Parliamentarians in Africa have called for more global investment in Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and awareness of the role that it can play in addressing developmental challenges in all sectors of the economy across the continent.They advocated for the creation of awareness among citizens about the potential of DPI, noting that this will serve as a panacea to bolster the regional implementation of digital policies and issues.
This was one of the focal points at the Parliamentarian Symposium of the African Internet Governance Forum, which was part of the 12th Africa Internet Governance, held in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.In an interview with Voice of Nigeria, on the sidelines of the Parliamentarian Symposium, the Secretary-General of AIGF and a member of the Ghanaian Parliament, Hon. Samuel George, said governments and citizens need to know that digital infrastructures are as important as physical infrastructure, especially in the era of emerging technologies.
He noted that for Africa to fully harness the potentials of the 4th industrial revolution and to achieve a smart Africa, both governments and the private sector need to deploy digital infrastructure in a way that will be safe, secure and beneficial to all citizens.Hon. George explained that the symposium’s focus is the Parliamentarians’ Contribution to Shaping Digital Trust on the African Continent” and the crucial role they play in creating a digital future marked by inclusivity, security, and innovation.
The symposium was also an opportunity for Parliamentarians to familiarise themselves with the Internet Government Forum landscape and processes, encouraging active participation in regional and global discussions, updating themselves on pertinent Internet governance and digital policy matters, and magnifying the relevance of legislative work in shaping a trustworthy digital future for the continent.
The Secretary-General of AIGF disclosed that one of the challenges faced by governments in Africa is a lack of insight into Digital Public Infrastructure. He said, “As a politician myself, I know that we have the challenge, and that’s one of the things we reach out to the media on, that you need to help us understand the value of digital infrastructure. Because if a politician comes in and says that we passed a digital rights bill, to them he’s not done anything, as opposed to when he builds a hospital.“So those are the things that influence the decisions that politicians make. So instead of putting in more resources into digital rights, which affect everything you do online right now, they rather focus on bricks and physical infrastructure.
“So you help us to raise the issues of digital rights and digital frameworks. On resources in cyber security and digital rights protection. We need the states to have cyber police station of some sort that takes care of non-state actors and state actors online.“You’re talking about legislation and creating safe spaces on the internet and making sure that governments have the right framework for internet problems and the safety of citizens’ digital rights,” he added.
Following the G20 Leaders Declaration in 2023, Digital Public Infrastructure is a key breakthrough that gives the momentum needed to change course and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, across all 17 SDGs.According to the World Economic Forum, DPI has the potential to address human development issues and significantly contribute to improving sustainability practises and reducing environmental impact, all by breaking down data silos. By harnessing the power of digitalization, digital public infrastructure can thereby also help meet the ambitions of the global Sustainable Development Goals.
For these reasons, the Secretary-General of AIGF explained that by leveraging the power of open, interoperable and scalable systems, digital public infrastructure has emerged as a comprehensive framework that leverages technology to empower citizens and drive digital inclusion.However, he said Africa is on track to implement internet governance and build digital infrastructure “Governments on the African continent are doing a fantastic job when it comes to the processes of digitalisation. We’re seeing a lot more government services becoming digitalised; social services, government services, health care, and justice are becoming digital platforms.
According to Mr. George, in the West African sub-region, Nigeria is leading, “So we believe that governments are doing well”.