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

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa 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.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8967
JPY
USD
120.22
GBP
USD
0.6616
CAD
USD
1.2116
INR
USD
63.662

Rates may not be current.