To date, the dominant narrative of Africa’s digital revolution has been one of techno-optimism. The spread of digital technology – from broadband inter- net to biometric identification systems – is frequently cast as a solution to all kinds of political, economic and social ills.
Unfortunately, such simplistic narratives belie a more complex reality. Over the past two decades, Africa has experienced an unprecedented wave of technological diffusion and innovation. At the same time, digitization has done little to enable the continent’s leaders to address many of the core security and governance challenges – from rising conflict to declining democratic liberties – that their countries face.
This is because the impact of technology can never be divorced from the context in which it is used. Africa’s digital revolution carries with it significant potential for benefit, but also enormous downsides, threats and challenges. This report is intended to help achieve a better understanding of these downsides, and to consider how African states, citizens and the international community can work together to address them.