Sub Saharan Africa could produce the next Internet billionaire

This article is concerned with the Sub Saharan region of Africa, which, as a whole, is not as developed as the North African region.

Did you know that in 2009, the literacy rate amongst male generation Yers  in Nigeria was 78.15?

(C.f.http://www.tradingeconomics.com)

Or that Nigeria comes 7th in the world rankings of countries with the largest population.

(C.f. http://knowledge.allianz.com/?1550/world-of-seven-billion&mcg=2192994892_6870153652&kwg=Broad_2192994892_world+population)

Or that of the top 20 countries with the youngest populations, all but 2 of them are in Africa.

(CF http://knowledge.allianz.com/?1550/world-of-seven-billion&mcg=2192994892_6870153652&kwg=Broad_2192994892_world+population)

Probably not. The popular press and other mass media certainly promote the idea that the rest of the world are committed in partnering with African governments to develop the continent. To an extent this idea is backed up by billions of US dollars in foreign annual aid and investment.

Yet, although African countries represent more than 14% of the world`s population, they still remain the poorest by GDP in the world, and have the world`s most expensive and restricted bandwidth.

Government leaders in the region and global Internet businesses can make a difference to the technological development of Sub Saharan countries, and increase their revenues and profits while doing so. It`s time to make the Internet live up to its promise.

Strip down the Internet to its very basics and you have clusters of localised computers forming separate networks which all interconnect into a wider network. These networks are now powered by fibre optic cables (which have replaced the traditional metal electrical wiring) which are naturally suited for carrying digital data that is also used, unsurprisingly to transmit electricity. So electrical wiring can be used to run different applications for different functions, one of which is Internet access. Broadband, which is the term used to describe the ability of the electrical wire to transmit two way data, allows the client to access the Internet, through IP /TCP transmissions. IP/TCP allow the server to send html back to the client. The more capacity in the wire the greater the speed at which data can travel along the wire. Accordingly without the telecommunications infrastructure and secure internet servers there isnt the infrastructure necessary to run Internet applications efficiently in the region. Ofcourse you can use servers outside of the region but that does not support infrastructure development within the region.

According to nationmaster.com (http://www.nationmaster.com/), in 2006, Nigeria was number ranked 85 in the world with a total of 36 servers; 0.249 per 1 million people. The country with the highest number of servers was the United States with 259,881; 869,202 per 1 million people.

In a World Meteorological Organization Report 2006 the following responses were given about connection speeds in the following African countries: Benin: none; Uganda: 64 Kbps; Algeria: none; Ethiopia:28 kbs Gambia: 40kbs Guinea-Bissau: none.

(C.f. http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/www/Planning-Impl/RA-1/Nairobi2006/Doc4-2(2).pdf)

African governments can either tax and spend or foster innovation through policies that will encourage innovation and inward investment. Demand and supply will drive the need for infrastructure development. Increased innovation and development also tackles poverty head on, which will also assist in strengthening the rule of law; reducing crime including terrorism thereby improving security. Security is crucial to attract long term foreign infrastructure investment.

Here is a challenge to the region`s government leaders and major ICT stakeholders to make the following promises.

1. Funding: that more money will be allocated and greater competition will be encouraged to improve the telecommunication networks in Sub-Saharan Africa.

2. Empowerment: that the region`s generation Yer`s will be given the right encouragement and resources to build the next technology giants; like Google or Facebook in Nigeria, Ghana, Mauritius etc.

3. Recognition: that there will be a relentless campaign to ensure that Sub Saharan Africa is seen as the region for innovative businesses.

4. Coverage: that individual success stories are covered and rewarded. That print, on-line and broadcast media keep the spotlight on the continuing drive to modernise the region.

On the 24 March 2012 in London, Lawrence Lessig (a well-known academic and proponent of open IP rights), in his presentation, claimed that the reason for low broadband in the US is corruption. He claimed that governments, including the US government prevent competition to make more money for friendly provider(s).

This may be true in other regions, but Africa cannot afford to follow their example if it is to attract or better still nurture the next Internet billionaire.

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