Digital transformation among the priorities of Germany’s new strategy for Africa

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has launched a new Africa Strategy dedicated, among other goals, to ‘lend[ing] structural support to the achievement of the development goals set by the African Union (AU) and its member states’.

Titled ‘Shaping the future with Africa’, the strategy notes that Germany’s cooperation with Africa will be based on respect and reciprocity, and anchored into Africa’s priorities and initiatives. Moreover, ‘the BMZ wants to engage in a dialogue with Africa rather than about Africa. It advocates for the voices of African states and the AU to be heard appropriately within multilateral fora.’

Digital transformation features among the focus areas for development cooperation (as part of a broader cluster titled ’employment, fair trade, migration and digital transformation’). First and foremost, Germany intends to contribute to the growth of digital economies across Africa by providing support in areas such as (a) enhancing relevant economic and political frameworks; (b) creating digital markets; (c) enabling secure, universal internet access and bridging digital divides; (d) fostering legal standards and data privacy regulations; (d) stimulating the creation of jobs in the ICT sector. Mobilising investments in digital infrastructures and supporting the implementation of the African Common Free Trade Area are also envisioned.

But supporting digital transformation across Africa relates to more than the digital economy. BMZ will also be directing its development cooperation towards supporting (a) enhancing women’s economic participation, including through providing training for women with a special focus on digital expertise; (b) the digitalisation of healthcare; and (c) the digitalisation of the public sector and the use of digital technology to strengthen political participation.

IBM announces new agreement with Australia to support the country’s digital transformation

IBM Australia has announced the signing of the next iteration of the Whole-of-Government Arrangement with Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). Under this arrangement, IBM will support the Australian government in its move towards accelerated adoption of innovative technologies.

The new cooperation will focus on:

  • protecting government data in the cloud;
  • strengthening the government’s cybersecurity capabilities;
  • exploring how quantum technology could help improve services for Australians;
  • adopting and measuring more sustainable practices across government agencies;
  • growing the digital skills capabilities of Australian public servants. 

Third annual report for US National Quantum Initiative published

In the USA, the National Science and Technology Council published the third annual report for the National Quantum Initiative (NQI), as required by the NQI Act (enacted in December 2018 to accelerate American leadership in quantum information science (QIS) and technology).

The report notes that the USA has been making ‘substantial and sustained investments in QIS research and development to explore a wide range of applications and nurture a culture of discovery)’. Efforts are also being undertaken to develop a quantum workforce and ensure that Americans have the opportunity to benefit from participation in QIS.

Details are provided on the work carried out by different US agencies on QIS-related policy topics such as investing in fundamental science and engineering, investing in infrastructure, developing the workforce capacity, engaging with the industry, maintaining economic and national security, and encouraging international cooperation.

One key conclusion of the report is that ‘while the development of QIS technology is at an early stage, now is a critical time to develop the fundamental scientific knowledge, infrastructure, and workforce needed to create new applications for QIS-inspired technologies, grow the marketplace, and foster an ecosystem for basic, applied, and translational research in this field’.

US government launches Digital Transformation with Africa initiative

The US government has launched a Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative dedicated to ‘expand[ing] digital access and literacy and strengthen[ing] digital enabling environments across the continent’. The USA plans to dedicate over US$350 million to this initiative, which is expected to support the implementation of both the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy and the US Strategy Towards Sub-Saharan Africa. DTA’s objectives revolve around three pillars:

  1. Digital economy and infrastructure: (a) expanding access to an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet; (b) expanding access to key enabling digital technologies, platforms, and services and scale the African technology and innovation ecosystem; (c) facilitating investment, trade, and partnerships in Africa’s digital economy.
  2. Human capital development: (a) facilitating inclusive access to digital skills and literacy, particularly for youth and women; (b) fostering inclusive participation in the digital economy; (c) strengthening the capacity of public sector employees to deliver digital services.
  3. Digital enabling environment: (a) strengthening the capacities of authorities and regulators to develop, implement, and enforce sound policies and regulations; (b) supporting policies and regulations that promote competition, innovation, and investment; (c) promoting governance that strengthens and sustains an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure digital ecosystem.

Airtel and UNICEF collaborate to connect Nigerian students to digital learning

In early 2023, as part of the Reimagine Education Initiative, Airtel will connect 620 primary schools in Nigeria to digital learning through its partnership with UNICEF. The implementation of the project will take five years. In the first year, Airtel and UNICEF will deliver digital learning resources to the 620 identified schools: to twenty schools this December and the remaining 600 before the end of February 2023. The project will provide a reliable telecommunications network and free access to a curriculum through the Nigeria Learning Passport (NLP), an e-learning platform developed by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and Microsoft. In addition, Airtel will provide free access to the Youth Agency Market Place (YOMA) digital platform to any Airtel subscriber.

Meta partners with Nigerian organisations to combat disinformation ahead of 2023 elections

Meta announced a partnership with the Independent National Elections Commission (INEC), civil society groups, and local radio stations to combat the spread of disinformation and protect the integrity of the Nigerian 2023 general elections. The approach has also been informed by conversations with human rights groups, NGOs, local civil society organisations, regional experts, and local election authorities to make it easier for audiences to distinguish trusted content from dubious claims. For instance, the official Facebook page on the 2023 elections will have a blue tick that confirms the authenticity of the results posted on the INEC official website. Additionally, Meta has quadrupled the size of its global teams working on safety and security to about 40,000 people, including over 15,000 content reviewers in every major timezone. Collectively, these reviewers are able to review content in more than 70 languages, including Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa.

US National Institute of Standards and Technology issues draft guide for trusted IoT onboarding and lifecycle management

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and its National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) published a draft practice guide for trusted internet of things (IoT) onboarding and lifecycle management. This guide demonstrates how organisations can protect their IoT devices and networks. It details standards, practices, and technology to demonstrate mechanisms for trusted network-layer onboarding of IoT devices. The guide also shows how to provide network credentials to IoT devices in a trusted manner and maintain a secure posture throughout the device lifecycle.

US Department of State and University of Maryland sign MoU to build capacity in the area of quantum technology

The US Department of State and the University of Maryland signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build capacity in the area of quantum computing. The University of Maryland Quantum Technology Center (QTC) will supply the department with technical information and input regarding the latest developments in quantum technologies and related enabling technologies. This partnership aims to ensure that the US department’s international initiatives are informed by a sound technical understanding of quantum technologies.

EU-US Trade and Technology Council holds third ministerial meeting

The third ministerial meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) was held on 5 December 2022 in Washington, DC, USA. During the meeting, the two parties:

  • Reiterated the importance of cooperating on trust and security in the ICT ecosystem and noted that the TTC Working Group on ICTS security and competitiveness plans to discuss transatlantic subsea cables’ connectivity and security, including alternative routes, such as the transatlantic route to connect Europe, North America and Asia.
  • Reiterated their commitment to developing and implementing trustworthy artificial intelligence (AI), building on the Joint Roadmap on Evaluation and Measurement Tools for Trustworthy AI and Risk Management.
  • Announced plans to launch a pilot project to assess the use of privacy-enhancing technologies and synthetic data in health and medicine.
  • Announced plans to establish an expert task force to strengthen research and development cooperation on quantum information science, develop common frameworks for assessing technology readiness, discuss intellectual property, and export control-related issues as appropriate, and work together to advance international standards.
  • Announced progress on increasing standards cooperation, for instance through the Strategic Standards Information mechanism meant to enable the EU and the USA to share information about international standardisation activities and react to common strategic issues.
  • Announced that the US Department of Commerce and the European Commission are entering into an administrative arrangement to implement an early warning mechanism to address and mitigate semiconductor supply chain disruptions in a cooperative way.
  • Stressed the importance of eliminating the use of arbitrary and unlawful surveillance to target human rights defenders, and expressed concerns over government-imposed internet shutdowns.
  • Announced plans to enhance transatlantic trade, for instance through developing joint best practices for the use of digital tools to simplify or reduce the cost of commercial actors’ interactions with the governments in relation to trade-related policy, legal requirements, or regulatory requirements.
  • Announced the launch of a Talent for Growth Task Force to facilitate exchanges of experiences on training and capacity building and serve as a catalyst for innovative skills policies.

These and other commitments and initiatives are outlined in the joint statement issued at the end of the meeting.

NIST issues the second draft of its practice guide for mobile device security

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a second draft of the practice guide, Mobile Device Security: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD),  for public consultation. The guide offers possible solutions to organisations that deal with security and privacy needs when enabling their employees to bring their own mobile devices. The deadline for comments is 13 January 2023.