Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, was recently interviewed by CNBC Africa and was asked what the best invention in the last 20 years was? He mentioned the tablet and the low cost Android phones.
I remember when Jimmy Wales was in Nigeria earlier this year, he brought out his low cost Android phone—the Huawei IDEOS that a friend got for him from Kenya. The phone is very popular in Kenya and costs. In a response to that question that he was asked he said;
“The thing I’m most excited about of recent innovations would be tablet computers — the iPad and the cheaper Androids that they are going to be sending out in the next few years. I think that we have the opportunity to create inexpensive devices that are 3G capable, which will lead to the next billion people coming online which I think is the one of the most important cultural things that’s going to happen to our generation.”
The low cost Android phones and the cheaper tablets won’t just bring about the needed changes in societies all by their own. There’s need for these devices to connect to the internet and that is where better and cheaper broadband is needed. Do we have this broadband?
Just like the saying; “water, water, water everywhere, but there is no water to drink. There are a couple of submarine cables that have landed in Africa. A few are active, and some others are still in planning stage. In Nigeria we have the Mainone and the Glo1 submarine cable. Getting the cables to the shore of each of the countries is just one step of the deal. There’s also, how do we redistribute it?
After the undersea cables landed, there’s need for distribution. That is exactly where the problem lies. One of the companies that have brought this submarine undersea cable to Nigeria is Mainone. They have also complained about certain barriers. Ms Funke Opeke, CEO of Mainone, said, despite the huge investment in broadband, Nigeria is still not enjoying the expected access.
According to her, “the problem with broadband penetration in Nigeria is not about infrastructure. There is infrastructure but it is in proprietary, meaning that it is controlled by large telecom operators. That is exactly why it is still costly to go into the inlands. That is why a huge capacity is still in the shores and major cities. That is why the wholesale retail price differences are still prohibitive and relatively high. However, there is a way out — Broadband policy.”
These are some of the barriers that will have to move for connectivity in Nigeria to be ubiquitous. Most of the folks currently connected to the internet are connected via mobile data and not wifi. Emeka Okoye once said that there would be lots of possibilities if wifi can be made available in the local places and in markets. Just imagine; market women can use low cost Android tablets and smartphones and have access to smart and simple tools that will be built for them by the developer community.
I want to agree with what Jimmy Wales said about Tablets and low cost Android phones bringing more people to the web and opening them up to more opportunities. When the broadband policy is passed, like Funke Opeke asked, we can make use of many of the propriety infrastructures that are held by telecommunication operators and have a more ubiquitous broadband. Looking forward to a time when broadband will be cheaper and very readily available like we have in the west and the global north.
Photo Credit: Map of submarine cable