Monday, November 12, 2007

Africa To Receive $55 Billion In Internet Investments By 2012

Africa to receive investment to boost internet

KIGALI - Africa will receive investment worth 55 billion dollars to boost its goal of securing universal Internet access by 2012, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said yesterday.

The commitments were made at the two-day “Connect Africa” summit that ended in Rwandan capital on Tuesday, with a pledge to speed up technology in the continent, the ITU said in a statement.

The ITU and African Development Bank (AfDB) jointly vowed to cooperate in connecting all African capitals and major cities with a broadband infrastructure and strengthen connectivity to the rest of the world by 2012.

“By 2015, broadband and ICT (information and communication technology) services will be extended to all African villages,” the statement said.

This is great news for the people who live on the continent of Africa. Telecommunications, like a water distribution system and the electrical grid are the foundations of an advanced and productive society. Just as a new highway leads to development of restaurants and shopping plazas on the side of the road, so too will this information highway produce similar benefits for millions of people.

In my own line of research on the impact that the mobile phone has had in Africa and in various "developing countries" around the world such enhanced communications has radically changed people's lives for the better. In fact many African nations are further ahead of the United States when it comes to mobile payments. Since many of these countries use prepaid calling cards for their cellphones the mobile operators there have set up a system by which a son that has moved to the big city is able to transfer credits to his mother's cellphone back in the village. He account receives these increased credits. She is then able to go into a store and transfer the stored value on her phone account to the store as a means of purchasing food. This is a "Western Union" type money transfer service via the cellphone.

In the coming years the development of a robust and ubiquitous telecom infrastructure in Africa will mean that more people will participate as "knowledge workers" in these various economies. Africa's challenge is to being to ship finished goods outside of their region rather than raw materials. The implementation of this network will lead it further down this path. This is a good news story for Africa and her people.

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