PCF5: High Cost of Internet Connectivity in Africa: How Do We Achieve Mobile Telephony Success Story?

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Grace Muwanga, Mbarara University, Uganda
Email : muwangam@yahoo.co.uk


The basic requirement for using any web-based tools is to have Internet connectivity. This is the only way Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) can serve as effective tools for development, poverty reduction and opportunity for all in Africa. The immense benefits of having ‘universal availability’ of internet will be realized only if people in Africa can have reliable and affordable access to the internet. In the majority of African countries, both requirements, i.e., reliability and being affordable, are still a distant dream.

The purpose of this session is to explore factors that render internet connectivity in Africa so expensive compared to developed countries.

The outcome of this session would be participants coming up with possible solutions to the problems identified above, these being organized into recommendations to be forwarded to African governments for consideration.

The session will be organized as a round table discussion led by a number of experts on Internet connectivity in Africa. 90 minutes should be devoted to this session.


(I) Current status of Internet accessibility in Africa

(II) What factors lead to high cost of Internet in Africa?

  1. Cost of Bandwidth
  2. Cost of ICT equipment
  3. Routing of Internet connections out of the continent before reaching their destination within
  4. Infrastructure of Internet connections in Africa
  5. Monopoly by a few Internet Service Providers
  6. ICT Policy issues
  7. Others

(III) Comparison of availability between Internet connectivity and mobile telephony in Africa.

What factors have made mobile telephony relatively more successful? Is it possible to use existing mobile telephony infrastructure for distributing internet in Africa? Aren't mobile technologies the way forward in Africa regarding digital communications? Mobile technologies tend to have an advantage over other technologies in that they overcome most physical infrastructural barriers, this being a crucial factor in rural and remote settings where the majority of Africans live. What factors have hitherto beset use of mobile technologies for delivering internet services?

(IV) Measures to bring costs down

(V) Other factors to consider in order to achieve internet for all in Africa

  • Any lessons to be learnt from developing countries in other parts of the world?
  • Cost of basic computer literacy programmes – using self-paced, e-learning packages (preferably
    Open Source Software)
  • Technology considerations: Production of low-cost, low-power consuming, robust computing devices
    designed for the Third World: future hand-held mobile computing gadgets?
  • Local content development (in English and Local languages)
  • Creating demand for Internet usage – achieving a critical mass of internet users
  • Others

(VI) Recommendations to African governments


It is suggested that the discussion follows a logical sequence based on the above six subtitles, with approximate time allocation for each item, i.e.

  1. Introduction and background to the subject matter (Approx. 10 minutes)
  2. Current status of Internet accessibility in Africa (Approx. 10 minutes)
  3. What factors lead to high cost of Internet in Africa? (Approx. 10 minutes)
  4. Comparing mobile telephony with internet access in Africa (Approx. 20 minutes)
  5. Measures to bring costs of internet connectivity down (Approx. 15 minutes)
  6. Other factors to consider in order to achieve internet for all in Africa (Approx. 15 minutes)
  7. Recommendations to African governments (Approx. 10 minutes)

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