Time to get connected

Africa needs to move fast. That’s the message which resounded at this year’s Global Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi. Now is the time for Africa to tap into the internet’s potential as a driver for economic growth.

Connect Africa’s director Dion Jerling, who took part in discussions at the forum in Nairobi on the 27-30th September, said further to this, access and affordability to internet connectivity in rural areas is vital – something which Connect Africa is addressing directly with their rural connectivity projects.

The forum attracted a broad base of internet-savvy thinkers from across the World gathered to voice their opinions around the theme ‘internet as a catalyst for change: access, development, freedoms and innovation.’

“It’s rewarding to know that Connect Africa is perfectly positioned to address these issues of universal access and affordability to the internet. Our two key projects, a SuperPico network trial in Central Zambia and the Integrated Food Management System project in Malawi, are on track to deliver rural solutions to these challenges,” he said.

Connect Africa’s pioneering project to install a 4KM wide SuperPico network over Chunga Camp in the Kafue National Park will highlight some of the recent advances made in affordable communications technology solutions for underserved areas around the world. (More on this soon).

Jerling said he was pleased to note at the Forum that affordable and universal access remains a priority, and that the results of the Kafue NP trial should make for some very interesting data to drive further infrastructure developments in rural areas.

Delegates at the forum urged African countries to get connected now to prevent missing out on current information networks and the economic benefits driven through the internet. In this respect infrastructure installation is a priority – service providers will simply bypass countries which don’t have the proper infrastructure, it was noted.

Focusing on Africa’s infrastructure is vital to allow the continent’s people freedom of access to the information network. But also, it would provide the missing link to un-tap the billions of dollars that can be made through e-commerce every year – revenue which Africa is not capitalizing on, research shows.

“Online activities are driving offline activities,” Joe Mucheru, head of Google in sub-Saharan Africa told Reuters. Africa must move fast to ensure that its people are not left behind by lack of access to the information network – and the economic benefits that are increasingly being delivered through it.

The forum certainly fulfilled its objective of stimulating dialogue and creating an awareness of the myriad of issues that must be considered by all stakeholders in the fastest growing socio-economic sector on Earth.