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African Tech Tidbits: satellite vs. fibre, Eritrean 3G, evil, and more

May 20, 2012  »  UncategorizedNo Comment
Africa in Color

{PoppyandPinecone (Etsy)}

Here are just a few themes and trends we have observed over the past few weeks:

  • The deployment of fibre and satellite Internet is somewhat black and white. Coastal areas are likely to have fibre service; inland areas are more likely have VSAT service. A couple of years ago it was believed that fixed-lines or mobile broadband would replace satellite connections. Now, however, it is becoming apparent that fibre is fueling the demand for satellite as providers wish to offer equal services to both coastal and rural areas. In many cases, satellite is cheaper to implement and operator that terrestrial fibre.
  • We try not to take sides in the “Is Google good or bad for Africa?” debate (as featured in last week’s The Economist), but the company certainly has brought positive change to many countries. Just read the updates on the Google Africa G+ page, for example.
  • Libya’s telecoms situation is certainly coming around after a traumatic couple of years. Current challenges include meeting unprecedented demand for services and encouraging competition to drive down prices.
  • The announcement of an online LGBT magazine in (North) Sudan came as a surprise considering the cultural views on homosexuality. The WordPress blog has had over 3,500 hits since inception in February 2012. The blog follows in the footsteps of Gayday Magazine, an e-magazine launched in March 2011 that is dedicated to the LGBT community in the Maghreb and MENA region. Expect similar blogs in the coming year.
  • Zimbabwean IT Minister Nelson Chamisa sure had foreboding words about the dangerous of computing at a recent e-learning launch. In fact, we could write a short novel with all of the warnings: “Secret chamber of manipulation, pettiness, vulgarity and idiocy”. “But there are negatives; dark thoughts and evil ideas lurking on the internet like pornography and homosexuality.” “You can’t legislate morality.” “If we are not careful, we will groom a generation of educated and thieving schemers…” Perhaps a more positive attitude is needed. As in, tell people what to do instead of what not to do.
  • Growth in the mobile and internet sector is now accelerating as Eritrea’s national telco, the Eritrean Telecommunication Services Corporation (EriTel) is rolling out a third generation (3G) mobile network, but more investment into telecom infrastructure is needed. Foreign investment and the introduction of more competition would transform this virtually untapped market. A similar situation is unfolding in Djibouti, with 3G on the horizon. More competition and foreign investment is recommended, however. Expect big things for Djibouti considering the strategic location along undersea fibre cables and proximity to the Middle East and Kenya.

Finally, good luck to Research In Motion as they hope to increase market share in Africa despite lackluster global sales. The BlackBerry is currently available in over 40 African countries in partnership with over 85 carriers.