Contributors : Remmy Nweke (Vice President ACSIS) , Akinremi Peter Taiwo (Regional Coordinator ACSIS West Africa), Mohamed Farahat (ACSIS Egypt), Wisdom Donkor (ACSIS Ghana), Dora Sende (ACSIS Cameroun), Dr. Chris Prince Udochukwu Njoku (ACSIS Nigeria), Paul Patrice Gomse (ACSIS Cameroun), Dr. Cissé Kane (President ACSIS),

 Introduction


It is expedient to build an adequate overview of the place of ICT in rural and remote areas anywhere in the world on clear understanding of what technologies constitute ICT.  We to this end chose to work with UNESCO’s definition of ICT, as it covers the breadth of ICT better than many other definitions in literature.

UNESCO (2002, p. 10) defines ICT as “forms of technology that are used to transmit, process, store, create, display, share or exchange information by electronic means”.  This definition, as rightly analyzed by Njoku (2015), captures such technologies as radio, television, videotape, audiotape, tape recorder, CD, DVD, flash drive, memory card, telephone (both fixed line and mobile), satellite, and computer hardware, software and networks.  It captures also services associated with these equipment and devices, such as videoconferencing, e-mail and blog. In this contribution therefore we look briefly at the benefits of ICTs to the rural environment in Africa. We also detailed challenges associated with the remote villages.  We finally made recommendations on the way forward with ICT for holistic, sustainable development of Africa.

Who We Are

The African Civil Society on Information Society (ACSIS) represents the interest of the internet users across the African countries and in the diaspora. ACSIS is proud to have more than 500  individuals and organizational members across Africa and in the diaspora. And as a network of academics, private and civil society and internet end users, we represent a broad section of global internet community.

We welcome the opportunity to contribute to the work of ITU study group 2 that is seeking contribution on the impact of information and communication technologies in rural and remote areas of Africa. We found this call very interesting and are ready to contribute to the research of the ITU Study group.

While appreciating the opportunities and involved stakeholders, ACSIS take the pleasure to identify with the ITU study. It’s imperative that the world pay much attention to the exclusion and the cities divide that exist on the planet earth. Africa is a house for 54 countries, 15 out of these countries are faced with landlocked situation. Many of these countries find it difficult to connect cities and villages. The remain countries that are coasters region are limited in ICTs capacity for cities to rural integration.
The failure to rollover ICTs infrastructure across the entire environment has given room for social to economic disadvantages of those people categorise to living in remote areas.

The Situation of African Rural and Remote Areas

Most African rural and remote areas cannot easily be accessed by a car (because of terribly bad roads). Neither can they be reached in a helicopter (as there is rarely a field adequate for landing). Still there are those that have water as their only means of transportation to and from neighbouring areas. Level and quality of education in them is very low as their schools receive less attention from government than city schools in terms of number and quality of teachers, equipment and other facilities, and a majority of a rural or remote community members are so poor, unenlightened and non-motivated that they cannot organize meaningful self-help support for the school(s) in the community. Girl education is still a taboo in many, while child marriage is characteristic in some others.

Agriculture with manual implements is the main occupation in these areas, with women constituting much of the labour and men controlling the little income therefrom.  Some areas combine subsistence agriculture with fishing (which is the chief occupation in riverine areas) or with handiworks like smithing, cloth weaving with loom, and making of baskets, mats, beads, or rafia hats.  These occupations rarely lift the rural/remote people beyond poverty line owing to absence of structures (such as functional cooperatives) and inability to get product standardization and certification services, which hinder access to high pricing market.  Also, climate change, pests, erosion, windstorm and bush burning even threaten the subsistence production, and any farm produce in excess of family consumption in a farming year is usually lost to poor storage systems. These socio-economic deficiencies give credence to the statement by Mbokoko (n.d., Paragraph 1) that “Problems of food and poverty are rife in rural Africa.”

Just as Correa and Pavez (2016) reported about Chilean villages, African rural and remote communities lag far behind their urban counterparts not only in education and economic status but also in technological infrastructure.  Fixed telephone lines are evidently not for them, and in spite of benefits of Internet connectivity mentioned by Whitacre, Gallardo and Strover (2014) and others, Internet provision is still at experimental or scarcely dependable stage in only a few areas.  

Again, because of traditional absence of electricity and other energy sources required for many vocations and agro-processing business, the youth (who are becoming disgusted with traditional peasant agriculture and poorly-priced handicrafts) are emigrating in large numbers to cities.  Predominance of aged men and women in the rural and remote areas as a result of the youth exodus obstructs adoption, adaptation and utilization of ICT in the areas, as most old people are not as eager as young people to use ICT (Madden et al., 2013).

Harnessing the opportunities of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the African rural and remotes areas is a growing concerns that demand a rapid response for market accessibility, information sharing and innovation. The  landlock, geographical distance and economic conditions of most remotes areas in Africa has completely isolated them from the opportunities of the neighbouring cities of access to ICTs services such as education, financial and market data, communication,employment, skills development, accessibility to research and research works, industry expert, mentoring, investment opportunities etc. It’s therefore, imperative to make use of ICTs to connect rural to cities to global economy for seamless information availability and digital services synchronization. Looking at the geographical layout of rural environment, investment in a borderless ICTs infrastructures would be highly needed for quality digital services and to change the outlook of most rural areas.
We therefore believe that leveraging on different ICT infrastructure technologies and its implementation would enable fast integration of  African rural to the rest of global economy.

References

African Development Bank (n.d.). Infrastructure development. Retrieved 09/08/2018. From https://www.afdb.org/en/knowledge/publications/tracking-africa%E2%80%99s-progress-in-figures/infrastructure-development/

African Farm Radio Research Initiative (2007). The economics of rural radio in Africa. http://www.communicationsafrica.com/radio/the-economics-of-rural-radio-in-africa , 06/08/2018.

Anzalone, S. & Bosch, A. (2005). Improving Educational Quality through Interactive Radio Instruction. The World Bank, Africa Region, Human Development Sector.

Arokoyo, T. (2003). ICT’s for agriculture extension transformation. Proceeding of ICT’s transforming agriculture extension?  CTA’s observatory on ICT’s. 6th consultative Expert meeting. Wageningen, 23 – 25 September.

Correa, T., & Pavez, I. (2016). Digital inclusion in rural areas: A qualitative exploration of challenges faced by people from isolated communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 21(3). https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12154,

Ekoja, I. (2003). Farmer’s access to agricultural information in Nigeria. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 29(6), 21-23.

FAO (2001). Knowledge and information for food security in Africa: From traditional media to the Internet. Rome, Italy: FAO, Sustainable Development Department, Communication for Development Group.

Nazari, Mohammad Reza (n.d.). Impact of television on rural development. Retrieved 07/08/2018. From http://eprints.um.edu.my/3342/1/IMPACT_OF_TELEVISION_ON_RURAL.pdf.

Njoku, C. P. U. (2015). Information and communication technologies to raise quality of teaching and learning in higher education institutions. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 11(1), 122-147.

Mbokoko, B. (n.d.). Economic conditions for rural development in sub-saharan Africa. Retrieved 06/08/2018. From http://www.fao.org/docrep/w4760e/w4760e0k.htm.

UNCTAD (2018, August). “Let’s make Africa a digital Africa,” Jack Ma tells entrepreneurs. News, August 08, http://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=1833&utm_source=CIO+-+General+public&utm_campaign=47df13b492-UNCTAD+CSO+Newsletter+16+November_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3d334fa428-47df13b492-70504805.  

UNESCO (2002). Information and Communication Technology in Education: A Curriculum for Schools and Programme of Teacher Development. Paris: UNESCO.

Watson, Katie (2018). The state of broadband connectivity in Canada’s rural and remote regions. Retrieved 09/08/2018. From https://www.internetsociety.org/blog/2018/05/the-state-of-broadband-connectivity-in-canadas-rural-and-remote-regions/.

ACSIS September 2018