One of the main priorities of the current Estonian EU presidency is the promotion of digital solutions and technologies in development cooperation. “Digital for Development” was therefore high on the agenda of the 11 September meeting of EU ministers and Commission Vice President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, who specifically mentioned the Digital4Development initiative that is supported by the head of EU foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini.
Mr. Ansip said that the development agenda had been covered by €32 billion from the EU budget for development over the last decade, and by another €82 billion coming directly from the member states. However, the part specifically earmarked for digital had been very small – about 500 million in total. To compare, the French multinational telecommunications company Orange was spending €1 billion on digital every year, or even more.
Moving the development agenda towards digital is very timely since the use of smartphones is getting widespread in Africa and African farmers are now able to get information about market prices and thus increase their revenue by up to 20%. Digital in Africa is mostly driven by the private sector and some EU member states have already been very committed to the issue.
“You can make miracles in Africa by investing small amounts of money in digitalization,” Commissioner Ansip said and described the example of the Nigerian government who has invested about 10 million to connect two existing registries – the population register and the register of civil servants. This helped unravel that the state had been paying for 63,000 ghost workers, to the tune of $1 billion, an amount that has been now returned to the state budget.