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Will Improved Internet Access Affect the Flow of Information in Africa ?


The launch of a new fiber optic cable to eastern and southern Africa will mean increased bandwidth and improved opportunities for businesses and people who want to use the Internet, says John Karanja, a student of sociology at the University of Oxford in Great Britain. The cable will improve Internet connectivity in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique.

Governments in the region are excited about the prospect of improved Internet infrastructure, says Karanja, who writes a blog, johnkaranja.com, “They (governments) are waiving taxes on computers and other accessories to make them easily accessible to their people,” he says. “This will allow institutions and individuals to acquire computers and set up basic computing infrastructure that the countries need to move forward.”

Governments in the region have a stake in the provision of fiber optic cable to their countries, says Karanja. The SEACOM cable is owned by a consortium in Mauritius, which includes some European investors, and local telecom companies in eastern African countries.

There is concern about political instability in the region that might affect how the technology will be adapted and how quickly it will roll out, he says. But “some governments such as Rwanda and Kenya started very early by rolling out the infrastructure needed so they are just waiting to launch the product to the end-user.”

The launch of the [fiber optic] cable will greatly enhance the capability of the media to roll out its own products, he says, such as uploading video or starting a blog, and [will] enhance the freedom of the press because “the media will not be inhibited in the manner they have been inhibited in the past.”

The SEACOM network, which cost more than $650 million to build, operates at 1.28 terabytes per second. The 17,000 kilometer undersea fiber optic cable system links south and east Africa to global networks via India and Europe.

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