The Bahir Dar Digital Infrastructure Initiative Opportunity
With 110 million people Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. However, with an GDP Annual Growth Rate of over 10% it has one of the fastest growing non-oil economies in the world. Further, over the past year Ethiopia has seen very significant political and economic reforms: since he came to power in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has released political prisoners, negotiated peace with Eritrea and is making aspects of state-owned enterprises available for private investment. The telecoms and media sectors are opening up, generating a short window of unprecedented opportunity to design and roll out digital infrastructure and allied services differently. For instance, in such circumstances:
- Could the proverbial digital divide be more equitable and less divisive if digital infrastructures were designed by a coalition between business, government, academia and civil society?
- Does a mid-size city in present day Ethiopia offer a relative ‘green field’, fertile site to explore the opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ older communications technologies and make the internet as accessible to all the city’s residents as its roads?
- What are the risks and dangers associated with such an initiative, and how can these be mitigated?
Participation in the Bahir Dar Digital Infrastructure Initiative (BDDII) workshop offers the opportunity to explore such questions and to contribute the design of new digital infrastructure for Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara Regional State (population 26 million). With a population of 170,000, Bahir Dar is Ethiopia’s fifth largest city and typical of a large number of very fast-growing mid-size towns throughout Africa. The city has been identified by the Ethiopian government as suitable for technological investment. It is also home to Bahir Dar University, which has 40,000 students.
BDDII is one of the activities under the umbrella of a partnership between the Bahir Dar Institute for Technology (BIT), directed by Dr Seifu Tilahun, and the University of Cambridge’s network for the UN SDGs, Cambridge Global Challenges. BIT, its Cambridge partners and BDDII invited participants welcome the opportunity to contribute to designing cutting-edge digital infrastructure that prioritises inclusion and equity and advances the wellbeing and economic development of all the city’s residents.
The workshop will be led by Dr Tesfa Tegene, Director of the University’s ICT4D Centre, and Dr Mengiste Abate, Director of the University’s office of the Bahir Dar City Infrastructure Plan Project, which is working with the municipality to develop a Master Plan for the city. BDDII aims to contribute to this Master Plan through workshops in Cambridge, UK, and Bahir Dar to produce a digital infrastructure plan for the city.
On Tuesday the 12th of March, 2019, a series of presentations will be given by speakers from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Kenya, Addis-Ababa and Bahir Dar.
On Wednesday the 13th of March, 2019, participants will form working groups to draft documents and plans on digital infrastructure for Bahir Dar, and Community Networks for the City.