Published On: Wed, Nov 2nd, 2016

Connectivity on the African Continent: What is really going to accelerate digital citizenry?

Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Wireless, sub-Saharan Africa

Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Wireless, sub-Saharan Africa

By Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Wireless, sub-Saharan Africa

Internet access has traditionally been the domain of the ‘better off’, but society is finally moving towards ensuring that access is available to all users, and is actually affordable.

Internet access on the African continent is still limited. The lower penetration rates in comparison to the rest of the world and access to real broadband still remains out of reach for far too many South Africans.

Companies like Ruckus Wireless have stepped into breach this gap once and for all and demonstrate that there are alternative ways to deliver connectivity – at a fair rate to consumers – but still allowing companies, themselves, to be profitable.

The high price of broadband remains a serious challenge, and many rightly argue, is an obstacle for growth, development and global competitiveness, but what is the solution?

In most of the countries we work in, people tend to connect to the Internet over mobile devices and/or mobile networks. As Wi-Fi hotspots of various kinds become more common, it appears that Wi-Fi is now becoming the dominant access medium.

In fact, given the emerging dominance of mobile Wi-Fi networks, Ruckus works closely with Project Isizwe, which aims to bring free Wi-Fi to people across regions in South Africa including low-income communities – all with a core focus on education, connectivity and overall upliftment.

If this project is correctly leveraged it will improve the quality of lives for all South African’s, using the Internet as an enabler – all while allowing increased entrepreneurship opportunities and higher rates of employment, through education.  Certainly, based on its success, this model can easily be replicated across Africa.

Consumers, no matter where in the world they are based, want always-on connectivity – and Wi-Fi can provide this – and do so cost-effectively, while still offering enough flexibility to service providers to customise it according to the demands of their own market. Considering that video streaming, home automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to grow across Africa, then it is evident that consumer demand for a richer experience will also grow. While fibre and mobile provide a foundation for connectivity, it is Wi-Fi that will accelerate digital citizenry in the months and years to come.

There have been major developments when it comes to connectivity in Africa over the past decade and it is also recognised as one of the fastest growing markets in the world. The Internet access continues to record a positive growth.

Today, you can get connectivity in places that you wouldn’t even have considered ten years ago hence Africa can no longer be considered as the ‘dark continent’ given the rate at which mobile connectivity is growing.

It is certainly hard to predict whether the African continent will get to a point where most, if not all, will have access to free Wi-Fi connectivity. And while this digital opportunity may take a while, there is definitely growth for service providers and enterprises to examine profitable business models, using Wi-Fi, while still providing for the growing needs of its users.

Ruckus Wireless, Inc. is a global supplier of advanced wireless systems for the mobile internet infrastructure market. 

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