A modern Africa calls for digitisation

Internet connectivity in Africa has remained painfully slow, prohibiting the opportunities and possibilities a digitalised Africa could take advantage of. 

Internet connectivity in Africa has remained painfully slow, prohibiting the opportunities and possibilities a digitalised Africa could take advantage of. 

Elsewhere in Africa, internet users enjoy a spectrum of internet service providers (ISPs), however Rwanda is limited to Rwandatel or MTN.

At the department of ICT at Rhodes University, there is an ISP offering a more reliable and faster connection than MTN or Rwandatel.

Rwanda will have to choose between shying away from reality and getting down to working on real issues in order to become a regional information and communication technology (ICT) hub.

As Africa struggles to catch up with the developed world, it is bogged down by the lack of a competitive infrastructure in information and communication technologies.

Harold Wesso, the deputy director general of ICT policy at South Africa’s department of communication, says Africa must put the right infrastructure in place but look beyond its condition.

He says in 2000, Sub-Saharan Africa had 10 per cent of the population covered by the mobile network.

Today, it stands at 60 per cent. In Rwanda, MTN reports over 80 per cent coverage while statistics indicate only 5 per cent of Rwanda’s population are on the mobile network.

According to Wesso, this is a clear indication infrastructure alone is not the answer.

He says Africa needs to address problems in trying to access ICTs for development.

Work still needs to be done towards the uptake of the ICT services because people do not see the benefits of ICTs due to high costs.

Wesso says there is a great amount of foreign content on South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) TV.

During the Highway Africa Awards however, the CEO of SABC,Snuki zizalala, announced the launch of the SABC News International programme, focusing on real stories of Africa.

Matlare said this will stop stories about suffering, hunger, disease and poverty about Africa being publicised on BBC and CNN.

Wesso says Africa has done well “but still needs to develop appropriate policies to address the slow uptake of these technologies.’’

This means analogue signals will finally be phased out (as stated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)) by 2015. This issue will be addressed when Rwanda hosts an ITU summit next month.  

Wesso says South Africa has completed a broadcast digital migration policy and Rwanda is actually ahead in this area.

Digital migration offers a free spectrum, development of local content, and brings additional new and advanced communication services.

It will contribute to poverty alleviation and help source capital and social cohesion. People will be able to communicate in different ways, creating diverse opportunities.

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