News / Economy

Satellite Broadband Aims to Revolutionize African Development

Will Satellite Broadband Revolutionize African Development?i
X
July 04, 2013 7:54 PM
A new satellite system was launched into orbit last week that aims to bring high-speed Internet to remote communities across the globe. Its backers say it could have a big impact in rural parts of Africa by speeding up economic and social development. Others argue the huge amounts of money, however, should be spent on more basic needs, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Henry Ridgwell
— A new satellite system was launched into orbit last week that aims to bring high-speed Internet to remote communities across the globe. Its backers say it could have a big impact in rural parts of Africa by speeding up economic and social development. Others argue the huge amounts of money, however, should be spent on more basic needs.

Lift-off for the O3b - or "Other 3 Billion" - satellite system occurred last week in French Guiana. The system goes "live" later this year when eight satellites will enter a lower orbit to provide a faster connection.

Its backers include Google and the Development Bank of Southern Africa, among others.

Founder Greg Wyler said the "Other 3 Billion" are the people on the planet without access to fast Internet.

“This will enable everybody, and it will be a cascading effect, but it enables everybody in these societies to become economically relevant to the rest of the world,” he said.

Fast connection, pervasive coverage

The O3b satellites will provide Internet coverage anywhere within 45 degrees of latitude north and south of the equator.

Rival Inmarsat will launch a satellite Internet system called Global Xpress later this year.

Dele Meiji Fatunla, web editor for Britain’s Royal African Society, said, “In the rural areas I think it would have an impact on the way people can get information related to healthcare, information related to education.”

In the Atlantic off west Africa, cable-laying ships completed the submarine West Africa Cable System last year. Sub-Saharan Africa alone has nine submarine cables, with a total capacity of 22 terabytes.

Fatunla said broadband boosts economic growth.

“I think a lot of small and medium enterprises would benefit from that," he said. "And it might also have a political impact in the sense that the Internet, if it’s fairly open, will allow organizations and people to mobilize much more effectively.”

Other pressing needs

But broadband by itself won’t revolutionize governance, said Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development in Washington.

“If government isn’t picking up the phone, if you will, if government isn’t answering the emails, just having a broadband connection isn’t going to help,” he said.

And when it comes to healthcare, said Kenny, government money would be better spent on basic needs.

“Vaccines, bed nets, it’s the very basic health interventions that are having a huge impact. Africa doesn’t have many doctors; it doesn’t matter if they’re all connected to broadband. So I think particularly where it comes to health, broadband may not be the ‘wiz-bang’ solution,” he said.

But Fatunla said broadband’s potential should not be underestimated.

“You have to remember that there’s going to be a core of people who are active in societies in Africa, particularly civil society, who will benefit from there being better access to information," he said. "And I think those people will, in turn, be able to pressure government structures a lot more.”

Analysts warn that even though the satellites and cables are connecting to Africa, the prices charged by Internet service providers on the ground need to be lower before broadband’s full potential is realized.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: David from: Washington DC
July 06, 2013 11:51 PM
This will help Africa to increase business opportunities, fast service and connect to world.


by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama, JPN
July 06, 2013 7:26 PM
There have been huge impacts and benefits through the Internet in the wealty countries. That's because they have enough money and well established society.
African people will not be able to get benefits by these satellites until they have good societies.

In Response

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 08, 2013 1:14 AM
I feel a bit disappointed that you say such a conclusive opinion in a word.

Lifting a satelite would be wastful for some African countires. Infrastructures to help use broadbands easily should be built first in some African countries.

But it is reported that cellphones are distributed in Africa more widely than our expectations and internet systems are used in dayly lives for example as remote banks . Are not you say rich and socially established countries where internet are also misused ?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.