2013 African ICT news recap
In 2013 we came across exactly 4,266 newsworthy articles, stories, posts, and features on African Internet progress. Many provided only a quick update, but just as many gave an in-depth look into how Africans are engaging with technology. Of all news posts, about 80% focused on a specific nation (20% dealt with multiple countries or Africa in general). Roughly 10% focused on either Nigeria, South Africa, or Kenya. The other half of the articles touched on updates from the rest of Africa.
After much debate, our top 2013 headline (or two, or three) from each country is listed below. Every African country is represented – some more than others, depending on the availability of information. Many stories have been left out in the interest of time.
- 3G mobile access, delayed since 2011, finally became a reality in the final days of the year. Licenses have been granted, but telecom laws are still greatly lacking.
- The government has stressed (on a near monthly basis) a commitment to boosting internet services. Also promising is a potential Trans-Atlantic fibre cable that will boost speeds.
- The nation is looking to launch tech incubation centers, launch a broadband plan, strengthen internet governance, and launch an IXP.
- Parliament launched a website, Botswana Speaks, to strengthen citizens’ voices. Botswana Post is taking innovative steps to boost internet access in public locations. LTE is on the horizon as are lower wholesale tariffs.
- Airtel Burkina launched 3.75G internet. A national internet governance forum produced much-needed conversation as did a week devoted to ICT discussions.
- Mobile phone access rapidly increased in the country. A lengthy fibre broadband network nears completion in 2014.
- Fibre network expansion remains the name of the game as the the nation increases its bandwidth and connects remote areas. MTN Cameroon has a busy year as well and now has over 8 million subscribers.
- The country has over 90% mobile penetration and has plans to work with China to strengthen business.
Central African Republic
- Orange deployed 3G+ services in Bangui. Better telecommunications are also helping humanitarian groups access information.
- Mobile money is on the rise in Chad as is a focus on creating fibre broadband networks. However, freedom of online speech is lacking.
- Comores Telecom is moving toward privatization which will help lower access costs and encourage competitive services. VoIP services have been banned in the meantime.
- The first Africa-designed smartphone was launched by Congo-based VMK.
- Again, there was great energy from social media and blogging groups. 3G access improved although mobile operators still have sub-par quality of service. The government continues to take stock of the ICT scene as well.
Dem. Rep. of Congo
- After great delay and back-and-forth, the country finally connected to the international WACS cable at Moanda. Mobile banking is helping curb corruption among state employees. 4G LTE licenses are forthcoming.
- Djibouti Telecom is broadening its footprint and aims to act as a regional hub for international connectivity. Access costs remain high for now.
- It was an active year as the country grappled with the potential for e-commerce, the need for cyber safety, YouTube, entrepreneurship, and telecoms partnerships.
- The nation may be looking toward Ghana as an example, yet certain websites were reportedly blocked before elections.
- Telecoms access spread to more remote areas and media reports of internet access were positive. Still, much of the internet is censored and it remains up to those living abroad to push for change. EriTel, the sole provider of internet access is slowing moving toward privatization.
- Ethio Telecom continues to expand its offerings (with help from Chinese firms) and is upgrading to 3G. Internet censorship remains a cloud over complete innovation and confidence in the sector. The hub iceaddis continues to provide a home for entrepreneurs, though. Mobile banking is a hot topic as well.
- Country-level domain names are being provided for free in an attempt to boost local content creation. Gabon Telecom and Airtel continue to see rapid growth and 3G service should be available soon.
- VoIP services were banned in an attempt to drive more revenue for the state. Another law places great restrictions on online freedom. Still, journalists are turning to blogs to speak out against the Jammeh regime. State-owned telco Gamtel continues to be in jeopardy of going bankrupt.
- The Ministry of Education continues to support ICT development and the government is also big on fighting cyber crime. Mobile internet growth continues to dominate fixed line access. 4G LTE will be available early next year. E-commerce and mobile payments are picking up steam.
- Mobile operators continue investing in the nation’s infrastructure and 3G is forthcoming. However, state-owned Sotelgui is in financial troubles.
- Guiné Telecom is gradually working toward privatization. Much of the country’s internet presence relies on the diaspora.
- What to say? Tech successes were many in the nation still dubbed “Silicon Savannah.” Kenya continues to grapple with how to launch 4G networks. A presidential election was closely followed on social media (as was the Westgate Mall attack). President Kenyatta’s plan to give every public school student a laptop has been met with difficulty. CCK, the telecoms regulator, remained active in driving long-term growth. A National Broadband Strategy will bring better ICT access and skills training by 2017 and through 2030. Infrastructure (especially in rural areas) and cyber security remain concerns of the government and telecom operators. Much is also being done to encourage ICT collaboration within the East Africa region.
- Vodacom is pushing its services and now offers mobile money. Google Street View is now available in the country.
- Much happened this year – from connecting to the ACE cable to 4G WiMAX to projects aiming to improve education. A thorough recap can be found on Liberia’s Daily Observer.
- Telecoms disruptions remain common but the country is working to privatize state-owned LTT. Better telecoms laws are in the works in advance of eventual LTE. Multiple contracts were issued over the course of the year to upgrade internet infrastructure.
- Numerous ICT centers were created and training workshops were held across the country. A core group of innovators continues to discuss how ICT can strengthen society.
- A white spaces internet project could bring cost-effective access to communities. E-learning remains a focus. Although online content is supposedly not censored, the government has cautioned social media over defamation. Projects to bring rural internet access are a priority as are e-government initiatives. Mobile access is high and mobile money is being quickly adopted.
- The nation is giving away .ml domains for free in hopes of generating local content. Presidential elections were followed and monitored by a select few on social media channels.
- Better access to international bandwidth (via ACE cable and a World Bank project) is stimulating the private sector. A handful of bloggers are quite influential but their safety remains threatened.
- 4G services are available in a few areas and fibre to the home is on the radar from Mauritius Telecom. More Wi-Fi access points and better e-government services are in the works.
- Orange continues to have a large market share and has plans to make the most of last year’s connection to the LION2 cable. Greater ADSL access is also in store.
- 3G services abounded in 2013 and 4G is forthcoming in 2015. Maroc Telecom was busy launching new products and saw an increase in profit. News of internet censorship was also common, namely the arrest of teens shown kissing on Facebook.
- Vodacom, mCel and Movitel all improved services during the year. Online social campaigns touched on elections and peace for the country. M-Pesa is now available in the country.
- MTC connected to WACS and offers 4G service beyond just Windhoek, as does Telecom Namibia. E-learning remains a priority.
- Power cuts have threatened ICT developments. Conflict regarding fibre-optic installation have not helped either. In addition, SIM registration cut one-third of phones from networks.
- The government issued dozens of statements touting ICT progress. NCC, the telecoms regulator, did as well. Broadband infrastructure and policy are clearly on the minds of many but actions do not yet match the rhetoric. Still, Nigeria remains a leader in mobile internet access among African nations. E-commerce is rapidly gaining momentum as are attempts to boost local innovation. 4G LTE services are available in certain areas although internet access is still generally limited (though 80% 3G coverage and 30% broadband penetration is targeted by 2017-18).
- 35Mbps fiber-to-the-home is available in many areas and 3G is readily available.
- The ICT Ministry was extremely active in launching campaigns to boost ICT readiness. A major ICT development program dovetails with the nation’s Vision 2020 goals. News that Korea Telecom would invest heavily to roll-out national 4G LTE was widely heralded. The Microsoft 4Afrika program was launched in Kigali. Free Wi-Fi is now available in many parts of Kigali. kLab, among other hubs, promoted open data and digital participation by all.
Sao Tome And Principe
- Unitel was expected to earn the nation’s second telecoms license. TEDx talks were held in the country.
- Gripes regarding the rural-urban digital divide continue. The telecoms regulator, ARTP, has been active in ensuring Wi-Fi access to Dakar’s universities and finds nearly 13 million mobile subscribers. Advanced 3G networks are commonplace and 4G LTE is being tested by multiple operators. Attempts to bring Wolof language content online are meeting success.
- Airtel Money launched mobile banking for the nation.
- The West African nation connected to the ACE fibre cable. President Koroma expressed a dedication to ICT development, namely e-government and e-learning initiatives.
- A stronger government meant a greater focus on telecoms investment. 3G service arrived in Mogadishu. Undersea fibre cable connectivity will soon be a reality (though delays have recently been encountered).
- Too many to list…Key happenings include the launch of an official broadband policy, progress from Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and Stellenbosch as tech hubs, and the launch of a 2,000km FibreCo network. LTE trials are underway and e-commerce is on the verge of a boom. Still, the nation is criticized for falling behind the ICT development pace of Kenya.
- The island is still in need of US16 million for an undersea fibre connection.
- Recent violence and social strife threatens what ICT developments occurred in 2013. The nation’s first terrestrial broadband link went live in October. A top-level domain is nearly ready for launch. Satellite connectivity remains an important way to connect rural areas.
- Internet services were cut in September amid protests and a TEDx event was shutdown by national security earlier in the year. Efforts are being made to teach youth about the importance of the internet as social media remains a crucial way to spread news in the country. Mobile operator Zain is facing a challenging business environment.
- Social media is helping to promote freedom of speech in the country although people were warned of using Facebook for political campaigning. Drama between Swaziland Post and Telecommunication Corporation (SPTC) and MTN poses challenges to making ICT access more affordable. The newly-established Swaziland Communications Commission (SCC) has taken over the role of SPTC as telecoms regulator. Mobile banking is offered by MTN and LTE is expected in 2014.
- A commitment to building a national fibre backbone is producing results in better connectivity in both Dar es Salaam and more remote areas. Costs have dramatically lowered as well. 4G LTE access has arrived. E-learning, preventing cyber crime, and e-health remain priorities.
- A series of minor steps contributed to a better ICT environment. A World Bank broadband project, plans for an IXP, and efforts to reduce VoIP costs all bode well for lower access costs. Widely-shared was a Togolese example of a 3D printer created from discarded scanner parts.
- Internet freedom continues to be a hot topic (partially learning from the past to ensure Tunisia’s internet never is censored again, but also countering laws that threaten free expression). LTE is coming by 2015.
- Telecoms competition is heating up. LTE is live in the country and Google has plans to trial an innovate fibre network in Kampala that could greatly reduce access costs. Mobile money is big business. Local innovation exists in a variety of formats (apps, partnerships, education initiatives, etc.).
- Text messaging is improving aid delivery in the region.
- The government faces criticism of monitoring online activities and is keen on cracking down on cyber crime. Still, social media is seen as an advocacy tool by many groups. Mobile internet is rapidly connecting rural areas (including schools).
- Politically, “insider” personality Baba Jukwa took to Facebook to expose corruption within the government during the presidential elections. A broadband forum highlighted the need for infrastructure sharing and better broadband roll-out. Multiple tech startups that serve local needs now call Harare home. Mobile operators Econet and Telecel continued to fiercely compete for (mobile money) customers. In general, broadband costs declined throughout the year. An in-depth recap can be found at TechZim.