Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Comments on the Digitalization and Digital Divide in the Horn of Africa (HoA), Kenya and Ethiopia: The Media Perspective

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

Comments on the Digitalization and Digital Divide in the Horn of Africa (HoA), Kenya and Ethiopia: The Media Perspective

Article excerpt


Many African countries have shown strides in the adoption and distribution of digital tools and media. However, there are still challenges in terms of digitalization and digital media development in many African countries one of the main challenges being digital divide. The Horn of Africa (HoA) located in the eastern most of the African continent is one of Africa's most conflicted regions as well as a region of promising economic development. The findings of the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Measuring the Information Society 2015 report - focused on the ICT Development Index and topics of access, and affordability equally ranks countries in Africa at the bottom of the level in terms of access and affordability.

The World Bank's World Development report states that the dividends of digitalization economically benefited the few rich and it is understandable that most African countries fall within the less benefitting groups since the majority of the population the Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) has one of the most poor people in the world together with South Asia. The review of these reports reveals that users - such as ordinary Mobile, Telecenter, and the non-user, developers and advertisers are not given sufficient coverage or focus. Similarly, the rural poor in the developing world, the victims/those at the bottom of the digital divide and the mass media are not also treated in these "flagship" reports. Most importantly, the case of mass media digitalization, new media, digital security and freedom has not been dealt with elaborately and specifically in any of the research reports.

Journalists and digitalization experts across Africa and Europe are interviewed for this research. In other words, methodologically, the interview method purposively sampled eight interviewees from the whole of the digital media ecosystem rather than simply focusing on journalists hence a number of ICT experts and academics, journalists, developers, financers and regulators have been contacted from across Africa and Europe. The sample made every effort to include a diverse population of interviews from different gender, geographic, educational and expert groups. The review of secondary materials and reports supplemented the interview method of this study. The literature review and the theoretical discussion dwells on theories and reports on new/digital media broaching the issue from a human resource, Information Technology (IT) and journalistic perspectives to figure out the ecosystem.

The research questions are "What do the latest available data show about the opportunities of digitalization in the HoA specifically Kenya and Ethiopia and what are the main digital divide related challenges that the new media outlets and experts in the region face?"

The literature review aimed to include a part on the digital transition in Africa in general and a second part about the transition to digital media and divide in Africa in particular. Then, the review allowed the identification of open questions and thus allowing an understanding of what the main factors limiting or representing a constraint to the digital transition of media in Africa or the region of interest, the Horn of Africa, are.

Digitization vs. Digitalization

Before delving into detailed discussion of digitalization and its intricacies in African media, it is worth defining digitization and digitalization; two terms are often used interchangeably but wrongly. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines digitization as the "the action or process of digitizing; the conversion of analogue data (esp. in later use images, video, and text) into digital form" and digitalization is as "the adoption or increase in use of digital or computer technology by an organization, industry, country, etc." It is the later definition that we are interested in for the sake of this discussion. Brennen and Kreiss [1] using the Oxford dictionary definition elaborate digitalization as "the way in which many domains of social life are restructured around digital communication and media infrastructures. …

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