Interesting article about the growing tech scene in Nairobi. I hope it heralds the start of a new wave of digitally literate Africans able to compete on an equal footing with the rest of the world.
However, to participate in the digital revolution, and share in the jobs and wealth that it is creating, Africa needs to be running with the cutting-edge technology, just like its competitors in Asia, the Americas and Europe. Currently, Africa has the lowest number of telephone lines, computers and Internet connections per capita in the world. The digital divide is particularly acute in rural areas, where there is a lack of telephone lines and electricity.
Technology may provide some of the answers. Take the Aakash tablet computers being trialled in India. At just $35, these touch-screen computers, said to support web browsing and video conferencing with a three-hour battery life and two USB ports, look like a great improvement over the wind-up $100 laptop of MIT Media Laboratory founder Nicholas Negroponte, who set up the non-profit One Laptop Per Child group. Although designed for developing countries, the technological limitations, particularly concerning connectivity, and small screen meant it was not much more than a children’s toy. Questions remain, however, over how the Aakash will perform. Africa, as elsewhere, needs sophisticated modern technology.
The public sector has a role to play, through iniatives such as the “Case des Touts Petits,” or Children’s House in Senegal, which is the construction of pre-school centers in villages which equip toddlers with their first exposure to hand held digital toys and games. Another initiative is the cyberhut, or centres equipped with computers and internet connections being set up across Senegal to allow villagers to communicate with the world, and to train young people. The private sector is also stepping in, installing underwater cables in West Africa that bring faster internet speeds.
There is still much work to do, however. In Africa there is one fixed broadband subscriber per thousand people, compared to 200 in Europe. Africa also has the highest relative price for information communication technology services in the world, despite having the lowest income levels.