Academia set to benefit from two new digital initiatives

Two new initiatives are expected to enable the African academic community to access the internet using their own languages and scripts while also facilitating knowledge exchanges between a range of African and European digital actors, including academia.

The Coalition for Digital Africa (CDA) and D4D Access, an e-knowledge sharing platform, were launched by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the African Union-European Union (AU-EU) Digital for Development (D4D) Hub respectively, during the 17th Annual Internet Governance Forum, which took place under the theme ‘Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future’ at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier in December.

The CDA and D4D Access initiatives are in line with the African Union’s digital transformation strategy for the continent which focuses on digitalisation of the education sector, among others, through harnessing digital technologies and innovation to develop digital skills for achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Coalition for Digital Africa

The Coalition for Digital Africa is an alliance of like-minded local, regional and international organisations committed to building a robust and secure internet infrastructure to bring more Africans online, including members of the Ghana-based Association of African Universities (AAU) and the African Network Information Centre.

The coalition aims at creating connectivity throughout Africa to enable digital inclusivity and creating opportunities to fuel the growth of local content.

Despite the growth of internet use in Africa from 39% in 2020 to 43% in 2022 as indicated in internet world stats, Africa still has the lowest penetration rate worldwide, according to the 2021 edition of Measuring Digital Development: Facts and figures.

This will be done through working on universal acceptance, or UA, which ensures that all valid domain names and e-mail addresses, regardless of length or script, can be used by all internet-enabled applications, devices and systems.

With UA, people who are already connected, and those who will be connected in the future, can communicate over the internet and access local content in their preferred languages and scripts.

The UA approach is in line with recommendations in a 2016 report entitled, Promoting Content in Africa, which called for increasing local-language content to enhance Africa’s internet adoption.

A project led by the AAU will focus on making e-mail and other systems within higher education UA-ready to ensure that the internet is both useful and empowering for all people.

Olusola Bandele Oyewole, secretary general of the AAU, was quoted as saying: “This is an important and welcome initiative for Africa. Improving the technical capacity of higher education institutions across the continent is imperative for a digital Africa.”

E-knowledge sharing platform

D4D Access is a knowledge-sharing initiative that centralises, promotes and disseminates African and European best practices and lessons on the Digital for Development (D4D) platform for policymakers and experts from academia, among others.

Managed by the AU-EU D4D hub, D4D Access covers a wide range of topics, from digital skills to digital entrepreneurship and cyber security, and contains many resources, including reports and case studies to support digital stakeholders in Africa and Europe – including academia – to advance an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation.

The e-platform is open to all African and European organisations, including universities as well as research and academic institutions, to share their knowledge resources on D4D, allowing them to reach new audiences, increase their visibility, host their content and showcase their expertise.

E-knowledge sharing platforms are key to the achievement of the SDGs, as stated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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