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Joint effort will bring billions online

By LIU YUKUN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-11-10 11:00
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Nii Quaynor, Ghanaian computer scientist

Ghanaian computer scientist Nii Quaynor on Wednesday called for further cooperation between Asian and African countries to enable access to the internet for the billions of people who don't have it yet, in order to close the digital divide and facilitate a shared digital future.

Quaynor, known as "Africa's father of the internet" who promoted the establishment of some of the continent's first internet connections, made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the ongoing World Internet Conference.

"The theme (of the conference), 'Toward a Shared Digital Future in a Connected World — Building a Community With a Shared Future in Cyberspace', is of particular interest to me. The world is connected and there is no doubt we have a shared digital future. The value rests with the communities with a shared vision and future," Quaynor said.

"The daunting task facing Africa and Asia is the subject of the 'last billions of internet users'. While they are more difficult to bring on board for varied reasons, our collaboration hopes to help those without access to connectivity. We hope we would accelerate the onboarding of new users," he said.

Data provider Statista showed that, as of December last year, the internet penetration rate in Africa was 43.1 percent, lower than the global average of 66.2 percent. While in Asia, the rate was 64.1 percent.

Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing, said the digital divide — the gap between people who have access to digital information and those who don't — has a large impact on global economic cooperation in many aspects.

Zhou said regions with a low internet penetration rate are at a disadvantage in digital trade, which makes up a large part of global economic activities. "Today a lot of information and goods are exchanged through digital channels. Digital products also make up a big proportion of trade. Regions that have an underdeveloped digital economy are in a less favorable position when it comes to such trade and investment."

Quaynor said the current high pace of internet development can challenge the ability of the new (users) to join and participate in relevant communities, while community participation is driver of a shared future in cyberspace.

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