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Is the Internet really ‘not a problem’ in Tanzania, Lesotho?

June 28, 2011  »  BusinessNo Comment

Following the recent Langkawi International Diaglogue, attended by representatives from 16 countries, the Malaysian News Agency (Bernama) recently published an article titled, “Internet Penetration Gaining Momentum In Africa.” The title, implying that all things Internet are more widespread than ever, is undoubtedly true. And, the idea is even supported with quotes from African delegates from three nations. However, it is the delegates whose veracity must be questioned. Read what reps from Tanzania, Lesotho, and Kenya had to say about Internet access in their nations:

Tanzania – Toni Mtali (delegate):

  • “You can bring your laptop and surf the internet anywhere you want.”
  • In response to general Internet access: “It’s not a big problem in Tanzania.”

Response: The Internet is not available in all areas, especially rural regions. Additionally, even if one can bring a laptop and find access, few Tanzanians own a laptop. And, mobile broadband is even less common. Moreover, the Internet is a problem in Tanzania, considering access costs are high given the per capita income and the majority of the population has yet to reap the Internet’s health, education, and other life-enhancing properties.

Lesotho – Limpho Sponky Rakhetla (Tourism Development Corporation Senior Information Officer)

  • “Internet is not a problem in my country. We use it widely.”

Response: ‘Widely’ is a relative term and could mean any number of people or refer to an arbitrary geographic boundary. What’s more, a year ago, Lesotho only had a 4% Internet penetration rate (ITU). Even if this stat is off by 10x, there is still only a minority who has Internet access.

Kenya – Martha W. Ndegwa (Deputy Director, HR Management Office of Kenya VP)

  • “It’s emerging. We are communicating using the internet widely. You can contact me anytime using the email.”

Response: A more believable answer. The first part sums up the momentum without overdoing it. For what it’s worth, the last sentence about email doesn’t necessarily mean much; email has existed in Kenya for over a decade.

Either way, the purpose of this post is not to be negative, but rather to point out the need to be wary of headlines. African nations are eager to promote their Internet readiness to a global audience. Rightfully so, considering the delegates were pandering to Malaysian telecoms for investment. However, care should be taken not to make blanket statements. Ms. Ndegwa’s statement (Kenya) is a better example of what to publicly say.

tanzania-lesotho outlines