If don’t already know him, Bitange Ndemo is the honorary chair of the Alliance for Affordable Internet or A4AI, a coalition of members from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors with the mandate of reducing internet costs to at least less than 5% of average per capita income in any country.
The push to connect the unconnected people especially in emerging markets like Africa isn’t from just big global internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft only. Connecting the next billion online won’t just benefit global corporations that have their own interests, it’s helping young people across the continent to Innovate according to an interview the Mail&Gurdian did with Bitange ahead of the Activate Johannesburg Summit 2014.
Although Bitange didn’t get into the details of what he meant by innovate, it’s clear how the digital revolution is swiping the continent. From the vibrant startup ecosystem in Lagos Nigeria that sees ecommerce startups such as Jumia and Konga springup to Mobile payment solutions coming up in Nairobi and digital gaming startups in Kampala. Bitange adds that the digital economy accelerated by broadband internet is greatly contributing to economic growth in Africa and creating new jobs that had never existed.
He also says that Governments in Africa are gearing up to use the mobile platforms to offer government services. This is mostly evident on the adoption of social media tools by government bodies to connect with their citizens on sites like Facebook and Twitter. In Uganda for instance, we have the Uganda Police, State house, bank of Uganda and more recently President Museveni sign up to Twitter to actively engage with the citizens.
However, the adoption of the internet in Africa won’t be without challenges. First, will be the hurdle of connecting much of rural Africa since most of the internet connectivity is concentrated in urban areas. Even though wireless broadband networks have penetrated even the remotest areas of continent, connectivity and access means remain a challenge. Besides rural connectivity, Bitange adds that government censorship and cyber-security will be new problems in the connected age.
Image: Kola studios team at Pivot East 2013.
Image Source: Kola Studios