All over the world, the internet has provided extraordinary socioeconomic opportunities to businesses, governments, and individuals.
But less developed countries still face numerous obstacles to maximise its potential. The problems range from obsolete infrastructure, the non-availability, non-accessibility, cost, power fluctuations, policies and regulation.
Many countries on the continent still have bandwidth as low as 64 kilobits. This is in contrast to the 270,000 megabits per second in the US.
Data also shows that downloading a 5GB movie took 734 minutes in the Republic of Congo, 788 minutes in Sao Tome, 850 minutes in Ethiopia, 965 minutes in Niger and 1,342 minutes in Equatorial Guinea.
Singapore is the fastest, taking about 11 minutes and eight seconds to download a typical 5GB high-definition movie.
African countries are listed among those with the lowest internet speed yet with the most expensive communication and internet cost in the world.
Africa has had the fastest growing mobile telecommunication market over the years. But the continent still has the lowest mobile penetration.
Developments in telecommunications happen in urban centres. Service providers argue that it’s not feasible to rollout a network to cover an entire country.
But advanced technologies are emerging to reduce the cost of internet provision and to increase accessibility.
They also offer the possibility of developing communication networks in a way that does less harm to the environment.
The approach is called resource virtualisation, where multiple telecommunication services can be provided by less physical infrastructure.
Since the chunk of the cost transferred to the end user comes from the cost of power and infrastructural management, this approach can reduce the operational cost, improve accessibility and cut the cost to the end user.
Like every architectural work, telecommunication masts must meet specific constructional requirements, including choice of location and risk analysis.
But unregulated construction is typical in many parts of Africa. Even where regulatory bodies exist, many media and communication masts are sited within short distances and hilly grounds in cities.
This is true in Ghana, where in an urban environment it’s possible to see 10 masts within close proximity to one another. This does not necessarily guarantee quality service.
In addition, it poses a severe environmental and physical risk. Masts are also expensive to put up, therefore having fewer — hence using less energy and doing less damage to the environment — would be the way forward.
The writer is a PhD researcher, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China; ©The Conversation