Broadband can bring us a networked Africa
Nigeria has more than 150 million people, and an estimated 90 million mobile phone subscribers. But broadband penetration is said at best to be less than 3 percent. A report this week got me thinking about what broadband could mean for this African giant.
The Next Web’s Africa editor Nmachi Jidenma reported from the Broadband Investment Summit, where a variety of stakeholders, telco operators and internet companies such as Google looked at what real connectivity could bring to this country, the most populous in Africa.
Main One is one of two submarine cable companies to have brought connectivity onto Nigerian shores in recent years. CEO Funke Opeke told the conference of two important steps that the government could take to improve the broadband situation. One is to improve the nation’s erratic power supply; the other is the creation and deployment of a national broadband policy. This, she said, would help lower prices, put public services online, encourage uptake of internet devices such as computers, and create an environment that encourages competition and investment.
The multiplier effect of broadband in developing countries is widely known: the World Bank estimates that a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration adds nearly 1.4 percentage points to GDP growth.
But Fola Adeola, chairman of Main One Cable, hit the nail on the head when he quoted the American FCC’s National Broadband Plan: Broadband, just like electricity a century ago, “is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life. It is enabling entire new industries and unlocking vast new possibilities for existing ones. It is changing how we educate our children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.”
Combine those possibilities and the potential that 150 million networked Nigerians – and 1 billion networked Africans – would bring, and we will really see what the Networked Society will take us.