ACP YPN strongly believes that cooperation between EU and ACP countries should not bring about digital inequalities and exacerbate a digital divide, but it should create inclusive digital societies. In this regard, future cooperation should enhance synergies between global strategies, including the action to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or other status.
ACP YPN strongly believes that in today’s digital age, there are plenty of opportunities waiting to be unlocked to benefit both ACP and EU citizens and companies. One of the main opportunities lies in data, including big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, as well as mobility and security. This sector is growing by 40% every year and online platforms for social media, film and music, e-commerce, search engines, amongst others are undergoing digital revolutions, which can be harnessed as part of a future ACP-EU partnership. ACP YPN has identified some key opportunities to be seized by the ACP-EU partnership with the onset of the new, digital economy.
Firstly, ACP countries need to take targeted actions to seize opportunities offered by the new, digital economy in education and entrepreneurship: (I) The development of digital skills in higher education and adults is very important. Revised curricula and international training programs needs to prepare the new generation for a digital world. An exchange programme similar to Erasmus would be an important tool to promote exchanges between young people in ACP and EU with a particular focus on the new, digital economy; (II) Open Access resources (education materials) can be mobilised for use in a coordinated and inter-continental manner. Equally, open online courses can be used for building digital skills and capacities; (III) Reducing barriers to entry for cross-border start-ups should be among the priorities e.g. simplifying registrations procedures for entrepreneurs from different regions (EU or ACP) should be on top of the priorities. Likewise, the applicable rules from the public administrations for investments and registration rules for business should encourage start-ups and companies to take part in the digital economy outside their country of residence. In turn, it is expected that public administrations should have comprehensive and user friendly online presence to facilitate this process.
Secondly, ACP can seek support from EU and aim to develop harmonised legal conditions within ACP countries where all organisations, private and/or public, offering digital goods or services on the ACP marketplace play by the same rules. This will enhance possibilities for coordinated EU-ACP action on digital issues at the international level.
Thirdly, ACP should seize the opportunity to leverage the EU’s experience in developing its own Africa Digital Economy and Society Index (ACP DESI 2020 Initiative) and become capable of establishing high, medium and low performers across ACP for the weighted average of the five main DESI dimensions: Connectivity, Human Capital, Use of Internet, Integration of Digital Technology, Digital Public Services.
Fourthly, ACP countries can leverage the fourth DESI dimension (Integration of Digital Technology), the New Style of IT and EU Development Funds as to invest in developing and supporting ACP industries to become more agile. This would require assisting and training professionals to better procure, integrate and support, affordable and cost effective ICT solutions that not only are the enablers of the digital economy but also beneficial to ACP countries. This will contribute to bridge the digital gap that hinders sustainable development.
ACP YPN has identified some particular areas where the ACP can benefit from the new, digital economy and in turn, boost its partnership with the EU: (I) ACP countries must develop their rules governing the digital market e.g. with regard to management of Radio frequencies and the spectrum and the rules governing Internet. ACP states could for example launch a Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Digital era (so called Internet Bill of Rights); (II) The digital economy, and for example 3D printers, could support production processes to harness their benefits for local and regional development; (III) Intellectual Property laws should be revised to facilitate the preservation of culture and traditions, as culture and knowledge should remain accessible; (IV) Citizenship could also benefit from ICT tools through the creation of inclusive digital spaces i.e. such tools could facilitate existing decision-making processes; (V) Digital tools and platforms can promote closer networks among citizens and in turn, have positive impacts on EU-ACP future cooperation; (VI) ACP countries still need to adopt Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).