At its simplest, oAfrica is a showcase of the dynamic African digital landscape. Although every African citizen may not have the chance to access the Internet for years to come, African digital opportunities are rapidly expanding.
Our site covers information on how people in each African country are using the Internet – a daunting task. We routinely post news summaries, analyze data, and scour social media channels to find the latest information. It is important to stress how two African nations can rarely implement the same methods to foster sustainable online growth. The reason: a tangled web of political ideologies, economic barriers, and geographic constraints necessitate unique approaches for development. In order to achieve success, a nation needs to encourage key spheres to converge, notably technology infrastructure, business environment, social values, and government vision must align. The word “Africa” is often used to reference the continent and macroscopic trends, but we take care to not group individual nations with the rest of the continent.
We are especially fond of data. Alone, numbers provide little guidance, but with some care they can become a powerful barometer for change. Much of the information found on this site is based on data published by other organizations. We always consider the reputation of these sources, but the reader must keep in mind that all data should be interpreted with a grain of salt. An inherent problem with the data is that it relies heavily on the past. Another is the vast geographic ICT skills gap. Either way, we attempt to look beyond pure numbers when making assumptions and conclusions.
Additionally, writing about business in countries that are not one’s own is not a neutral activity. The goal here is to relay information that strikes us as notable and accurate. We aim to discus Africa’s ICT field with subtlety. That is, this site is not meant to be a forum for intense debate or an online community. Those sites already exist under ultra-skilled leadership. Instead, we seek to present information with an objective slant. Generally, our voice is positive, since most African ICT developments are just that. And, it is our belief that overly negative attitudes will stifle innovation. That said, we do not cover up questionable business dealings or short-sighted government decisions.
External content is extremely important as well. To provide a truly accurate and well-balanced picture, we cite a variety of articles, reports, and publications written by experts in the field. In the same vein, we realize the importance of local content generation and wish to support African efforts as much as possible. Much of the content we share is less-than-scholarly but represents the reality of African innovation.
Finally, we ask readers to keep the core of the following excerpt in mind when accessing our content:
While there has been great value in focusing on the profound digital differences between developed and developing countries, the downside has been a potential and insidious distinction between civilized tool-users and uncivilized non-users. What is missing is a deeper focus on the “true” knowledge needs or particular cultures and communities, and the relevance of ICT to individual social contexts.” – Perspectives and policies on ICT in society, ed. Chrisanthi Avgerou and Jacques Berleur, IFIP TC9, 2005, 16.
How oAfrica came to be:
oAfrica is the product of countless nights and weekends of research, interaction, and labor. The site began in August 2009 as a project to raise awareness of how Africans – everyday citizens and entrepreneurs alike – constructively utilize the Internet. I have always had a passion for the Internet and all of the doors it can open. However, the project soon took on greater meaning. I was surprised at the sheer volume of information relating to ICT and felt the urge to help organize even a fraction of it. The opportunities for mobile technology to improve health and agriculture are enormous. What’s more, I was amazed at how news stories from large economies like Kenya dominated global headlines about Africa and left exciting news from smaller economies in the dark.
Every African should have the right to Internet access. It’s a matter of working for the common good.
I ask that you never take your bandwidth for granted.
-Tim Katlic (Founder & Editor)