We live in an exciting era where technology is rapidly evolving into innovations such as artificial intelligence, big data and fintech, driving change and reforming businesses, markets and economies all around the world. Digitization undoubtedly, becomes a significant theme in global forums evaluating the Future of the world.
In Africa, Kenya is one of the leading countries in ICT development alongside Morocco and Nigeria, with a growth of roughly 25% in internet penetration between 2001-2016. Its digital economy has been advancing with the growth of ICT as a development pillar in the country’s comprehensive development strategy called Vision 2030. This Digital Economy blueprint recognizes five fundamental pillars as catalysts for a robust Digital Economy namely: Digital Government; Digital Business; Infrastructure; Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship and Digital Skills and Values. Kenya also has a target of creating one million jobs from the technology space and multi stakeholders including the government are committed to realizing this goal.
Along with the government, young people in Kenya have taken on commendable initiatives and seized opportunities to improve technology in the nation. Nelly Cheboi, a 29-year-old software engineer, was named the CNN Hero of the Year due to her philanthropic work through her company TechLit Africa where she provided access to digital education for children in her rural village. As the CNN Hero of the Year, Nelly will receive $100,000 (Sh12 million) to expand her work.
Certainly, digitization is a critical component of a nation's development because it significantly contributes to economic progress by enabling people to use their resources more effectively. Benoit Denis, a senior economist for digital initiatives at the European Investment Bank, asserts that "Digitalization is the great leveler of opportunities. Investing in digital education, infrastructure and services can increase gender equality, foster resiliency to climate change and support the achievement of numerous UN Sustainable Development Goals. “
Despite the benefits of digitalization, nearly 2.9 billion people around the world, especially women and girls, still lack a telephone, computer, or internet access. This is due to a lack of infrastructure in place to incorporate digitization and inadequate financial resources to invest in innovation and digital technology. There is therefore a need for collaboration with multi stakeholders and strategic investments to bridge this prevalent digital divide.
To ensure that digitalization supports sustainable development, policies must be set in place to create positive impact while guaranteeing that no one is left behind. The degree of wealth and well-being at the global level can be increased as well as acceleration of progress towards realizing the SDGs, if every nation focuses on its own national digital strategies and policies. The UN Secretary General has established a Task Force on Digital Financing of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of his broader Roadmap for financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: 2019-2021. The Task Force’s mandate is to recommend and develop strategies leveraging digitalization to accelerate SDG financing.
Just like industrial and agricultural revolution, we can promote sustainable development through digital revolution.
Ruth Nzomo is a passionate SDG advocate and international development professional with experience in successfully implementing strategies that deliver results in Economic Growth and Sustainability. Her career spans experience in economics, finance, public relations and international development. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Financial Economics that has enabled her to analyze economic policies of member states as she worked in COMESA, the main economic trade bloc in Eastern and Southern Africa. Ruth’s own journey to achieving SDGs has been fueled with an unrelenting passion for empowering people and promoting sustainability. She has worked in various leadership capacities including UN-SDSN-Youth and other community centers. She has coordinated various youth-led programs in collaboration with UN-SDSN, KCIC, and other organizations to drive sustainability.
Her budding passion in sustainability has driven her to create impact, grow her career and speak to audiences worldwide as she has been featured in the UNICEF-Generation Unlimited and UN-Joint SDG Fund speaking on youth concerns and sustainability. Today, she works with Fairtrade Africa; a global non-profit organization that fights the injustices of conventional trade by fighting for fair terms for farmers, where she is currently running a Youth programme in universities in Africa that seeks to establish partnerships with youth, who presently make up Kenya’s and Africa’s largest (70%) demographic thus possessing power and influence to drive change.