Internet connectivity has been on the rise in Africa and across the world in the last decade, with data by Internet World Statistics revealing a 21,564 percent growth in internet penetration in Kenya between 2011 and 2017 and an 85 percent penetration rate.
It has been reported that 88 percent of the population that has access to internet in Kenya, do so via their mobile devices owing to the affordable data plan options available; a situation that has led to Kenya being ranked as one of the top countries in Africa in terms of internet penetration.
(TOP: Youth at a cybercafe. Photo: CNews).
However, despite these remarkable milestones that Kenya has made in that front, a gap still exists in the connectivity of rural Kenya that makes up approximately 74 percent of the total population in the country according to data released by the World Bank in 2016. This number goes to show that rural Kenya forms a significant part of the general population and hence they cannot be ignored on the internet connectivity front, if the country is looking to improve its economic and social growth and development.
A white paper released by Huawei Technologies and African Telecommunication Union (ATU) shows a direct effect of internet connectivity on the quality of lives of the people living in rural areas.
The White Paper which was launched at the Mobile World Congress hosted in Barcelona further shows that 0.4 billion of the African population has no network coverage.
Speaking during the unveil of the white paper, ATU’s Secretary General Abdoulkarim Soumaila said: “All people must be able to access the Internet. ATU is privileged to be part of this gathering in view of our role to ensure development of ICTs in Africa”.
“For this to be achieved, all stakeholders must cooperate and develop smarter strategies”, said Soumaila.
Cao Ming, Huawei Technologies’ VP of Wireless Product Line re-affirmed the firm’s commitment towards the provision of network coverage in Africa. “Huawei is committed to connecting unconnected with efficient business solutions”, said Cao Ming, vice president of Huawei Wireless Product Line, “we will keep innovating specialized solutions and cooperate with other stakeholders,” said Mr Ming.
The white paper further analyses African nations’ ICT plan and demographic and geographic features, revealing the political, social, economic and technical challenges of extending rural coverage.
The white paper proposes a number of solutions that would go a long way in ensuring that this goal to connect Africa is achieved:
o Proactive rural coverage standard, healthy business ecosystem and encouraging private investment
o Infrastructure sharing and scenario-oriented would go a long way towards addressing the challenge of cost.
o The other solution proposed is coverage enhanced tower sites for suburban scenarios and cost-efficient solutions like site with 2 sectors and simplified infrastructure applies to big villages or towns along the county highways.
o As for rural areas, targeted coverage solution with extremely low cost solutions like Huawei RuralStar, which is already underway in Kenya and other parts of Africa is recommended.