Indeed, there are still internet connectivity challenges on the continent, with millions unable to connect to the internet. Covid-19 has emphasized the "digital divide", which is the uneven access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in societies.
For example, the DRC’s nationwide measure, which was also adopted by many other countries worldwide, was the closure of schools. However, unlike some parts of the world with sufficient e-learning facilities, Congolese pupils and students have not had alternative means to study. A shift to e-learning was relatively easier to implement in the developed world, with ready access to both the necessary devices, connectivity, and the essential digital skills. But most learners from the developing world do not have access to digital gadgets that can connect to the internet such as computers or smartphones, and many do not have ready access to the electricity needed to operate these devices. The high cost of internet data is also a hurdle.
It is also clear that the Coronavirus has brought about two different views in terms of the digital disparity in Africa between the rich and poor, between the connected and the unconnected.
Digital Solutions to the Pandemic
Despite these challenges, the ICT Industry has grown significantly in Africa, with incubators, start-ups, and ICT activities spreading across the continent. Specifically, many young Africans have created digital solutions using various technologies to provide help for the pandemic. In the DRC, one such incubator is Kinshasa Digital Academy, which, at the request of the presidency and Ministry of Health, developed a website for raising awareness, that garnered more than 100,000 visitors.
Further initiatives by the local authorities to embrace a digital transformation during this pandemic include the creation of a Chatbot, through the coordination of Facebook with the Ministry of Health. This chatbot uses the WhatsApp platform that will assist the Covid-19 Response Advisory Board to fight against rumours and disinformation on the coronavirus pandemic.
On the African continent more generally, many African start-ups are using technology as a solution to Coronavirus. FabLab, an innovation hub in Kenya, has developed an application called Msafari, which can be used to track people on public transport. In Morocco, a Covid-19 tracking application called Wiqaytna6 was launched in June 2020. The application can be downloaded onto mobile phones and uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Bluetooth technologies. Once a case is found, the application, using the above technology, triangulates the person’s movements over the last 14 days. Users who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive are notified with a text message.