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‘$100b investments fail to bridge Africa’s digital divide’




DESPITE the over $100 billion investments in telecommunications services in Africa, about 65 per cent of Africans are yet to be connected to the Internet.

Consequently, African governments have been advised to take advantage of modern technology tools to bridge the digital divide on the continent if they must compete favourably in the global community.

Panelists disclosed this during the regional summit at the just concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Secretary-General of African Telecommunications Union (ATU), Abdoulkarim Soumaila, who opened the discussion, said 46 member nations of Africa are members of ATU and that the continent must bridge the digital divide.

Soumaila said Africa must bridge digital divide, stressing that the continent has to use information and communications technology (ICT) tools to address social challenges, where 65 per cent of the continent’s population are yet to come online despite the huge investments that have gone into services and infrastructure development.

He said there is a growing appetite for social interaction via virtual means, but that despite the growing capitalism and investment in ICT, connectivity still remains poor in Africa. He therefore called on Global System for Mobile Communication Association (GSMA), organisers of Mobile World Congress, to visit Africa and improve connectivity.

According to the Deputy Minister, Telecoms and Postal Services in South Africa, Nlengiwe Mkhize, expanding connectivity among African countries, could only lead to sustainable growth of the continent and that South Africa used mobile connectivity to connect remote locations that were ordinarily cut off by apartheid in South Africa and that the government is also using ICT hubs that were developed across the country, to reconnect communities they were initially cut off by the apartheid in the past.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, who was part of the panel discussion at the regional summit, agreed with the discussants on the need for African governments to deploy means of increasing access to Internet connectivity. Explaining the efforts made by the Nigerian government, whose citizens have reached over 97 per cent mobile Internet penetration, said NCC is committed to implementing the country’s National Broadband Plan for the deployment of infrastructure and efficient utilisation of spectrum for the spread of broadband spectrum and internet connectivity that will further help in bridging digital divide.

“In line with this, the country has been divided into seven zones that will be managed by licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), for the fast development of broadband services across the country especially in cities, and NCC will ensure a transparent spectrum allocation for this purpose,” Danbatta said. He added that NCC would provide some forms of attractive incentives for the InfraCos, to assist them in fast broadband infrastructure rollout.

He explained that Nigeria has already licensed two InfraCos for the Lagos and North Central zones, with plans to license additional five InfraCos that will develop broadband infrastructure across the country, to further drive broadband internet connectivity in the country.

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