Africa set for ‘internet revolution’

16 September 2010

Businesses across Africa are expecting a revolution in internet access, costs and technology as a result of the rush of new undersea cables connecting the continent, a new report finds, with wider access also driving increased use of social networking as a business tool.

More than 90% of business decision-makers across Africa are expecting prices to drop and competition to increase dramatically, according to the Telecoms Trends in Africa 2010 report, released on Thursday by South African technology research firm World Wide Worx and Database 360.

The survey, conducted among 1 100 internet-using small, medium and large businesses across 20 African countries, also revealed that most African countries remain heavily reliant on slow or expensive forms of connectivity, such as dial-up and satellite. However, they are beginning the move to broadband.

“Our interviewers encountered tremendous enthusiasm for the internet in all countries we surveyed,” Database 360 MD Louise Robinson said in a statement. “There is little doubt that, in this new connectivity era, the very nature of most businesses is changing.”

ADSL: standard form of business internet

Database 360 operates a call centre in Cape Town, from which the respondents were interviewed telephonically. The study was compiled and the data analysed by World Wide Worx.

“ADSL is fast becoming the standard form of business internet access across Africa – more than 40% of businesses in these 20 countries are using it,” said World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck. “However, we can see the limitations of existing infrastructure from the fact that satellite connectivity remains a key part of the mix.”

More than one in five respondents said they were using satellite connectivity, with a similar number planning to add it to their options.

“Satellite is the most expensive means you can possibly use to access the internet. The continued appetite for it tells us that, even though there is an expectation for better and cheaper connectivity, the reality on the ground remains one of limited infrastructure.

“Moreover, once businesses go online, the internet becomes increasingly more vital to their survival, and having a backup form of access becomes increasingly more important,” said Goldstuck.

Broadband growth, social networking

Countries like Mauritius, Ivory Coast and Namibia are already showing strong growth in ADSL usage by business, while Angolan businesses indicate the highest anticipated growth for this form of broadband.

“It’s amazing to see how the level of internet usage shoots up wherever the new undersea cables have landed and fibre optic networks have linked the cables to urban centres,” said Robinson. “The East Africa countries, especially, are taking to social networking as a business tool to a greater extent than almost anywhere else in Africa.”

The survey highlights Kenya and Uganda as the biggest African users of social networking for business. However, even landlocked countries that have recently seen major upgrades to their fibre-optic networks, such as Botswana and Zambia, are also moving rapidly in this direction.

The study further explored the use of general internet applications, e-mail on mobile phones, and the emergence of cloud computing in Africa.

SAinfo reporter

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