Preparing the ground for a human-centric digital transformation: how can Africa and Europe work together?

The AU-EU D4D Hub is hosting a brainstorming session to gather views on the principles that should guide joint digital initiatives
transformation numérique centrée sur l'humain

Any change, idea or initiative requires fertile soil to germinate and grow fully. For this to happen, all the different elements must be optimal, from temperature to light conditions.

In the same way, for digital technologies to deliver on their full potential to improve people’s lives, we need to prepare the ground and ensure that all the necessary conditions are put in place for innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital transformation to thrive.

As Africa and Europe move forward to strengthen their digital cooperation, it is worth stopping for a moment to question which are the different ingredients that will allow this partnership to enable a human-centric transformation. Which should be the principles guiding joint digital initiatives and how to implement them?

In this spirit, the brainstorming session “Bringing people at the centre of the AU-EU digital partnership”, to be held at the European Development Days (EDD) on 21 June, will gather different digital stakeholders to discuss how to promote a human-centric digital transformation in the context of Africa-Europe relations.

In preparation for the session, this blog hints at some of the elements that could nurture a common ground for the seeds of an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation to sprout.

Inclusiveness is the right temperature

The COVID-19 pandemic put the spotlight on the enormous potential of digitalisation to keep societies functioning in times of crises. Access to remote working, e-education, digital public services, and remote health — amongst other digital solutions — became key to resilience. However, the pandemic also painfully demonstrated the consequences of the digital divide, as not everyone was able to cope equally with the impacts of restrictions and lockdowns.

If we are to build a digital economy and society that truly “leaves no one behind”, it is critical not only to improve access to digital technologies and services, but also to ensure that everyone is empowered to take full advantage of their potential, for example with the necessary digital skills.

With 70% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population under the age of 30, supporting youth is particularly relevant for Africa-Europe digital cooperation. Women and rural populations are also underrepresented and underserved, requiring an “extra push” to eliminate the historical, institutional and structural barriers that limit their access and use of technology.

In this sense, how can Africa and Europe work together to ensure that everyone can take part in the digital world? We might require a change of mindset to inclusive-by-default.

A digital transformation soaked in participation

Digitalisation has the potential to strengthen participation and democracy. Digital technologies allow people to have a greater and simpler access to information and platforms for expression, thus empowering them to take a more active role in society. However, new challenges such as online abuse and misinformation need to be addressed for the digital space to foster exchange and dialogue, and most importantly, enable articulated joint actions.

How can joint Africa-Europe digital initiatives support a digital transformation that responds to people’s needs and helps them get involved in the democratic process? How can we facilitate an online public sphere where everyone can contribute to actively shape their future?

A ray of privacy, security and real choice

All people should be protected and empowered in the digital age. It is the responsibility of governments to ensure a safe and secure online environment where users are in control of their personal data, can make informed choices, and are protected against cybercrime.

What kind of legal frameworks, regulations, and policies do we need to put in place to protect people? How can we ensure that such measures are enforceable and that users’ freedoms and rights are guaranteed?

A breath of sustainability

Fighting climate change and environmental degradation is one of the major challenges of our time. Digital technologies could be leveraged to promote green growth and transform these threats into opportunities to build a sustainable future.

For the twin transition (green + digital) to become a reality, however, digital products and services need to be designed, produced, and disposed of in a way that reduces their negative impact on the environment and society.

How can Africa and Europe ensure that the digital transformation benefits not only present but also future generations? What kind of initiatives do we need to harness its green potential?

Plant your thoughts

These elements will be discussed during our brainstorming session at the EDD. If you can’t join us physically, or if you already have brilliant ideas that you would like to share with our team, we invite you plant your thoughts on our MURAL BOARD 🌱