Connecting Africa – Catching Up Online

Getting online in AfricaSource: VOA News

As the world speeds forward into a new era, one factor is becoming ever more apparent; the future of the human race is one that will be bound together by the World Wide Web. There is simply no denying that the Internet and online connectivity in general, is an important part of the combined human future. As it stands, roughly 58% of the world is connected to the Internet in one form or another.

But, take a closer look at the African continent and you’ll see that Internet penetration is still considerably lagging behind. In-region online penetration sits at a much lower 35%. This means, in other words, that Africa can be considered about a decade behind the rest of the world in terms of online connectivity.

However, the rate of adoption as a whole is also vastly ahead of the rest of the world, meaning that not only is continent catching up, but it is also doing so at an incredible rate. This means that an ever-increasing number of Africans have access to everything the net has to offer, including being able to stream digital content, play online slots, or connect with others via email or on social media.

Online Adoption History

The Internet first arrived in South Africa in the 1980s, although the system installed was a closed one. This meant that although information could be shared amongst users within the network, there was not connection to the outside world. This only changed in 1993, when the first outside connection was made, officially connecting the closed online network to the rest of the world. The call was made via dial up, to France.

However, it was only in 2001 that a major Internet cable was installed, officially taking the connection to the next level. The installation of the cable boosted the number of Internet users on the continent significantly, taking overall penetration swiftly to over 5% by 2008. A big milestone, but still notably behind the rest of the world.

That 5% increased to 35% by December 2017, showing that not only is propagation rate fast, it is fast to a degree that is beyond wildest expectations.

Increasing Rates And Technology Focus

Connectivity in Africa improvesSource: Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Today, Madagascar has an average download speed of around 24.8 megabits per second. This not only makes it way ahead of every other country in Africa, but even beyond France, Germany and Portugal. A sign that nations are quickly moving to meet the challenge.

Likewise in Kenya, Nairobi boasts an average download speed of 10.1 mega bits per second, taking it beyond Israel. This is not to mention that Nairobi is now proud to call itself a city on the fast track to being smart, with online services that are no longer considered only a luxury afforded to the upper class earners in the area. Universities in the area likewise focus on educations based around the latest technology evolutions. This spells a future for Kenya firmly in the ranks of the online leaders.

A Bright Future

It’s true that Kenya, Madagascar and South Africa lead the way with online technology on the continent, showing that there is a bright future waiting on the horizon. But many other countries are still struggling to catch up, and lagging ever further behind. There is much work and effort required to bring the continent as a whole in line with the rest of the world.

However, if the steps taken by Kenya are anything to go by, as well as the astonishingly high adoption rates, it won’t be long before many countries in the area have closed the gap with European and American countries. It seems like only a matter of time, with the massive untapped potential of the region finally being fully realised and ground-breaking steps being taken by both governments and private companies to update, upgrade and implement infrastructure and bring it up to speed with the rest of the world.

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