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Durban - "When I am online, I no longer live in a shack"

That was the sentiment shared by Onica Makwakwa, Africa Co-Ordinator for the World Wide Web at the panel discussion on closing the digital divide at the World Economic Forum this morning. 

Makwakwa gave a powerful and impassioned plea for internet access to become both more accessible and affordable for people across the continent.

"Access to internet is a basic human right, the same as access to water and electricity. We need real policies around competition to drive prices down," she said, adding that some young people in Africa will spend up to 80 percent of their income on staying connected.

She also suggested multi-stakeholder partnerships to develop smart policies, for example implementing water piping and fibre cabling project at the same time and highlighted the need for free public access, especially in schools and libraries. 

South Africa's Minister for Information and Communication, Siyabonga Cwele was spotted at the session.

Mastercard President, Middle East and Africa Raghu Malhotra, who was la for credit and loans become easierso on the panel, said the use of the QR code will bring 110 million new consumers into digital banking. 

"I don't think internet will ever be free, but the scale of users can drive down costs. We have an integrated business model built around people with key focus on affordability, access and education.

Ade Ayeyemi, Group CEO Ecobank Transnational said digital banking such as the QR code provided access to a person sitting under a tree, running a corner shop or driving a taxi.

"This type of banking also provides a track record where applying for loans becomes easier. 

It was agreed that user centred apps are crucial where the needs of marginalised communities are considered and that education of basic internet skills, such as a parent registering a child for school, is needed. 

INDEPENDENT MEDIA WEF TEAM