It was just a few days ago that I published a piece about how ISPs in Nigeria are struggling to stay afloat. Of course, cost of internet access is a factor in that quagmire. If tariffs are out of reach of many users, there is no way the service will be sustainable. At the 2018 Internet Freedom Forum, the high cost of Internet data in Africa was centre stage, and the feedback is just as black.
The High Cost of Internet Data
“The Internet is still expensive for too many people in many countries which is a big problem for expanding access. There are too many people below the poverty line in many African countries and it would be difficult to expand access to internet without reducing the cost of access for users,” the co-founder of Witness Radio, Jess Ssebaggala submitted.
That is a spot on observation. If people cannot afford it, they cannot afford it. The high cost makes it difficult for many citizens with poor economic means to access the Internet. African countries need affordable, reliable, broadband Internet.
Another participant at the Forum, Julie Owono, who is Executive Director of Internet Without Borders, said, “There’s no point talking about digital rights when there is no access to digital technologies and the Internet.”
Clearly, the issue of affordable internet service is a common problem that is woven through most African countries. Users want affordable internet; service providers need mass uptake of services in order to hit a critical threshold at which lower prices will make sense for them. The egg and the chicken problem.
Over 30 African nations were represented at the Internet Freedom Forum organised by Paradigm initiative. They each shared about the prevailing conditions of internet connectivity and government policies in their respective countries.
Internet Rights Violation Across Africa
In addition to high data costs, the continent is also plagued by governments ever eager to stifle the rights of their citizens to unfettered access. In some countries, Internet has been shut down at one time or the other, entire regions sometimes get cut off from the rest of the world, and sometimes, netizens get hounded and locked up for criticising government policies and actions.
It is a long road to digital Uhuru in Africa. Aluta continua.
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