Sub-Saharan Africa & fiber-optic and the Digital Divide
Fiber optic is a wonderful innovation and no one would disagrees with this statement, the internet has empowered citizen from all around the world to voice there opinion and have connected everyone into this virtual world of the internet. now a days in a second we are able to send information and receive information that has never been witnessed by the human race before in the history of our existence. we all know that with this powerful tool comes great responsibility and hence the need to understand how this powerful tool can be of help to the world other half the Have-Nots is one of these responsibilities, hence one of the responsibility of the people who have access to this wonderful tool that is making the world smaller and easy to connect to day by day is to finds ways in which we can be able to increase it usage in many of the world places that lack connectivity and accessibility to the world of the internet. but it gives me great sadness when i hear lots of people and most of them are those who have access to the internet and use it on daily basis point out that the internet would change many things if Africa in this case (sub-Saharan Africa ) is connected to it, i would like to point here that i don't disagree with this point but i would like to point out that we need to take a look at the overall picture in many of this sub-Saharan African states and understand these states situation from the overall social-economical perspective then and only then we can be able to understand how the internet can be able to change many thing in Africa for the betterment of it citizens. As a Sudanese, it gives me great happiness to hear that many sub-Saharan African states are being connected to the world of the internet due to the increase in fiber-optic connectivity in these states but i also know that there are other factors that need to be considered for Africa to stand up on its feet in term of internet usage. such issues as the design of policy and regulation are one of the most important factors in increasing connectivity and providing incentives for the simple citizen in Africa to use the internet, policy that lower the prices of PC, and internet connection, increases awareness of the advantages of the internet and even how to use it are of crucial importance in this early stage of development. these policy play a important roll in increasing the usage of internet in many of these newly connected sub-saharan African states. even basic infrastructure such as electricity and the price of electricity has it is effect on the usage of the internet. a simple cartoon is shown below, that give a glimpseof the problem that infrastructure might bring in many of these states that are being introduced to the internet.
hence this bring me to an important cross point in this blog post, what issues do we need to consider when we want to bridge the digital divide, and how we can be able to do so. As a we all know the usage of the internet requires computer, the internet connection itself, users who know how to use the internet and most important of all the basic infrastructure that this whole system is build upon. therefore when thinking about the internet we need to consider many of these issues. some of these issues are
- the cost of internet connection or do people use cybercafé, can a normal mid level income citizen pay for it?
- the cost of computers, can people be able to spend the money they need to spend in buying a computer? is it expensive, is it cheap, is it affordable (as simple as this question might be it is of the out most important and policy makers should understand that it is important to provide affordable computer equipment and education for there citizen to increase a nation overall usage of ICT.)
- the level of awareness of the important of the internet for the citizen him or herself. are they aware of what can the internet and ICT in general bring them in benefit?
- Human development (capacity building) is also important in increasing the usage of the internet and ICT in general. as we know many of sub-Saharan Africa states are suffering from large illiteracy rate which hinders the country economy and it development in general.
- the most important issues in all of the listed issue above is the issue of infrastructure, although many of these sub-Saharan Africa states are leapfrogging in term of using wireless network more the wired one, it is important to know that even if they leapfrog into the wireless world they cannot leapfrog electricity (not that i have known or maybe we could say solar power but the important point is that these basic infrastructure needs are important to develop and increase the usage of ICT in any state ) hence the importance of simple issues such as the price of electricity and it availability are going to be the driving force in term of the diffusion of this innovation in sub-Saharan African.
Although my interest lies a lot in ICT4D,e-government and bridging the digital divide , i think that without these basic infrastructure many of the future project that could be of great help in empowering citizen such as the usage of ICT in education, and the usage of ICT for government (e-government) would be hard to introduce, let alone spread.
The future of the internet in Africa
The future of internet usage and ICT in general is bright for many sub-Saharan African states with the recent introduction of new undersea cables in many of these sub-Saharan states, but only if we have strong and well written regulation and policy could we be able to grasp the benefits that the internet and connectivity in general bring to our countries, homes and families. i know that this is not a dream, i know it could be true, i know that Africa has the people to make Africa a more connected, more aware of the global network that is connecting us all and more aware of the challenges that are facing us in Africa and how we can overcome them.
Africa undersea cables
after all if you look at the many other states that didn't have the internet several year ago and now they have it, you can notice that they are empowering themselves with this tool and we for sure can do so also. but you can also notice that they are also tracking issues that deal with good governance, and how to improve the transparency of states institutes and there relationship with there citizens. as once before i stated in a blog post last year titled empowering the middle class i have stated that it is important to empower the middle class and give it its unalienable rights. i believe that if a state empower it middle class to a degree that allows two-way channel of participation between the state and it citizen then the state would have a strong ally in term of fighting corruption, embezzlement and bribery. all of this comes with a wise leadership and a strong rule of law and i believe we can have this in Africa if we hold accountable our leaders for there actions and our public and private entities for there work no matter what the cost is. this can only be achieve if a system is set to hold accountable those who are responsible and award those who protect the law and abide by it. the world has great examples of states that have develop at a rapid speed due to strong and transparent leadership and we all know that this could happen in Africa if its people demand there right and it leaders know there responsibilities. which leads me to my final point here, Africa is not going to change unless we the people change it, as recent event unfold in many north African states we know that Africa can change it self, it can hold accountable it leader for there misconduct, but Africa can do that only if we want it to change and work toward a transparent rule of law and justice for its people. there are some bright projects out there such as mo ibrahim foundation for good governance in Africa http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/en. if you want to see the index for African state in term of Good Governance you can find it here http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/en/section/the-ibrahim-index
the question i would like to ask now do you think Mo Ibrahim could do it by himself?