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African highlights from ‘State of Broadband 2014’ report

January 27, 2015  »  Broadband & StatisticsOne Comment

The Broadband Commission for Digital Development has released its third snapshot of the state of broadband deployment worldwide. More than 40% of the world’s population is online with 50% expected by 2017.

broadband-commission-2014

{ITU/UNESCO}

The State of Broadband 2014: Broadband For All builds upon last year’s theme of “universalizing broadband.” Again, the Broadband Commission evaluates the roll-out of broadband around the world and tracks progress towards achieving advocacy targets set for boosting broadband access and affordability. It also provides country rankings for over 160 economies on internet penetration rates and the status of a national broadband policy. The report is quick to note that the number of countries with a national broadband plan has grown from 102 in 2010 to 140 today. Of course, the effectiveness of those plans is another story, but at least they exist in theory.

ICTs are making a contribution to social, economic, and environment development but it will take more determined policy investment to connect the majority of those in Least Developed Countries. Infrastructure and access are one thing but leaders must also promote ICT literacy.

Global, and even regional trends in broadband technology and adoption are exciting but don’t accurately describe individual countries. In Africa, access varies greatly from one country to another, so even buckets like “developing country” don’t represent the typical SSA nation. Nor do household internet or fixed broadband penetration number apply since African points of access are generally mobile. Still, general trends like the rapid uptake of mobile and slow adoption of internet by “least developed countries” are very pertinent.

African mentions in the 110-page report include a variety of examples how ICTs are improving access to crucial services:

  • iSchool in Zambia transforms learning through interactive ICT content
  • A project funded by UBS provides mobile phones for early childhood car in Kenya
  • ChildCount+ launched a software module in Ghana to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV
  • An ITU initiative with WHO contributed to a mHealth project in Senegal to address diabetes
  • Satellite internet is still viable in remote areas: South Africa’s Mindset Network provides educational content and a VSAT network in Morocco supports children’s telemedicine
  • The Broadband for All Initiative in South Africa is using wireless mesh networks to deliver broadband to underserved areas
  • Rwanda’s government still is running a One Laptop per Child project
  • UNESCO, with help from Nokia, is working to integrate mobile technologies into teacher development in Nigeria and Senegal
  • Apps are following the M-Pesa model for growth and popularity: Mafuto Go in Uganda for gas prices, for example

National Broadband Plans:

  • Nigeria approved a broadband plan in July 2013, South Africa in December 2013 (South Africa Connect)
  • Still planning broadband plans are: Benin, Cape Verde, Comoros, Sierra Leone, Togo
  • Nations without a broadband plan are: Cameroon, DR Congo, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Sao Tome, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Swaziland
  • South Africa Connect calls for an average download speed of 5 Mbps to be available to 50% of the population by 2016, and to 90% by 2020 with monitoring by the regulator

Fixed and mobile broadband penetration numbers plus internet usage data (from 2013)

As with all ITU data, these estimates should be taken with a grain of salt.

The lowest levels of Internet access are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with Internet available to less than 2% of the population in Ethiopia (1.9%), Niger (1.7%), Sierra Leone (1.7%), Guinea (1.6%), Somalia (1.5%), Burundi (1.3%), Eritrea (0.9%) and South Sudan (no data available).

  • Fixed broadband penetration: Seychelles and Mauritius lead Africa with 13%, Tunisia is next with 5%. Most African nations are below 2%.
  • Mobile broadband penetration: Botswana leads Africa, and ranks 19th globally with 74%. This number seems very high considering the next SSA country is Ghana at 40%. Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Egypt are above 30%. Many countries lack data for this annex and again, it is outdated (ie. Algeria no longer has 0% after 3G was introduced around the time the report was published).
  • Households with internet: Seychelles leads with 51% (is 24th globally), followed by Morocco at 46% (29th globally), Mauritius at 45% and South Africa at 39%. Due to a lack of fixed broadband, African nations round out the bottom nine countries globally.
  • Individuals using the internet: Morocco, 67th globally, stands at 56%. Egypt (79th globally) is at 50% and South Africa is right behind at 49%. Eritrea is last (191st) with 0.9% of people using the internet.
  • 34 of 48 Least Developed Countries are located in Africa. 8 African LDCs have greater than 10% of individuals using the internet (as of 2013).

Global policy recommendations to maximize the impact of broadband apply to Sub-Saharan Africa as well:

  • Monitor, review and update ICT regulations and regulatory approaches to spectrum
  • Promote Education for All (EfA), including the use of broadband, as well as the skills and talents necessary for broadband
  • Reduce taxes and import duties on telecommunication ICT equipment and services
  • Accelerate investment in broadband infrastructure
  • Enhance demand for broadband services through new initiatives and local content
  • Engage in ongoing monitoring of ICT developments
  • Utilize Universal Service Funds (USFs) to close the digital divide
  • Review frameworks for Intellectual Property (IP)