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December 10, 2003

Africa's dicey situation. Africa fears being left behind as the world rushes into a high tech future, with a stunned audience hearing from the secretary-general of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) this evening, that New York has more telephone lines than the whole of Africa!

The Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo puts it bluntly. "We are still struggling to provide the basic necessities of life... While faced with these challenges, we are also confronted with the digital revolution. We are, therefore, placed in a dicey situation."

"Almost everyone in the developed countries has access to ICTs, whereas in sub-Saharan Africa, overall fixed line teledensity is about 1 to 130 inhabitants while internet, computers and television are available to only a handful of elites," he added.

Earlier, Senegalese strongman Abdulaye Wade had raised hopes of the emergence of a new concept of digital solidarity. But the Nigerian president seemed more downbeat, his baritone voice conveying the sad message that there appears to be a lack of political will to tackle a widening digital divide. He called, again, for a Digital Solidarity Fund, as "a practical measure for redressing the digital imbalance."

It was not all bad news. The President enthused about the strides which he says Nigeria has taken in catching up with the rest of the world. An independent telecoms regulatory is in place, which "has led to increased foreign investment as well as the intensification of competition. within the past four years, fixed telephone lines have increased from about 300,000 lines to 720,000 while mobile telephones increased fro m less than 50,000 to about 2,500,000. Direct foreign and domestic investment in the sector amounts to about four billion dollars."

More on this from Andy Carvin...
Oghogho Obayu @ December 10, 2003 08:12 PM | TrackBack

Comments (3)
Wow! It's almost unbelievable that New York has more telephone lines than all of Africa. That statistic really puts the digital divide in perspective for me. As an American college student and world citizen, I will strive to change this digital divide for my generation's future.
Kristen Landreville @ December 10, 2003 11:01 PM
This could actually be an advantage; Africa has a chance now to set up a network that has more planning involved than in the developed nations. Consider that the infrastructure barely exists - it's like a blank slate.

All that is really needed are VBP (Very Big Pipes) between population centers, then go from there. Done right, this could allow for better expansion over time. Problem: This could be very expensive, and the VBP would be under the stress of the elements as well as human issues.

I think the best alternative would be to actually have Satellite links to each population center, and wireless access in between. That would probably be the most cost effective way of doing things.

Of course, to prove this theory will take expensive studies and reams of paperwork, as well as a few years of time.

It's good being an opinionated layperson. :)
Taran @ December 11, 2003 12:40 AM
In my opinion only wise policy can quick the development of high tech in Africa. It's rather strange to hear that "We are, therefore, placed in a dicey situation." It's not a passive process! African Government is responsible for this situation,i mean,and must try to provide high tech future. Involving foreign capitals can also be very useful.

LM @ December 11, 2003 12:53 AM

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