By Clement Prince Addo
All over the world, the internet has provided extraordinary socioeconomic opportunities to businesses, governments, and individuals. But less developed countries still face numerous obstacles to maximise its potential. The problems range from obsolete infrastructure, the nonavailability, non-accessibility, cost, power fluctuations, policies and regulation.
Many countries on the continent still have the bandwidth as low as 64 kilobits. This is in contrast to the 270,000 megabits per second in the US. Data also shows that downloading a 5GB movie took 734 minutes in the Republic of Congo, 788 minutes in Sao Tome, 850 minutes in Ethiopia, 965 minutes in Niger and 1,342 minutes in Equatorial Guinea. Singapore is the fastest, taking about 11 minutes and 8 seconds to download a typical 5GB high-definition movie. In certain situations, bandwidths for the entire country is less than what is available to an individual residential subscriber in the US.
Similarly, African countries are listed among those with the lowest internet speed yet with the most expensive communication and internet cost in the world.
Africa is on record to have had the fastest growing mobile telecommunication market over the years. But the continent still has the lowest mobile penetration. And developments in Africa’s telecommunications sector happen in cities and urban centres. Service providers argue that it’s not economically feasible to roll out a network to cover an entire country .
But various advanced technologies are emerging to reduce the cost of internet provision and to increase accessibility. They also offer the possibility of developing communication networks in a way that does less harm to the environment.
The approach is called resource virtualisation, where multiple telecommunication services can be provided by less physical infrastructure. Since the chunk of the cost transferred to the end-user comes from the cost of power and infrastructural management, this approach can reduce the operational cost, improve accessibility and cut the cost to the end-user.