By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | March 13, 2014
According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), content from sub-Saharan Africa is lacking, when measured by the number of Internet servers on the continent compared to other regions.
“In 2004, a total of 424 926 Internet servers were known to be located in Africa compared to 29 040 707 in Asia. Africa accounts for just 0.16 per cent of all servers worldwide. This means that local content is sparse and generally hosted outside of the continent,” states the ITU.
The absence of local content means that Africa’s estimated 167 million Internet users are consuming content that is either produced externally or sits somewhere outside the continent. Content is the heartbeat of the Internet.
Local content in particular increases the utility of the Internet which is important for sustaining a market. Local content is a key factor in facilitating the mass use of the internet.
According to the ITU, developmental plans for local content at national level are required.
Such plans for developing local content will cover all areas that use ICTs: agriculture, health, education, culture, commerce and public administration.
Governments and their departments need a hosting service for their data and all government projects and programs must include an ICT component.
However, much work will still need to be done to ensure that populations that have long been locked out of the internet have the appropriate skills to utilize online content.
Because significant parts of the population in Africa have been left out of the Internet for so long, there is a danger that Africa could face a new epidemic of digital illiteracy.
To avoid this, there is a need for national programs to attract more people to the Internet.
This is also key to building a sustainable internet market, so to speak. The education sector will play a key role in diffusing internet skills to a majority of the population in little time but this will require planning, partnerships, forward thinking and financial investment.
The ITU states that demand for the Internet needs to be stimulated through the creation of services, as there will be no mass use of the Internet if services do not meet the real needs of Africa’s population.
According to McKinsy and Co, the Internet in Africa remains a wide open space where companies and entrepreneurs can capture large opportunities if they are willing to move rapidly and decisively.
And the icing on the cake is that possibilities exist to use the Internet to revamp the delivery of education, health and other public services – transforming lives and livelihoods.