data from purely technical teams to non-technical business leaders who can make use of the insights in important and significant determinations.
● Cybersecurity – having highlighted the opportunities, the authors flip the coin to depict the risks inherent in advancing the digital economy. They emphasise the need to ensure safety of cyber infrastructure and continuous securing of digital systems upon providing a stark assessment on cyber risk globally.
● Data privacy & protection – in a bonus section of the book, the authors point out the threats to individuals, organisations and nations as records are digitised and the need for protection of confidentiality and sensitive information with a reference to Ghana’s Data Protection Act.
● The digital economy is a global phenomenon that is transforming the way we live, work and play.
● Organisations (both public and private) need to be agile and adaptable in order to keep pace with the rapid pace of change in the digital economy.
● The primary focus is on people, and thus digital skills and empowerment to enable them to build and harness the digital economy.
There’s a chapter or a section of the book for both techies and non-techies, for students as well as for policymakers.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in understanding the underlying architecture and in harnessing this phenomenon we call the digital economy.