If you have read my Twitter bio you must have noticed that I describe myself as an Internet enthusiast or zealot or devotee or lover. Now the reason for this is information should be available to all. In fact, Internet access is a human right. A very vital one. If you are reading this blog right now you probably know this already, but think about that person who is in the dark because they can’t afford or even those that can but don’t know that they have to.
Today I want to rant about internet access in Africa. By the Internet, I am not talking about the messaging apps and social media like most have been limited to believe on this continent. Have you ever texted someone a link of a site and they say to you “I will check when I have enough data”, if yes do you realize they are not exposed or they are basically being Gramophone? The internet is closed to them.
The Internet for starters is very intricate that most people don’t know about it’s tangible bit, the part that comprises the fiber optic cables that actually very delicate, the point to point stations and the power or electricity that gives it life. Hope you have figured out why Internet signals go down when there are power outages. All these components in simple terms mean money which is very scarce on the continent because of very many reasons.
Half of the world population has no access to the internet, and the biggest part of that half is in Africa. It’s worse in places like Uganda where am writing this from, there are internet oscillations less than 30 kilometers from the capital city and they want to run a polling process online, any back to the principle. If you think this internet access issue is a joke analyze the numbers of your site visitors from your home country if your are writing from Africa. The numbers are a reflection of reality on the ground.
How many people read a blog should not be very important but it and it will be a topic for some other time. More than ever before has it been made clear that the Internet is vital for socioeconomic advancement of the world. Access to the Internet is actually why people are above the poverty line and others are way below it.
The pandemic has helped on some extent to shape the mentality about adopting internet use in society. Other parts of the world has taken on education through the Internet and they were putting in places systems to facilitate the all thing. Africa was dragging it’s feet, in fact, when the lockdown started the minister of education and sports stopped a university from conducting online exams a move that has turned out to be retracted since all Universities where later given a go ahead. Doctors attending to the sick online was a joke until hospitals in first world countries where full to capacity, in Africa we have not got to those levels but because of the restrictions in place medical check-ups and reviews where impossible and the fact that there are not internet health systems in place made the situation disastrous and I believe they were lives lost.
With such poor internet access, it funny that Africa leads in mobile money transactions, which process I don’t trust even if it is African. I have serious questions about it’s immunity to a financial catastrophe like one the telecommunications running bankrupt. Am bringing up mobile money because online banking is not yet widely comprehended in Africa, some think it’s not safe but it all goes back to internet access. I have a friend who has refused to update his ANYBOOKS App because they simply don’t believe in online payments. Most African merchants travel to Asia to make transactions that can be done in the comfort of their shops but they don’t even have basic emails in the first place.
According to the IMF, a 1% point in the share of internet users in the population raises per capita growth by practically 0.1%-0.4% points in sub-Saharan Africa. That is how much internet access can stagger every economic aspect of the continent. It’s up to each to ensure that those responsible put up the infrastructure needed, the best policies to stimulate internet access.