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Africa Trails In Internet Usage

Doug Caverly
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-30

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Internet access remains a rare thing in Africa, where high costs and limited availability drive the technology far out of reach for most of the population. In terms of world Internet usage, Africans represent only 2.3 percent of the total, although they make up 14.1 percent of the world's population.

The Internet penetration figure in Africa is just 2.6 percent, compared to 68.6 percent in North America, according to data from the Miniwatts Marketing Group. Computer hardware remains too expensive for many Africans, but a bigger problem lies in the weak infrastructure.

People in Africa pay about $1,800 for 1 GB of data per month, said Mutahi Kagwe, Kenyan Minister for Information and Communication. The same amount of data would go for only about $20 per month in the U.S.

"The only undersea fiber optic cable to connect several African countries and the rest of the world . . . remains the most expensive in the world and contributes to the high costs of bandwidth in Africa," Kagwe said. Data and voice traffic from one African country to another are often routed through North America and Europe. This comes for a price of millions of dollars every year.

"We are behind almost everybody," Kagwe said in his statement. The Miniwatts data suggests this is an accurate observation in many respects. Africa had the lowest population penetration, and lagged every world region other than the Middle East and Oceania/Australia in terms of usage (as a percent of the world).

Things are improving, though. Africa ranked second highest in terms of usage growth, boasting a figure of 423.9 percent (measured between 2000 and 2005). Granted, with small numbers, even a minute increase can be translated into a big percentage change, but this data still suggests progress. Hopefully things will continue to pick up.

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About the Author:
Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

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