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Video: The Magical Effect of the Internet in Africa

February 8, 2012  »  Broadband & VideoNo Comment

Anat Bar-Gera, co-founder of 4G Africa, a broadband wireless Internet service provider operating in Cameroon, gave a short presentation at December 2011’s TEDxBayArea. She explained how broadband is finding its place in Africa, the challenges it faces, and the benefits it brings.

What broadband can do for the people in Sub-Saharan Africa?

  • SSA has had 150-200 USD / month Internet cost.
  • 1% broadband penetration, poor quality, slow, unreliable.
  • This created the digital divide. Now it’s time to bridge the gap.

Why now?

  • Fibre optic cables have been laid in many areas, thus creating capacity.
  • Device prices are going down.
  • African known for leapfrogging capacities. There’s no need for ADSL/fixed line last-mile.
  • 5-6% yearly GDP growth (1-2% industralized world).
  • Huge growth of consumer power, especially middle class.

The most important factor is demography.

  • 50% of people are below the age of 20. These are the early adopters, those who are eager to try and use new technology.
  • SSA is poor, but it has excitement for the online world. They want to go online. A spillover effect (urban to rural) enables them to pay for the services.
  • Example: In Cameroon, after an employee takes home a PC and has household Internet, 5 kids plus 10 neighborhood children are all using the PC by the next day.

Three challenges:

  • extreme population growth: 880 million to 2 billion by 2015
  • unemployment: work force will be 1.1mm by 2040. They will need information technology skills.
  • poor infrastructure

Rwanda is a great example. President Kagame made the decision to become an information society and to build tech hubs. The answer is in learning. He switched the formal language from French to English and he mandated 9 years of schooling instead of 6 years.

Stats:

  • 10% increase in broadband penetration increases the GDP of developing nations by ~1.38% (World Bank)
  • 0.25% increase in employment with every 1% increase in broadband penetration (Brookings Institution)
  • 80 new jobs for every 1,000 additional people using broadband (Arthur D. Little)

Local content:

  • For local content to be created, you need the infrastructure. “A vicious cycle, but on a positive note.”
  • Tap into the local entrepreneurs. They know the local tastes of the market. (Ushahidi example)

We must make sure Africa benefits from broadband.