n Innovation : journal of appropriate librarianship and information work in Southern Africa - When the last mile becomes the longest mile : a critical reflection on Africa's ability to transform itself to become part of the global knowledge society

Volume 2013, Issue 46
  • ISSN : 1025-8892



In this article the question is asked to what extent Africa can become a knowledge society characterised by global connectivity and the ability to not only utilise knowledge but also to generate new knowledge in support of sustainable development, economic growth and human wellness. The question is approached from two interrelated perspectives. The first perspective focused on the importance to connect people via communication networks to the global body of knowledge. This is the last mile problem. In the second perspective the focus fell on human capacity building and the ability of people to not only fully utilise the information but also their ability to create new knowledge. This is referred to as the longest mile problem. It is concluded that most African countries have made tremendous strides in the last decade to address the last mile problem. This is evident from the increase in broadband availability as well as the rapid growth in the use of mobile technologies. It is furthermore concluded that Africa still has a long way to go with regards to human capacity development. It is argued that in many respects this still remains the longest mile for Africa in her efforts to become a prosperous knowledge society. Although some progress has been made with regards to primary and secondary education there is a lack of investment in tertiary education, and with a few exceptions the research infrastructure on the continent is still largely underdeveloped. This seriously hampers Africa's efforts to become an equal partner in the global knowledge economy.

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