E-government survey 2022: African countries show improvement but high data charges widen digital divide

Gathering adequate investment for e-government development has been a challenge for Africa

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Tuesday 18 October 2022
E-government survey 2022: 4 countries score above world average but high data charge drives digital divide Photo: iStock

South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tunisia fared the best among African countries in digital transformation and governance, according to a new report. 

These places scored the highest in the scope and quality of online services, status of telecom infrastructure and existing human capacity, according to the United Nations E-government Survey 2022These places scored higher than the world average.

Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Cabo Verde, Algeria, Kenya, Gabon, Botswana, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Namibia and Zambia followed in the rankings.

This is for the first time that Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Zambia have moved to the high E-Government Development Index (EGDI) group, according to the report. 

South Africa has become the regional front-runner in e-government development. Among the 16 countries in the high EGDI group in the continent, 14 are upper-middle-income or lower-middle-income countries. Only Seychelles is a high-income country and Rwanda is the only low-income country.

The digital divide across the continent persists and may widen without the adoption of targeted, systematic measures to assist low-income and lower-middle-income countries, the analysts noted.

Europe remains the leader in the index, followed by Asia, the Americas, Oceania and Africa.

Countries in Africa have made significant improvements in their telecommunications infrastructure, building a solid foundation for accelerating the transition to digital government, the authors of the report noted.

But the cost of mobile broadband subscriptions as a percentage of gross national income per capita remains significantly higher in Africa than in other parts of the world, contributing to the digital divide.

South Africans pay up to 85 rand ($5.29; Rs 435.3) per gigabyte of data, a cost equivalent to nearly four hours work for people earning the minimum wage.  

In Africa, 61 per cent of the countries offer an average of 12 public services online. Nigeria, Rwanda, Angola, Egypt and South Africa started offering 20-21 online public services for the first time, the report revealed.

In all regions, the number of countries offering online services for individuals in vulnerable situations — including people living in poverty, persons with disabilities, older people, immigrants, women and youth — has increased since 2020. Africa has registered the most notable increase (9 per cent), the findings showed.

Gathering adequate investment for e-government development has been a constant challenge for the continent, the authors of the report observed. 

The latest report is the 12th edition of the UN assessment of the digital government landscape across all 193 member states.

This edition of the survey includes data analysis in global and regional contexts, a study of local e-government development based on the United Nations Local Online Service Index (LOSI). 

Many African countries implemented digital measures, with a majority focusing on distance learning and vaccination services, and others also providing telehealth and online scheduling for medical tests, the analysts highlighted. 

“The proportion of countries offering all four types of services is 40 per cent in Africa,” read the report. 

They called on governments to strategise and invest more in long-term national digital transformation plans. 

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