Reasons why African nations are wise to update (or create) a national broadband policy
It comes as no surprise that nations with a “clearly-defined national vision for broadband roll-out” outperform those without a targeted plan. A recent report by ITU, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, and Cisco Systems studies the implications of not having a long-term broadband vision. Key factors influenced by the presence of a solid broadband plan include broadband penetration, mobile broadband penetration, and market competition. Not all plans are equal, but all aim to grow broadband networks and allow for greater use of broadband applications.
As of mid-2013, the study finds 134 plans in place globally. That is, 69% of nations have a plan. Still, recent growth has been slow: only 12 countries are in the midst of making a plan and only one nation adopted a thorough broadband plan in the past year. Older plans tend to focus on IT or ICT while plans devised since 2008 focus more on broadband. Africa seems on par with these global trends. Most African plans are in need of updating and more than a dozen countries still have no official broadband policy.
The report as it relates to Africa:
- African countries adopted national plans early in the new millennium since ICTs were included in IMF/World Bank initiatives.
- Countries in planning stage include Benin, Cape Verde, Comoros, Senegal, and Togo.
- No plan yet for Libya, Sudan, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, DR Congo, Somalia, Eritrea, Madagascar, or Swaziland.
- 34 countries have a broadband plan. 13 do not. 5 are planning one.
- The average year of African plan creation is 2008.
- Financing broadband plans is split between universal service funds (USFs), government grants, and public-private partnerships. The use of USFs is relatively higher in Africa than in any other region.
- A competitive telecoms market (ie. no monopoly) is crucial to driving mobile broadband access
How key factors contribute to change in broadband penetration:
- The presence of a national broadband plan equates to a 2.5% increase in fixed broadband penetration (7.4% in mobile)
- A 1% increase in urban population results in a 0.6% rise in fixed broadband penetration (no change in mobile)
- An increase of USD 1,000 in GDP per capita means a 0.6% increase in fixed broadband penetration (2% increase in mobile)
- The presence of a telecoms regulator does not change fixed broadband penetration (no change in mobile)
- A move of a market to a monopoly market causes a 1.4% reduction of fixed broadband penetration (26.5% decrease in mobile!)
Of course, a national broadband is not a panacea. Plenty of African nations with minimal broadband access official have a broadband plan in place. Just look at Central African Republic (2006), Niger (2005), and even South Africa (2010). Plans need to stay current, need stakeholder involvement, and need proper funding.
African Economies with National Broadband Policies, 2013 (adapted from Appendix 2):
|Central African Rep.||Yes||2006|
|Congo (Dem. Rep.)||Yes||2009|
|S. Tomé & Principe||No|
Source: Planning for Progress: Why National Broadband Plans Matter, ITU, July 2013, http://www.broadbandcommission.org/documents/reportNBP2013.pdf.