Connecting Africa Through Broadband

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The countries with lowest broadband penetration globally are in sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of millions of people across the continent have never heard of the internet.

The UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development issued a landmark report in October 2019 titled “Connecting Africa Through Broadband. The report provides a roadmap of how to double broadband access by 2021 and achieve universal access by 2030.

The strategy includes a comprehensive approach involving policy, infrastructure, content, training, and other components.

The strategy is appropriately ambitious — and resource-intensive. Investment required by international, local, and private sector players is estimated at $109 billion over ten years.

The report includes relatively little discussion of broadband services provided by emerging LEO satellite networks, despite the fact that OneWeb is listed as an official consultative member. Neither SpaceX nor Starlink are mentioned anywhere in the report. Loon is also not mentioned, despite having initial programs underway in rural Kenya.

The report does talk extensively about the importance of connecting schools, bringing educational and training resources to new communities.

Broadband for Africa has been a dream for many years. The Broadband Commission report sensibly describes how to make that happen. New technologies may speed the process.

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