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Learning in the open

This post is part of the Green Web Fellowship. Fellows are exploring the intersection of digital rights and climate justice; and are reflecting honestly on what they learn. More about the fellowship and the fellows.

Africa needs stronger collaboration towards greener digital transformation

Digital transformation in Africa is projected to lead to economic growth of up to $180 billion by 2030. In fact, the World Bank estimates that every 10% increase in broadband penetration in low and middle income countries leads to a converse 1.38% growth in GDP.  To this end, African Union member states aim to achieve this vision through the implementation of the Digital Transformation Strategy, Data Policy framework among others. 

However, it is estimated that the ICT sector contributes at least 1.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions amounting to approximately 730 million tonnes CO2-eq. While these contributions may not be as much as other industries like aviation, reduction in emissions from the ICT sector would still largely contribute to climate change mitigation. 

Digital Transformation across African member states

Currently, a number of efforts are required to promote greener digital transformation across African member states. For instance on energy, Statista reports that by 2020, at least 9% of the continent’s energy was derived from renewable sources. The International Renewable Energy Agency also reports that several African countries are making steps through creation of policies, regulations and investment promotion to use renewable energy such as solar, wind and Hydro energy. However in order to promote more investments in renewable energy, collaboration and cooperation is required to create financing for such projects both from the private or public sector. Moreover, it’s great to involve local communities in the design of the project, and create responsive solutions to community problems. 

Beyond energy, connecting more Africans results in an increase in demand for digital devices, whose cost of importation may be even higher depending on national taxation legislation. More incentives are required to encourage local production of digital devices. Such incentives may prescribe greater benefits for greener solutions developed by the private sector. 

The need for collaboration

Moving away from infrastructure, more collaboration is required on the social layer of the internet. Increased digitalization increases the types and frequency of digital risks to climate activists as well. These risks may include violations to privacy or online harassment. In this case, cross industry collaboration from digital rights activists and climate activists is required to increase resilience against such risks. These may include digital security trainings, technical support to install robust digital infrastructure or organization cyber security services. 

This support extends to tackling climate related misinformation or disinformation. Across the continent, there is growing research on the impact of misinformation or disinformation on political events and limited information on its impact on climate change mitigation. Collaborations between these forensic investigators and climate activists is also required to find evidence based research for advocacy. 

Overall, collaborations across different stakeholders such as government, private sector, civil society is required, even more necessary is cross industry collaboration and co-operation and community participation to ensure greener digital transformation is achieved. 

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