There are a few remedies for fixing or closing the digital divide in Africa and fixed wireless access 5G alongside, affordable access to devices, and community connectivity initiatives may be the answer when coupled together to forge a path toward the solution.
Bridging the digital divide, as emerging technology paddles forward at an unprecedented pace is a challenge that needs not only a proactive solution but a fast-paced proactive solution.
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Looking at how Rami Osman, the director for Business Development, at MediaTek Middle East and Africa tackles the issue of the digital divide, we see traits of a needed deliberate shift forward both in thought and in technological action.
Fixed wireless Access (FWA) is emerging as the technology of choice for closing the remaining digital divide in Africa and bringing the educational, entertainment, business, and lifestyle benefits of fast broadband to a much wider population in Africa according to Osman.
This is expected to lead to a 5G boom for the African Telecoms sector over the next five years, as operators compete to reach more people with 5G connectivity.
The hanging digital gap
Africa unfortunately still experiences gaps in connectivity with only 25% of the population currently using the mobile internet, the GSM Association noted.
There’s untapped opportunity and 5G offers that opportunity for excluded people and regions to leapfrog to the latest and fastest mobile connectivity.
There lies an expectation that 5G will grow from around 1% of total connections in Africa today to 22% by 2023.
Osman says: “with speeds around 10-fold than 4G as well as lower latencies, 5G can enable consumers that don’t have access to fibre to enjoy true broadband speeds and performance for the first time. This will enable them to have a better experience on applications such as 4K video for videoconferencing and streaming, multiplayer gaming and cloud-based productivity applications.
“Looking to the near future, 5G will allow consumers to also use next-generation applications such as 8K video, augmented and virtual reality, cloud gaming, advanced internet of things and artificial intelligence applications in the smart home, school, workplace, and car. This will help to integrate Africa into the digital world economy on a more even footing.”
The needed result
The result should be penetration in Africa which is estimated to be only around 5%, while other FWA solutions such as LTE and WiMax struggle to gain traction on the continent.
Mobile operators are seeking new growth opportunities and targeting the connected home and business with FWA services should create new revenue streams by adding multiple new devices and users to networks.
Government and regulators should realize how unblocking access to these spectrums will unleash considerable economic and social benefits, Osman notes.
We could not agree more.
Closing the much-needed digital gap is crucial in addressing the gaps that exist in many parts of Africa.
While we agree with Osman there’s a need to streamline a myriad of factors such as digital literacy programs, making sure there’s affordable access, community connectivity initiatives, and sufficient infrastructure development programs.
There needs to be solid investment in the development and improvement of digital infrastructure, including broadband networks and mobile connectivity.
On top of that, digital literacy programs need to be implemented to complement comprehensive digital literacy programs that will ensure individuals with the skills needed to navigate and utilize digital technologies effectively mushroom.
All these developments need to be affordable while making internet access more affordable for all. This will be a challenge as the rising cost of data continues to be on an upward climb.
This step is crucial as it should shape and restructure a cultural response for a technological shift forward.
Establishing community networks and digital hubs in underserved areas can provide shared access points for internet connectivity.
This approach should promote community engagement and ensure digital resources are accessible to a broad population.
All this requires coordination, collaboration, and implementation between the government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and local communities.