If ignorance is bliss, then Africa is a very blissful place; we are still battling the scourge of ignorance that prevents us from integrating into the wider world.
The Internet has not benefited Africa as much as it has the rest of the world due to our poor infrastructure and lack of investment; the download speeds are so slow that one cannot get the instant interactive communication that is the true Internet experience.
We still mostly use satellites and towers instead of fibre optic cables that connect to a sea-cable.
The result is a very slow and inefficient service, with standard broadband costing exorbitant amounts, as much as $2,000 a month; the two main service providers took advantage of this cartel arrangement to fleece the customer.
Before I used to pay Rfw20, 000 for internet on MTN and though it was slow it was bearable, now I have to pay $300 for a USB connection or pay hourly per unit, which is extortionate.
Then you have Rwandatel which is equally expensive and requires a lump sum upfront, and just like MTN they have erratic service.
Some say this is the effect of “going native” in MTN’s strategy; this is when a multi-national company enters an under-developed market and instead lowers its services and expectations to match those of an unexposed public.
The actual numbers regarding Internet use in Rwanda are hard to come by; Artel estimated that there are some 20,000 daily users in Rwanda, 40,000 weekly users and around 200,000 Rwandans have email accounts.
That is a tiny drop in the ocean compared to the potential market out there; but how can the average Rwandan get a good connection when it costs the same as the GDP per capita just to join the internet revolution.
Altech Stream, Rwanda has just announced that Rwanda has been connected to the Internet via the sea-cable in Mombassa.
Altech must avoid the mistakes of the current players in the market and charge reasonably to develop the market; they must be ready to make a loss in the beginning to expand the customer subscription rate, and not just to make the most of a weak market.
Rwanda is aiming to be one of the best connected nations in the world, there are plans to roll out a national broadband network very soon, and mobile terminals are taking the Internet to the rural masses.
In today’s world, broadband system is more important than other utilities such as water, because even the water is regulated by a computer system somewhere.
Imagine trying to read a book, but a word appears every 10 seconds? That is what it is like to try and use the Internet in Africa; this move has endless potential, with our tech and services industry set to boom if it takes advantage of this potential.
I once spoke to the TV anchorman Jon Snow and he said “if genocide happened in Rwanda (God forbid), or any other country, then we still wouldn’t be able to show it, because it would cost $20,000 an hour to hire a satellite.”
That illustrates the importance of being connected; it can save your life.