ICT Technologies: The Best Drivers Of Today’s African Tech Market
On my recent weekend trip to the coastal village of Dixcove about an hour’s drive from Takoradi, I kept pondering the question of what factors are influencing the way forward for Africa’s mobile future. A lot of ideas came to mind and luck was on my side as I had my iPod Touch on hand for taking notes.
Even though I grew up in a country that’s less well informed about technology, I can boldly say that it’s always a challenge to generalize a continent as culturally, socially, and economically diverse as Africa. But it’s clear that African countries all share a need for a more robust information and communications sector.
The future of Africa is indeed “mobile”. Mobile applications for education and healthcare play a major role in all the trends that experts forecast up to the year 2020. They are the key foundation on which a more successful economic future will be built. The Western world would be well advised to keep a watchful eye on them because there is much of value they could teach us for tackling our own challenges. In the rural areas of west Europe where the population is steadily drifting away, where teachers and doctors are already at a premium and where it will be difficult to maintain the infrastructure at its present level, mobile, simple to use applications for education and healthcare offer a genuine alternative. Not to mention a modern cell phone payment system of the kind M-Pesa represents!
Many nations suffer from resource cleavages between urban and rural areas, low levels of education, the brain drain of the educated to wealthier parts of the world, and limited road, air, and rail transport networks. Their business climate is risky due to small markets, non-transparent systems of governance, time-consuming business procedures, and historical patterns of monopolistic states.
Modern communications systems could alleviate many of these problems. African nations, their investors and multi-lateral partners are racing to connect nations, towns, and people to broadband and mobile telephony as a means to stimulate economic prosperity and dramatically increase human and social capital. The demand for ICT in Africa is driven by economic needs and human development concerns. The globalized world is a knowledge-based economy in which goods and services are developed and sold over electronic networks. Information is considered as currency, and connectivity provides access to the market.
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with over 150 million people. Ethiopia ranks as the third most populous nation with 85 million. Like almost all African countries (except Seychelles, Mauritius and Libya), they rank in the lower half of the ICT Development Index as reported in ‘Measuring the Information Society 2010′ by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
But the ICT Development Index does not speak to the burgeoning ICT markets in these countries. Nigeria’s ICT landscape has changed since the ITU reported that 65 bits per second per user of international bandwidth were available in 2008. A broadband boom in Kenya and East Africa occurred in 2009. The same type of boom is now reving up in Nigeria and West Africa. Between 2010 and 2011, Main One’s, Globalcom-1′s (GLO-1), and the West Africa Cable System’s (WACS) undersea cable systems will add international bandwidth capacity to the market of close to eight terabits.
Currently, the West African region still lags behind Southern and East Africa in terms of ICT infrastructure, but within the region Nigeria is in a better position because the government has liberalized all three segments of its telecommunications infrastructure – international bandwidth, domestic backhaul, and access – which is where bottlenecks can occur.
In recent years, ICT technologies have been considered as market drivers. From the foreign investor’s perspective, a country with reliable ICT has laid the foundations for efficient management, and information-sharing. Better governance and transparency ensue because there are no longer lags in communication, and data is trackable. From the standpoint of a businessperson, farmer or trader, these platforms provide accurate, up-to-date market information for more informed decision-making.
During this year’s annual TEDGlobal event, Ushahidi co-founder Erik Hersman stated, “We should not be surprised by innovation coming from Africa, we should expect it.“ The emergence of mobile payment systems, especially in Kenya and Uganda, will provide financial services to an underserved population for the first time
- Government sees ICT as a strategic tool in driving the economy (gabzfmnews.wordpress.com)
- Google bets on Africa as the next Internet hotspot (thenextweb.com)