While for many of us the year ahead may look ho-hum, dismal or hopeful, 2016 promises one great breakthrough – a major step toward ending Africa’s crippling form of the great Digital Divide. Poor connectivity has bedeviled much of the continent’s internet access (or often sheer lack of access) but now a huge improvement is in the offering.
It’s new subsea cable, to be laid off Africa’s eastern coastline, enabling a reliable and affordable international connectivity service to both coastal and landlocked counties in Eastern, Central and Southern countries of Africa.
The project is being developed by Liquid Sea, literally an offshore subsidiary of Liquid Telecom, which already runs a Pan-Africa network based on terrestrial fiber-optic cable supplemented by satellite links for rural and remote areas. Altogether, with offices from South Africa and Botswana in the south to Kenya in the East, taking in Democratic Republic of Congo in the center, it makes up the continent’s largest single contiguous network crossing multiple national borders.
Africa has benefited in many ways from the mobile revolution by leap-frogging cable communications, that have always been a stumbling block. But internet coverage still remains uneven, to say the least.
Les Cottrell, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center – Silicon Valley, will have the job assessing how big the difference the new Liquid Sea connection makes. Cottrell has seen all too clearly what a disadvantage is placed upon Africans by such digital inequality. The economics of the entire process, he maintains, are skewed by poor network performance in Africa, with total bandwidth that of about one-seventh of Europe’s international bandwidth capacity.
“Making matters worse,” Cottrell points out, “the price for bandwidth in Africa is cripplingly high. While a university in Germany might pay about US $4,000 per month for 1 gigabit per second of bandwidth, a school in Kenya can expect to pay $200,000 for the same service.”
All in all, though, Cottrell seems hopeful: “As the continent continues to attract big investors and cutting-edge science research projects,” he says, “its internet performance will advance further still”.
Read Article (David Tereshchuk | huffingtonpost.com | 12/31/2015)
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