Effectual broadband policies can boost growth

May 25, 2015

Efficacious policies could increase mobile and fixed broadband penetration according to a report by Groupe Speciale Mobile Association(GSMA), an international association of mobile operators and related companies. This growth would lead to a cumulative increase in gross domestic product, and the increased access to mobile broadband infrastructure would generate new skilled jobs, strengthen digital inclusion and expedite the goals set out in digital economic plans that most countries have set up.GSMA said mobile broadband was critical in achieving any government strong ambitions to turn their country into a “digital economy” and boost digital inclusion. The impact of mobile broadband access is profound, from improving productivity and driving the creation of new businesses and skilled jobs, to delivering mobile healthcare and money services and enabling smart cities. Realizing the potential of mobile broadband hinges on the release of spectrum for fourth-generation broadband, along with policies aimed at promoting a truly competitive, dynamic, investment-led mobile sector.

For example, the report “Building Africa’s Digital Economy and Societies” focused on several key areas where appropriate policy and regulation will be required to ensure that mobile broadband develops successfully.One of them is to provide fair, transparent access to mobile spectrum by transitioning from a concession to a licensing regime.The other is to award available spectrum in the 900- and 1,800-megahertz bands at the earliest opportunity to expand 3G and 4G mobile services, as the swift adoption of 3G in South Africa and Kenya indicates there is demand for mobile broadband.Also, plan to make the globally harmonized 700MHz “Digital Divid-end” band available to mobile to expand coverage in urban and currently under-served rural areas in Africa.African countries also need to establish a business-friendly environment and a level playing field with state-owned companies through transparent processes and stakeholder consultation to maximize the certainty of investment in cutting-edge technologies and services.In Kenya, there has been calls by Airtel Kenya for guaranteed independence of the Communication Authority of Kenya by ensuring it is structurally and functionally separate from the government and operates with a clearly defined mandate, leading to greater investor confidence.

This was after Safaricom was awarded freely 4G spectrum in exchange of developing a security related project by the Kenyan government.In countries like Tanzania and Zimbabwe, there has been plans to adopt government-led demand policies to build awareness of the Internet and strengthen digital literacy, encouraging mobile broadband usage by the population.Successful mobile applications are already offered in several African countries, which align with the goals of the Digital Economy that is gaining popularity across the continent. M-Pesa enables more than 30 million people to execute e-payment transactions and is expanding to person-to-person payment for unbanked customers. The further roll-out of 4G network infrastructure in Africa will provide a platform to extend mobile operator offerings significantly in such areas as mobile money and digital commerce, as well as the creation of new services to respond to the needs of local populations. As a blogger I can only encourage African countries to consider the sector as a critical enabler for the development of vibrant digital economy and societies. With so much at stake for Africa citizens and businesses, the continent cannot afford to fail.

Contador Harrison