By Kato Mivule | May 11, 2009
A recent article by the BBC sited what would be a significant impediment to the full utilization of the High Speed internet connectivity provided by companies like SEACOM which expects to launch services by June 2009.
“…And some analysts say that the three competing cables due to land shortly may actually create an over-supply of bandwidth in the East African market. Very few Kenyan households even have an internet connection and not many own a personal computer – indeed, there are just three million internet users in the whole country, out of a total population of close on 40 million. The statistics for the rest of Africa tell a similar story – of the 945 million people living on the continent, just 54 million use the internet. For all the talk of opening up access to broadband, this could end up being one big white elephant…”
Though East African Governments are racing to complete laying fiber optic cable inland, the High Speed Connectivity infrastructure will stay largely redundant for some time due to the fact that many families, schools, and even government institutions lack computers.
However, the lack of interest in owning a Personal Computer by those who can afford it, mainly Africa’s Middle Class and Business community is that there is a lack of sensitization on the advantages of computerization for both records and communication.
The same African Middle class and business community that shows no interest in owning a PC spends large sums of money buying expensive Nokia Phones and the latest Blackberry headsets.
I know of colleagues in Uganda for example who will buy the latest Nokia phone and yet will not buy a Laptop which would cost almost the same amount of money spent of the latest Nokia Headset.
However, this could be a very good opportunity to boost the Information Technology economy sector in East Africa. If only 3 million people out of 40 million have access to the internet in Africa according to the BBC, then perhaps there is potential for growth assuming that most of the 3 million folks access the internet via ‘Internet Cafes’.
PC Manufacturers could team up with SEACOM and provide broadband internet connectivity at home with the purchase of the latest PC at an affordable price slightly lower or at par with the latest Nokia headset.
As a matter of fact PC Manufactures are coming out with 200 to 300 Dollar Laptops and that price will continue to drop. SEACOM could beat competitors by teaming up with PC and Laptop Manufacturers and at the same time help promote computerization in East Africa. The Key is to send out a message that computerization is not an ‘elite thing’ but a basic need.
However, Internet Cafes in East Africa had better brace themselves for some tough time ahead as Africa’s Middle Class and Businesses will seek to access the internet from the comforts of their homes.
Yet, Computer Support Tech jobs will increase as the sales of PCs and Laptops increase and therefore the need for service.
Overall if SEACOM can see the ICT deficiencies in East Africa as an opportunity, SEACOM will set itself as a major ICT household name in East Africa.