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The penetration of Internet in Africa is quite limited compared to the rest of the world. Measurable parameters such as the number of ISP-registered users, overall number of hosts, IXP-traffic, and overall available bandwidth all indicate that Africa is way behind the "digital divide". Moreover, Africa itself exhibits an inner digital divide, with most Internet activity and infrastructure concrentrated in South Africa, Morocco and Egypt and smaller economies like Mauritius and Seychelles. One of the most basic issues to be faced by Internet users in Africa is that the overall available bandwidth is scarce. Most Internet traffic to or from Africa has to go through expensive satellite links, since cable connections are few and limited in capacity. This has the effect to boost the cost of Internet use, especially for broadband. In 2007, Africa had about 1,000,000 broadband subscribers overall, most of them being companies and institutions.

In most countries (especially in Subsaharan Africa), much of the population is sparsely distributed over wide areas, which makes it difficult to solve the last mile problem (i.e., connecting the end user). Fixed telephones companies could not solve this problem; of the estimated 400,000 rural communities in Africa, some 4% is reached by the PSTN and a similar fraction by electric utility grids.

While Africa's telecommunication market is thus relatively poor, it is also the fastest growing one in the world. Between 2004 and 2007 this has been true especially for the mobile telephony market, which has been growing three times faster than the world's average. As a consequence, mobile telephony (mainly in the form of GSM, but also 2.5G and 3G) services are becoming highly available even in rural areas. Many countries (including South Africa, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda) have virtually full GSM coverage of rural settlements.

The success of mobile telephony over fixed lines in Africa suggests that BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) technologies such as WiMAX could be taken into account for what concerns data communication. Some experimentation with wireless broadband access is already being carried on in projects like Horizon Wireless in Nigeria and Digital Village Scheme in Kenya. MTN Rwanda is already providing BWA to its customers in Kigali.

At the same time, several countries are involved in projects that aim at providing Africa with a fiber optics backbone connection to the Internet. TEAMS, EASSy and SEACOM are projects for a submarine cable connection in the Indian Ocean, that will serve East African countries. Those projects are racing to be able to provide service in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup due to be held in South Africa.

See also

References

  • International Telecommunications Union (2007), Telecommunications/ICT Markets and Trends in Africa, [1]
  • Internet World Stats (2008), African Internet Usage and Population Stats [2]

External links

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