Africa is widely known worldwide as one of the most technologically under connected and underdeveloped continent in the world. Most of the burden has been carried in rural areas, where many social service agencies and businesses have avoided setting up shop due to inferior technological and service infrastructure. With the completion of the fiber optics projects across the continent the hope is that citizens who remain “unfortunately underconnected” will have access to high-speed Internet. This will enable them to utilize the new cutting edge technology for a multivariate of educational and business purposes. Citizens of the continent will have access to a wealth of data and information, which will allow for the expansion of their participation across the globe. The hope is that the installation of fiber optic cable networks in rural areas would allow government agencies, medical facilities, institutions of higher learning, and social service agencies to leverage the new robust broadband technologies to improve the quality of their service.
Earlier in the year the continent and the world witnessed the historic uprisings in the Northern parts of the Sahara desert, a region that has been known to be well developed, stable, and peaceful. What the world observed in these uprisings both amazed, shocked, and left others dumbfounded as the uprising affirmed the power of information technology. The influential and powerful effect of rapid connectivity to the internet and access to information services cannot be underestimated as it has open-up space for those who have been oppressed and deprived of information for a long period of time; by providing a platform to express themselves on not only a continental, but global level. However with the rapid growth and improvements in information technology especially mobile technology Africans are beginning to gain exposure to technologically mobile laboratories to learn, share ideas, and debate ideas about cultural ideologies, connections, and influence.
The recent events in North Africa proved that some of our African leaders suffer from a modicum of knowledge on what the information age meant and the implications that it has for the enforcement of democratic practices on the continent. The recent Presidential elections in Nigeria have been hailed as the most democratic, and part of the reason for that was the fact that technology was very present. People, especially the youth, went to polling stations with their mobile devices, ready to document and most importantly share any mishappenings with the elections dealings and results. As the completion of laying of fiber optics cable in Africa comes to an end, our people will be more informed in a timely manner; physical space will not be a barrier to accessing information to build knowledge that will transform a continent that has been underdeveloped by those who were privy to information. As people begin to realize what has been happening to their countries we will see more Africans responding with alacrity to all the mismanagement of resources and oppression and also rewrite external representations of Africa by taking back Africans voice.
Those in rural underdeveloped parts of the countryside will be able to collaborate with others on best practices on economic development issues as well as access to digital materials without having to travel long distances to access them. People in areas that have been marginalized would be able to access some of the services that have been a luxury and far removed from them for a long time. Most importantly, we hope that those in urban areas will also engage with those in the rural areas to learn more about our cultures and ways to preserve it.
It is expected that African governments will allow independent telecommunication regulators to function on their own although they will have to ensure that there is fair competition between them. Those regulators will have to show affinity for developing rural broadband projects in all parts of the countries in which they work. Thus by improving Internet connectivity networks, the rural areas would allow companies to move their businesses and services there and hence create new economic opportunities without opting for urban immigration.
It is my hope that the projects will be met with ululation all over as the technology is being rolled out to those remote communities; cost and speed would no longer be an issue. This will hopefully mean that schools will benefit from this, those who would like to further their education would have access to open and distance learning opportunities, teachers would have access to online materials, and government services would be decentralized. Those Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) would benefit immensely as they grow their businesses and empower upcoming entrepreneurs. This is definitely a unique opportunity for Africa to participate on the creation of knowledge and re-establish herself amongst the world leaders in what is often termed ‘the information technology revolution’ instead of being the consuming continent.