Opinion: Could Facebook In Africa Trigger A Digital Renaissance?

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Written by Staff

From Takepart. Story by James Kassaga Arinaitwe, a Ugandan international development professional, Aspen Institute New Voices fellow, and a global fellow at Acumen.

How do we build a renaissance in Africa? This is a question that thinkers like Patrick Awuah, the Ghanaian former IBM millionaire-turned-educationist, and Fred Swaniker, the founder and CEO of the African Leadership Academy, are trying to answer.

Mobile technology in Africa has leapfrogged development faster and in even more innovative ways than I have witnessed in high-income nations. Africa still leads the way in the mobile technology revolution.

The latest contributor to that will be Facebook. This week, the company announced it will open its first Africa office, in Johannesbrug, South Africa, in September. It is also planning to partner with mobile phone companies to offer Internet.org — free airtime for users when they access Facebook and a few dozen other selected websites.

This is huge for Africa, considering that the continent has 120 million people on Facebook and 130 million more with mobile phones who are not on the social media platform yet. If this is done right, Africa could perhaps lead the way as the world’s first digital “renaissance.”

So, why should you care?

First, a digital renaissance could be a gateway to a democratic revolution in Africa, simply because timely and reliable information has the power to transform lives and the way people make political, business, and personal decisions. We’ve seen this happen in places like Tunisia, Egypt, and Burkina Farso.

Second, digital connectivity across Africa could leapfrog our vestiges of dysfunctional colonial education systems and transform access to real-time knowledge and information sharing. Imagine if theAfrican Leadership Academy, one of the vanguards and case studies of what a great education for all youths in Africa could look like, packaged its curriculum and made it open source for secondary schools and pre-universities across Africa to use. This could revolutionize the way education is achieved in Africa, using simple tools such as mobile phones and Internet connectivity.

Third, the open source could create windows of opportunity for universities with limited resources to perform research and development, making it easier for youths to carry out innovation in health care, agriculture, finance, and other sectors of the economy.

Read more at Takepart.