Achieving digitalization goals requires countries to develop an overarching digital strategy or agenda. The purpose of a digital strategy is to shape the digital transformation and development process while setting specific objectives and goals as well as measures and policy recommendations specifically made for the regional or local context.
Digital strategies should encompass all areas of digitalization in different sectors and should be designed based on a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis which determines the degree of digital maturity of the specific country/region.
In an interview with Tomas Lamanauskas, now Deputy Secretary General elect of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Geraldine de Bastion (Konnektiv) explores policy as a process. The following excerpts are part of an interview conducted before the election of the Deputy Secretary General of ITU.
On the basis of a comprehensive digital strategy governments and decision-makers can formulate specific policies in each of the defined sectors. Hence, an all-encompassing digital strategy sets the path for a detailed action plan and the following policies.
This article focuses on the two regional digital strategies that are making way for continental digital transformation and collaboration, namely those of the European Union (EU) and of the African Union (AU).
Shaping Europe’s Digital Future
‘A Europe fit for the digital age’ is one of the six priorities of the European Commission for 2019-2024 and is the EU’s digital strategy. The objective, which the EU labels as a ‘human-centric digital policy’, is for a digital transformation that benefits its people while safeguarding the EU’s values. The EU’s digital strategy acknowledges the essentiality and vast integration of digital technologies nowadays and seeks to ensure a beneficial digital transformation that goes together with Europe’s 2050 climate goals.
According to the European Commission, it will pursue the following three objectives in order to achieve its goals to become a global digital player:
- Technology that works for people
- A fair and competitive economy
- An open, democratic and sustainable society
The EU’s digital strategy also seeks to position the EU as a global leader in digital transformation. The EU is committed to support economies of the Global South with their digital transformation as well as developing digital standards applicable everywhere. The EU’s close cooperation with the AU is an example for its commitment to said goals.
The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030)
The African continent’s untapped economic potential makes an exhaustive digital transformation strategy even more necessary than in any other place. The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (DTS) sets on this premise while envisioning an ‘integrated and inclusive digital society and economy in Africa that improves the quality of life of Africa’s citizens, strengthen the existing economic sector, enable its diversification and development, and ensure continental ownership with Africa as a producer and not only a consumer in the global economy’. Furthermore, the objective of the DTS is to mobilize and make use of digital technologies to achieve inclusive economic growth all the while creating job opportunities, eliminating poverty and minimizing the digital divide. The pursuit of sound digital transformation in Africa will contribute to the Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa is grounded on the following pillars:
- Enabling Environment
- Policy and Regulation
- Digital Infrastructure
- Digital Skills and Human Capacity
- Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The African DTS defines six sectors (Digital Industry, Digital Trade and Financial Services, Digital Government, Digital Education, Digital Health and Digital Agriculture) as critical sectors driving the African digital transformation. It also singles out cross-cutting themes (Digital Content & Applications, Digital ID, Emerging Technologies, Cybersecurity, Privacy and Personal Data Protection as well as Research and Development) to support the digital ecosystem.
AU-EU Digital Partnership – Digital Development Cooperation
The Africa-EU Partnership started in the year 2000 and serves as a starting point for intensive EU-AU collaboration in many areas. It is a crucial aspect in the creation of the AU digital strategy. The AU adopted many recommendations from the AU-EU Digital Economy Taskforce (DETF) report in its own digital transformation strategy. The four main points of the DETF report (Connectivity, Digital Skills, Digital Entrepreneurship and E-Services, including e-Governance, e-Health, e-Commerce and e-ID) overlap with those of the Digital Compass of the EU. One common goal is to each create a Digital Single Market (DSM) on their continents. Both unions have already started developing and also implementing measures towards a DSM.
The D4D Hub, a project of the Africa-EU Partnership. The EU is furthermore sharing its experience in building its own DSM with the AU and is also supporting the AU through the Policy and Regulation Initiative (PRIDA).
In conclusion, the African-European collaboration is certainly deemed crucial by both the AU and the EU in order to achieve Africa’s digital transformation goals.