President Middle East and Africa Mastercard, Raghu Malhotra, listens to Onica Makwakwa of the Alliance for Affordable Internet World Wide Web Foundation at a WEF Africa panel discussion on closing the digital divide. PHOTO: ANA
Durban - Access to the internet was a basic human right. This was according to Onica Makwakwa of the Alliance for Affordable Internet World Wide Web Foundation at a panel discussion on closing the digital divide at the World Economic Forum in Durban on Thursday.

 "When I am online, I no longer live in a shack," Makwakwa said. Makwakwa called for internet access to become both more accessible and affordable for people across the African 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 would spend up to 80% of their income on staying connected. 

She also suggested multi-stakeholder partnerships to develop smart policies, for example implementing water piping and fibre cabling projects 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 see attending the session. 

Mastercard President, Middle East and Africa, Raghu Malhotra, said the use of the QR code would 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.