Study warns of looming capacity shortfall in Africa

Posted on April 8, 2014 11:11 pm

Despite advances over the past half a decade, the slow pace of information and communications technology development in parts of Africa could put economies at a disadvantage against rival developing regions. Mobile phone operators are still launching 3G mobile broadband services recently while others in developed world telcos are testing 4G mobile technologies. However, 3G services have not provided nationwide coverage. It is expected that 3G coverage from all three provider will be expanded to around 70% of the population by the end of the 2016 and 90% by the middle of 2017.Though a major step forward, with the 3G services offering internet speeds up to 300 times faster than those of the dated 2G technology, parts of Africa are still well off the ICT pace being set by some of its neighbors. A new report, which assesses Africa’s information technology infrastructure, usage, affordability and socio-economic impacts, found that the continent had made some progress over the past 24 months but that it still had a long way to go. Though performing well in some categories, such as business-to-client usage of ICT services, Africa lagged far behind.

According to the report, the relative affordability of technology is a highlight of Africa’s performance, but this is offset by the relatively low penetration rate of technology other than mobile phones. The report says that more needed to be done at state level to promote ICT development. The institutional environment does not seem to be particularly conducive and the government does not appear to be particularly ardent at pushing the digital agenda nationwide. Another body to weigh into the discussion is the Information Technology Union, which last year said Africa needs to bridge the gap between its ICT platforms and those of other developed continents, some of which are a decade further up the technology track. With additional spectrum sets to be freed up this year in the 700-MHz band, as broadcast television shifts from analog to digital, African countries should move to utilize this spectrum for 4G and 5G mobile communications. The report issues a warning that the continent faced a serious capacity shortfall over the next few years due to the limited amount of spectrum available for 3G and 4G mobile services.

Contador Harrison