Collaborative Initiatives on Digital Literacy in Africa

How collaborative initiatives between local communities, educational institutions, and technology developers enhance digital literacy and information fluency across Africa


The digital revolution has impacted many countries throughout the world and transformed every aspect of life, including communication, trade, education, and governance. However, Africa continues to face major gaps in internet access, digital literacy, and socioeconomic growth. The digital gap refers to unequal access and use of digital technology, which exacerbates existing social and economic disparities (Hilbert, 2016). Africa confronts substantial obstacles in closing the digital divide, including low internet access, expensive costs, and inadequate infrastructure (Internet Society, 2020). The digital gap has serious effects, including exclusion from the global economy, limited access to information, and reduced prospects for education and work (Warschauer, 2003).

Digital literacy is a necessary skill for accessing information, communicating, and navigating the digital realm. It is required to navigate and evaluate online content, communicate effectively, and participate in the digital economy (American Library Association, 2019). Individuals with information literacy are able to successfully locate, assess, and apply information, allowing them to make educated decisions and solve problems. In the digital age, digital literacy and information literacy are essential for civic engagement, education, and employment (Holm, 2024). With the constant availability of information online, information literacy enables people to make well-informed decisions in a variety of areas, from personal health to civic engagement, spanning geographical and cultural divides.

Due to the rapid advancement of technology, it is critical that communities, educational institutions, and technology companies collaborate to ensure that technology satisfies community needs while also cultivating knowledgeable and capable individuals. Collaborative projects can help close the digital gap by offering accessible and relevant digital technology, training, and support (UNESCO, 2018). Local communities, educational institutions, and technology developers must collaborate to develop context-specific solutions, increase digital literacy, and enhance information fluency (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010). Such collaborations can promote equitable and sustainable digital development, allowing African communities to fully engage in the digital era (ITU, 2019). Local governments, academic institutions, and digital enterprises can work together to employ technology to solve regional concerns, establish interesting educational programs, and create a more prosperous and inclusive future while also bridging the digital divide that affects many African countries.

Literature Review

Digital literacy has emerged as a cornerstone for effective teaching, learning, and participation in the digital age. The American Library Association (2019) defines it as the ability to leverage information and communication technologies (ICTs) to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information. The concept has been evolving since the late 20th century, with various organizations offering their own definitions. Information fluency, a core element of digital literacy, refers to the ability to “locate, evaluate, and use information effectively” (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2015). To guide the development and assessment of digital literacy and information fluency, multiple frameworks have been established at international, national, and local levels. The Digital Literacy Framework (DLF) and the Information Fluency Framework (IFF) serve as prominent examples, providing a structured approach to understanding these key competencies.

Numerous digital literacy initiatives have been implemented across Africa to bridge the digital divide and enhance digital literacy skills. However, research suggests these initiatives face recurring challenges, including limited infrastructure, a dearth of digital content relevant to local contexts, and inadequate funding (Sun et al., 2024). Subaveerapandiyan et al. (2022) investigated digital literacy skills among African library and information science (LIS) professionals, revealing a need for upskilling and practical training in advanced digital literacy areas, particularly in emerging technologies like big data and artificial intelligence.

Letlotlo (2022) examined the influence of digital literacy initiatives in South Africa through a National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) case study. Their findings highlighted the positive impact of digital literacy training on employment opportunities, particularly in sectors demanding strong digital skills. The study also found that training programs that go beyond basic computer literacy and integrate job-specific applications lead to better employment outcomes. Similarly, Agina-Obu et al. (2023) explored the impact of digital literacy on Nigerian university students’ use of digital resources, concluding that digital literacy directly influences student utilization of such resources and their ability to critically evaluate information encountered online. Supporting these findings, Suwana’s (2021) research in Nigeria suggests that collaborative initiatives between educational institutions and technology developers can effectively improve digital literacy skills among students, particularly when the training is tailored to address the specific needs and challenges faced by the educational institutions.

Collaborative projects outside Africa

Beyond Africa, successful collective projects serve as valuable models for informing initiatives on the continent. The European Union’s Digital Literacy Project trained over 100,000 individuals across 10 countries, demonstrating the potential of large-scale, collaborative efforts. The project’s success stemmed from its focus on building partnerships between governments, educational institutions, NGOs, and private sector actors. The Australian Government’s Digital Traineeship Program tackles digital skill shortages and fosters diversity within the public service workforce. This program highlights the importance of addressing not just the skills gap but also ensuring equitable access to digital skills development opportunities.

Collaborative projects within Africa

Within Africa itself, several collaborative initiatives aim to address digital literacy needs. These include Africa50’s Innovation Challenge, which supports innovative solutions that leverage digital technologies to address challenges faced by African communities. The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project implemented in Rwanda, South Africa, and Nigeria provided students with laptops and access to educational content, though challenges related to sustainability and content relevance were identified.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project

The KALAAN project in Ivory Coast focuses on improving digital literacy skills among women and girls. The collaborative effort between NITDA (National Information Technology Development Agency) and GIZ/DTC (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit/German Corporation for International Cooperation) in Nigeria is another example, where the focus is on developing a National Digital Literacy Strategy for Nigeria. Rwanda’s Smart Classrooms Initiative aimed to equip classrooms with technology and digital learning resources.

Students during IT class in a smart classroom at College St Andre Nyamirambo. / Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva.

These initiatives offer valuable insights into strategies for promoting digital literacy in the African context, highlighting the need for context-specific solutions, public-private partnerships, and a focus on both access and the development of relevant digital skills. 

The Role of Local Communities

Local communities play a crucial role in increasing digital literacy and information fluency throughout Africa. Recognizing and supporting their leadership and ownership of digital literacy programs is one way to empower them as change agents (Sun et al., 2024). This method empowers communities to take control of their digital literacy requirements and create context-specific solutions (Suwana, 2021). For example, the African Digital Literacy Program enabled local communities to create their own digital literacy training programs, resulting in a considerable increase in digital literacy rates.

Local communities have unique information and resources that can be used to improve digital literacy programs. Local languages, cultural traditions, and social networks are examples of community resources that can be used in digital literacy training (Tinmaz et al., 2022). For example, using local languages in digital literacy training has been proven to boost learning results and community engagement, particularly among children (French et al., 2023). Furthermore, integrating community expertise and resources ensures that digital literacy projects are relevant, successful, and sustainable (Sun et al., 2024).

Community-based techniques entail teaching local residents to become digital literacy trainers, who subsequently instruct others in their community (Suwana, 2021). This method allows communities to create a critical mass of digitally educated persons capable of supporting and sustaining digital literacy efforts (Tinmaz et al., 2022). Community-based initiatives promote social learning, peer support, and community participation, resulting in higher retention rates and greater impact (French et al., 2023). For example, Nigeria’s Community-Based Digital Literacy Program trained over 1,000 community people, resulting in a considerable rise in digital literacy and community participation.

The Role of Educational Institutions

Educational institutions can play an important role in promoting digital literacy by including it into the formal education curriculum, since it has been shown that digital literacy is critical for students and directly affects their use of digital resources (Agina-Obu & Okwu, 20203). This can be accomplished by infusing digital literacy abilities into current courses like computer science, information technology, and media studies (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010). Additionally, educational institutions can provide specialized courses or programs focusing on digital literacy, information fluency, information search and evaluation, and so on (Holm, 2024). This approach, educational institutions may ensure that digital literacy is entrenched in the students’ curriculums.

Teacher training and capacity building is another critical strategy for effectively integrating digital literacy into curricula. To effectively teach digital literacy, teachers must possess the appropriate skills and knowledge (Corral, 2009). To improve teachers’ digital literacy skills, educational institutions might offer professional development opportunities, workshops, and training programs (UNESCO 2018). Teachers should also be encouraged to demonstrate digital literacy practices and foster a digital literacy culture in their classrooms.

Collaboration projects between schools and communities can also help to increase digital literacy and information fluency. Educational institutions can collaborate with local communities, organizations, and enterprises to create digital literacy programs that address the needs of the community (ITU, 2019). Such collaborations can give students practical experience and real-world applications of digital literacy abilities (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010). These talents could include digital storytelling, digital media production, online research, and digital entrepreneurship.

The Role of Technology Developers

Technology developers play an important role in improving digital literacy and information access by creating user-friendly digital tools and platforms that meet the demands of African communities (Tinmaz et al., 2022). User-friendly digital tools and platforms can boost digital adoption and improve digital literacy abilities in those with less technical knowledge (French et al., 2019). Individuals can now obtain digital literacy training at their own pace and convenience, thanks to the emergence of mobile apps and internet platforms.

Technology developers can create affordable technology solutions, allowing more people to use digital tools and platforms (Sun et al., 2024). Affordable technology solutions can include low-cost devices, internet access, and digital literacy training programs (Suwana, 2021). For example, programs such as the One Laptop per Child program have made it feasible for thousands of African children to access digital learning tools and platforms.

Technology developers can collaborate with communities and educational institutions to collect user feedback and enhance digital tools and platforms (Tinmaz et al., 2022). Collaboration with communities and educational institutions allows technology developers to better understand the unique requirements and challenges of African communities, resulting in the creation of more effective and relevant digital tools and platforms (French et al., 2023). For example, collaboration between technology developers and educational institutions in Nigeria resulted in the development of digital literacy training programs tailored to the specific needs of Nigerian students.

Challenges and Barriers

Bridging the digital divide in Africa necessitates solving a number of obstacles that impede the growth of digital literacy and information proficiency. Infrastructure constraints, socioeconomic differences, and cultural and language issues all create significant impediments to equitable access to digital opportunities.

Tinmaz et al. (2022) address the pervasive issue of internet connection disparities across Africa. Rural areas frequently lack reliable and affordable internet connectivity, whereas urban areas may have patches of limited access. Furthermore, the expensive cost of digital gadgets like computers and cellphones is a substantial obstacle for many African individuals (Sun et al., 2024). Unreliable or restricted electrical supply in many African countries substantially limits the use of technology, even when devices are available (Sun et al., 2024). Furthermore, obsolete or insufficient computer gear and software might degrade the learning experience and limit the functionality of digital tools (Haleem et al., 2022). The cost of internet data plans and mobile phone subscriptions remains a significant burden for many Africans (Suwana, 2021). Limited competition within the telecommunications sector can also contribute to high prices.

Moving onto Socioeconomic Disparities in Access and Training, Research by Tinmaz et al. (2022) suggested that low-income populations and underrepresented groups, such as women and people with disabilities, frequently lack the fundamental digital literacy skills needed to fully participate in the digital world. This is due to inadequate access to education, technology, and training opportunities. The digital divide may worsen existing social and economic disparities. Those who lack access to technology and the abilities to use it successfully risk slipping farther behind in terms of education, job opportunities, and access to information (Sun et al., 2024). This can lead to a vicious cycle in which individuals who most benefit from digital technology have the least access to them.

Cultural and linguistic considerations are another hurdle to the growth of digital literacy in Africa. The majority of the information and resources available online are in English or other major global languages. This provides a barrier for persons who are uncomfortable utilizing technology in languages they do not fully understand (Tinmaz et al., 2022). Limited access to digital content in local languages can also impede cultural identification and expression online. Digital literacy training programs must be tailored to the target audience’s unique cultural environment and demands. A “one-size-fits-all” strategy may be ineffective for addressing Africa’s different cultural origins and learning styles (Suwana, 2021).

Additional challenges include a lack of awareness of the benefits of digital literacy, which might impede participation in training programs and efforts. Furthermore, a lack of drive or confidence in using technology can be an impediment. Educators frequently lack the essential training and assistance to properly include digital literacy skill development into their curriculum (Haleem et al., 2022). Cybersecurity risks and a lack of awareness about online safety can also deter individuals from utilizing technology, especially in areas with limited access to accurate information on online safety measures.

These difficulties reflect Africa’s multidimensional digital divide. Addressing these difficulties requires a multifaceted approach that includes collaboration among governments, educational institutions, the commercial sector, and civil society organizations.


Collaborative activities among local communities, educational institutions, and technology developers have been identified as critical to successfully improving digital literacy and information fluency throughout African countries. Empowering local communities as change agents, using community resources and knowledge, and developing user-friendly digital tools and platforms, inexpensive technological solutions, and partnerships with communities and educational institutions are all critical.

Digital literacy efforts should stress community-based approaches and collaboration with local organizations. Policymakers should promote inexpensive technological solutions and digital literacy training programs, while educational institutions should incorporate digital literacy training into their curricula.

Some possible recommendations for future initiatives include:

  • Create context-specific digital literacy training programs that meet the requirements of local populations.
  • Implementing cost-effective technology solutions and providing access to digital tools and platforms.
  • To ensure long-term success of digital literacy efforts, partnerships between technology developers, educational institutions, and local communities are encouraged.

Free Knowledge Africa in a bid to contribute to digital literacy has partnered with the National Library of Nigeria to digitize works in the public domain and organized a training session for the librarians on Open Sharing and the 21st Century and how librarians can take advantage of digital technologies in improving and making their works easier and information more accessible.

Free Knowledge Africa team at the training program at the National Library of Nigeria, Abuja

Addressing the problems and limitations to digital literacy and information fluency can encourage inclusive and equitable access to digital opportunities and exponentially enhance individuals’ digital literacy abilities across Africa.


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Warschauer, M. (2003). Technology and social inclusion: Rethinking the digital divide. MIT Press.

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