Helping More Of Africa Access The Internet
The University of Kinshasa is the biggest university located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It boasts close to 30,000 students, research staff, and faculty, but still only has 800 computers.
Another issue: although the university’s data network can support e-mail, online coursework, and virtual access to the library, its Internet connection leaves something to be desired.
We are lucky to have such uninhibited access to the Internet in the Western world. In Africa, less than 16 percent of its population enjoys Internet access, compared with 63 percent of Europeans and 79 percent of North Americans.
The network is not built to handle a high number of traffic. The total bandwidth available in 2011 alone was under 1 terabit per second, which is one-seventieth of the bandwidth capacity of Europe! If you want bandwidth in Africa, you’re going to pay for it. An example: a German university would pay roughly $4000USD each month for 1 gigabit per second, while a Kenyan school would pay a staggering $200,000 for the same amount of data.
What is to come for Africa’s information technology capabilities? It is still too soon to tell. The 2010 World Cup has attracted numerous investors and research projects, so as long as that figure rises, there is hope for a better Internet. One example: the Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope being built by Australia and South Africa, which will transfer much more data between the two countries, more data than the data that travels on the Internet worldwide.
The cloud! In fact, in a report published by IBM in March of this year, the company states that there isn’t a location on Earth where the cloud will make such a significant impact on telecom business than Africa.
A Kenyan communications service provider, Safaricom, said it plans to rely on cloud hosting of its M-pesa mobile money service instead of offshore web hosting facilities. Other African communications service providers, it seems, will plan to follow suit, or at least explore the possibilities of cloud hosting.
Africa is seen to be the second largest and fastest growing mobile phone market worldwide. They have over 650 million subscribers, and this leads to the need for multiple communications service providers.
Cloud Phone Services
Airtel, in 18 African countries and deploying services like wildfire, will provide “cloud phone” services, which include information and mobile payment features, to residents who typically wouldn’t have access to these devices. Mobile devices that can access the cloud seems like a big stretch for a population that doesn’t have a desktop system or even electricity – but it will make a huge impact.
Africa: The Future Is Bright
Many enterprises are showing their support for the project, such as Google, e-Schools Network, US-based wireless solutions provider Carlson Wireless, and the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa. Microsoft also spoke to their desire to lend a hand as well. These companies are exploring the use of TV white space — channels in the broadcast TV spectrum that are unused — to bring internet access more easily.
Living as you do today, with Internet access available anywhere you go with lightening fast speeds, can you imagine living with poor Internet connectivity or none at all? With better Internet access, do you think Africa’s economy will improve drastically? Tell us what you think!
Obstacles : most of which are now obsolete:
- To scale up and maintain online presence
- Rising cost of dollar in terms of local currency
- Increasing demand of local hosting
- Businesses want flexibility and choices in cloud deployment models to support innovation while maintaining control of their most strategic assets