Google sets its sights on Africa


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

Google’s announcement to expand mobile broadband in Africa could revolutionize life on the continent. In the developed world, Mobile Web connectivity is such a part of everyday life that we take it for granted. This is not the case in Africa at all, but might be about to change. Google stated recently that it aims to dramatically improve Internet access on the continent by 2015.

The Internet in Africa still has a very low penetration rate, and measurable parameters such as overall number of hosts and available bandwidth indicate that it is very much behind the “digital divide“. Within Africa itself there is an additional divide, with most infrastructure concentrated in South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The Internet’s full potential therefore remains largely untapped in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, broadband penetration is still very low compared to regions of similar income, and although 15% of the world’s population lives in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 6% of the world’s Internet users do (Google). The telecommunications market in Africa is one of the fastest-growing in the world. Since 2000, mobile telephony in Africa has been booming and has become substantially more widespread than fixed line telephony.

Telecommunication companies in Africa are already looking specifically at Broadband Wireless Access technologies as the key to make Internet available to the population at large. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Internet is after all a tremendous, undisputed force for economic growth and social change.

On top of bringing people together, it also provides an outlet for new forms of innovation, entrepreneurship and social good. It is a dynamic tool for stimulating economic growth and has the ability to bring news and markets to even the remotest of populations. Fernando de Sousa, General Manager for Africa Initiatives at Microsoft, stated that by 2018 Africa will have a workforce of 500 million people. A big part of them will probably be entrepreneurs and will come up with new ideas, which can be turn into real projects and businesses.

It is therefore crucial that they have access to the necessary tools!