The Dalberg Global Development Advisors have issued a new report that indicates that the Internet is a tremendous, undisputed force for economic growth and social change in Africa.  The study focused on the current and potential impact of the Internet in four countries: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

Based on a survey of more than 1300 businesses, including nearly 1000 SMEs and extensive interviews with experts across Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Nigeria this report arms policymakers with data on the social and economic benefits of broadband and Internet. It also uses extensive secondary research and qualitative and quantitative analysis to support policymakers in harnessing the Internet’s potential. Finally, it provides actionable recommendations across policy portfolios.

“The Internet is a tremendous, undisputed force for economic growth and social change. Not only has it unleashed new forms of connectivity, but it has also provided an outlet for new forms of innovation, entrepreneurship and social good. The Internet has also proven a dynamic tool for stimulating economic growth in developing countries, with the World Bank reporting that a 10% increase in broadband correlates to a 1.38% increase in GDP growth. Beyond GDP growth, the Internet also provides opportunities to pursue social and developmental objectives.” The report said.

Case study Countries
Case study Countries

Among its findings were that the Internet’s potential is still largely untapped in Sub-Saharan Africa, and although 15% of the world’s population lives in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 6% of the world’s Internet users do.

According to Dalberg’s survey, more than 80% of SME owners expect that the Internet will help them grow their business, and 70% of those expect to hire new employees as a result. Historically, Internet applications have focused on marketing and communications, but solutions focused on service delivery are on the rise.

While there is limited evidence of the impact of Internet-enabled solutions on health outcomes, governments are forging ahead to create enabling environments recognizing the impact on operational efficiencies and cost savings in service delivery. By developing eHealth policies and strategies, and committing to interoperability, the governments of Kenya and Ghana have helped spur the development of applications that can be integrated onto government platforms. Nigeria and Senegal’s eHealth sectors have several pilots in place, but they are yet to be scaled. Policymakers should ensure that there is an eHealth strategy in place, coordinate the various ICT developers that seek to build atop those systems and continue to bring health care administration costs down by encouraging health care providers to adopt networked technology..

In agriculture, Internet-based solutions are demonstrating impact on operations, leading to direct impact on household incomes: Survey results of over 1 300 firms cited “access to information” as one of the Internet’s most significant benefits for their businesses—but agricultural firms voiced the strongest emphasis with over 70% of respondents ranking access to information as ‘essential’.

SMEs within the sector have used a range of new tools, such as Nokia Life Agricultural Services and Ghana’s Esoko, to obtain information that was once difficult to find over long distances, such as market prices and weather information. In addition, Internet-enabled supply chain management has significantly reduced shrinkage and leakage—two key problems faced along vast, multiplayer value chains.

You can download the full report here.