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Africa: ICT Access Updates

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 27, 2009 (091027)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Tanzania Telecommunication Company Ltd customers will from this month enjoy a 50 per cent cut in Internet charges, making Tanzania the first East African country to lower Internet charges. TTCL chief executive officer Said Amour Said, told The East African that the lowering of charges follows the firm's connecting to the Seacom submarine fibre optic cable." - Balancing Act Africa News Update

While Africa still lags behind other continents in Internet connectivity, particularly with respect to broadband, the next few years are likely to see significant changes as new fibre optic cables come on-line, wireless internet beings to converge with expanding mobile phone capabilities, and the rapid expansion of mobile phone usage continues.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin, not sent out by e-mail but available on the web, contains updates on expanded Internet access in Tanzania and Botswana and new opportunities from the Google Earth Outreach program in Africa, as well as brief excerpts from a press release and the executive summary of the newly released UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2009.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on information and communications technology issues, and a custom search of recommended websites, visit

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, sent out by e-mail today, contains excerpts from a new report on the potential for off-grid charging solutions for the almost 500,000 mobile phone users who lack access to electricity to charge their phones. See

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Balancing Act News Update

Issue no 477

23rd Oct 2009

Tanzania First to Lower Internet Rates

Tanzania Telecommunication Company Ltd customers will from this month enjoy a 50 per cent cut in Internet charges, making Tanzania the first East African country to lower Internet charges. TTCL chief executive officer Said Amour Said, told The East African that the lowering of charges follows the firm's connecting to the Seacom submarine fibre optic cable.

"TTCL has reduced its Internet prices effective from October 1, in order to pass on this cost saving benefit to the end users, and the high customer expectations of reduced costs on Internet services have finally been met," he said.

The new prices will see high volume Internet users including banks, large businesses and corporations, government agencies and other institutions enjoying a substantial Internet bandwidth cost reduction as customers will get the same capacity of bandwidth at a third the current prices.

Under the new structure, a client who buys 1Mbps of Internet capacity for Tsh9.2 million ($7,000) will now buy the same capacity for just Tsh3.14 million ($2,415). For small and medium businesses like cyber cafes, the price has been slashed by 50 per cent.

According to Mr Said, customers who were buying 5GB for $200 (Tsh200,000) will now buy 10GB for the same amount of money, and that all Internet subscribers in this category would continue to get high speed of up to 4Mbps through their TTCL fixed lines.

According to the new tariff, non-commercial ordinary clients will enjoy a new package with unlimited use for a monthly price of Tsh45,000 ($ 43) with a speed of up to 256Kbps.

"It is an ideal service mostly for the common man because it is affordable and guarantees continuous usage," explained Said.

(Source: The East African)

BTC Reserves Millions for Botsgate and reduces prices by 40%

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has committed close to US$5 million (approximately P35 million) over the next three years to the enhancement of the country's Internet backbone, Botsgate. The money will be channelled towards the improvement of network performance and to building capacity in order to allow for more services.

The Head of Wholesale Division at BTC, Duncan Pie, revealed this at a recent cocktail party hosted for customers at which he also spoke about the parastatal's 40 percent price reduction for Internet bandwidth. The reduction comes as a result of recent changes in the South African regulatory framework which have had a major impact on the cost of Internet bandwidth in Botswana.

"The regulatory permutation has created favourable economies of scale for BTC and this cost benefit is being passed on to our customers," a statement from BTC has said. The Group general manager commercial, Loic Descamps, said they found it important to seek alternative leased capacity to make the service more affordable while anticipating their undersea capacity. "Over the past 24 months, we have had two major price reductions, one in October 2007 and the other in September 2009," Descamps said.

Botsgate is the only Internet Access Provider in Botswana with international connectivity to multiple STM 1 submarine fibre optic cables. It provides Internet to major service providers in Botswana, Orange, Mascom and the Zambian telecommunications giant Zamtel. (Source: Mmegi)

Google Earth Outreach in Africa

Monday, October 26, 2009 /

Posted by Karin Tuxen-Bettman and Tanya Keen, Google Earth Outreach

We are proud to announce that as of today, the Google Earth Outreach Program is available in Africa, making it possible for local NGOs and other public benefit organizations to take advantage of Google Earth Pro software grants and other opportunities.

In addition to the launch of the program itself, several amazing examples (listed below) of non-profit organizations' efforts to visualize their work in Africa with Google Earth and tell their stories to the world are now available.

Save the Elephants takes you to Mali and shows you their effort to protect the last of the Mali Desert Elephants. This Google Earth project uses KML touring, a feature in Google Earth 5.0 and above, which enables non-profit and other public benefit groups to tell their story with a narrated tour. Your narrator on this Google Earth journey is Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Founder of Save the Elephants in Samburu, Kenya. This is also the next tour in the 'Changing Climate in Google Earth' series in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit in December. Download the tour here, or view it at

The Mapping Africa's Protected Areas Project, or MAPA, has done just that: mapped Africa's parks and reserves in Southern and East Africa. See rich content including park boundaries, GPS tracks, images, and more, as this project makes available for the first time valuable data of land and wildlife in protected areas in Africa. Download the MAPA Google Earth file to begin exploring!


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has done it again: with the release of their new Uganda Atlas of Our Changing Environment, they have mapped areas of drastic environmental change using historical imagery for 11 sites in Uganda. See the change for yourself in Google Earth, by opening Google Earth, turning on the "UNEP: Atlas of Our Changing Environment" layer in the the Layers panel, and zooming into Uganda to click on some of the placemarks. They have also created narrated Google Earth tours for four locations of environmental change: the City of Kampala, Mabira Forest Reserve, Mount Elgon, and the Mau Complex.


Use these examples to get inspired, and to get ideas for what your organization can do! If you are an African NGO or other public benefit organization, visit to learn more, apply for a Google Earth Pro software grant, and get training materials on various Google Geo products.

Report warns of widening broadband divide but sees strong mobile phone growth despite economic crisis

UNCTAD/PRESS/PR/2009/055 = 22/10/09

[Excerpts: for full press release and to download report see D=1528&lang=1]

For more information, please contact:
UNCTAD Communications and Information Unit
T: +41 22 917 5828

Geneva, 22 October 2009 - Greater efforts are needed to narrow the broadband divide, UNCTAD says in its Information Economy Report 2009: Trends and Outlook in Turbulent Times . The rapid spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs) around the world, especially mobile phones, is beating the expectations of most experts. Mobile telecommunications also appear to be weathering the crisis relatively well. But there is a widening gap between the developed and developing worlds in the availability of broadband Internet. A person in a developed country is 8 times more likely to be a broadband user than someone in a developing country.

Digital inequality is shrinking, but gap varies by type of ICT

While fixed telephone subscriptions are now in slight decline, mobile and Internet use continues to expand rapidly in most countries and regions.

Comparing the diffusion of the different ICTs with the distribution of income in the world shows that mobile telephony has become the most equitably distributed ICT. At the end of 2008, there were about 4 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide. In many developed, developing and transition economies, mobile penetration now exceeds 100 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. The penetration level in developing countries is now eight times higher than what it was at the turn of the century. The least developed countries raised their mobile penetration from 2 per 100 inhabitants in 2003 to 20 in 2008. According to the new UNCTAD report, between 2003 and 2008, the most dynamic economies in terms of increased mobile penetration were Montenegro, Qatar, Bahrain, and the Maldives, a least developed country (LDC) .

In the case of Internet use, more than half of the developed world population is now online, compared to only 15% in developing countries. The greatest improvements in Internet penetration since 2003 were achieved in Andorra, Argentina, Latvia, and Colombia.

The digital divide is particularly pronounced in the case of broadband. For example, Australia, a country with 21 million inhabitants, has more broadband subscribers than the whole of Africa. Average penetration in developed countries was more than eight times higher than in developing countries. Moreover, a person in a developed country is on average 200 times more likely than someone in a least developed country to enjoy high-speed access to the Internet.

"There is still a long way to go before we can claim to have significantly narrowed the "digital divide" to achieve an information society for all. Wide gaps in ICT infrastructure remain, not least in the case of broadband networks," UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says in the preface to the report.

The broadband divide is aggravated by smaller bandwidths and higher costs in developing than in developed economies. However, the fastest growing broadband markets are found in large emerging economies. China has already emerged as the world s single largest broadband market, followed by the United States. During the period 2003-2008, the Nordic countries achieved the highest growth in fixed broadband penetration. The fact that no developing or transition economy reached the top 20 list is a vivid illustration of the widening gap in this area.

How to narrow the broadband divide?

Improved broadband connectivity can help to achieve various economic and social development objectives, and governments play a critical role by setting the terms for broadband roll-out. The UNCTAD report suggests, for example, that operators should be encouraged to share backbone infrastructure to avoid duplicative and fragmented low bandwidth networks. To ensure sufficient supply at reasonable prices, governments also need to ensure that operators are exposed to competition. To achieve more widespread deployment of broadband backbones and access networks in remote and sparsely populated areas, governments can make use of universal access service funds and can promote the establishment of public Internet access points or telecentres.

For international broadband access, countries have to connect with undersea cable projects and, for landlocked countries, build out fibre links to submarine cable landing stations in other countries. One region that has been largely excluded from the mesh of undersea fibre optic cables is sub-Saharan Africa, which has the world s lowest level of international Internet bandwidth per capita. As of mid 2009, there were only two intra-continental undersea cables to this region: SAT-3 (running up the African west coast) and SEACOM (since July 2009 linking East African countries with Europe and India). Several other initiatives are under way, however.

Mixed impacts of economic crisis

Mobile telecommunications in developing countries stand a good chance of weathering the current economic turbulence. For example, well into 2009, subscriber growth remained strong in the two largest developing-country mobile markets. During the first seven months of 2009, India registered almost 100 million new wireless subscriptions. Mobile devices are increasingly replacing fixed lines for voice communications in developing nations. They are also used for new purposes - such as by small entrepreneurs - making them even more desirable. The demand for mobile telephony in many developing countries is thus likely to undergo further expansion, despite the crisis. The production of IT and ICT-enabled services also appears to have been relatively resilient (see UNCTAD/PRESS/PR/2009/056).

By contrast, the production of various ICT goods and services has been seriously affected by the global recession. The volatile semiconductor industry has been among the worst hit. Revenue growth also turned negative for the largest makers of such IT equipment as computers and consumer electronic devices. The same is true of the top manufacturers of communication equipment. Over the medium to long term, however, companies will continue to upgrade their ICT systems, as this is essential for their competitiveness. If anything, the crisis has made effective corporate use of ICTs, which improve efficiency, even more important.

Executive Summary of Chapter 1 [excerpts]

Monitoring the extent to which various parts of the world are becoming connected to such ICTs as fixed and mobile telephony, Internet and broadband is important as enhanced access is required to reduce the "digital divide". The dynamism of these different ICTs varies a great deal. While fixed telephone subscriptions are now in slight decline, mobile and (to a lesser extent) Internet usage continues to expand rapidly in most countries and regions. At the same time, there is a widening gap between high-income and lowincome countries in the area of broadband connectivity.

The number of fixed telecommunications subscriptions in the world has been flat at around 1.2 billion since 2006, and even declining somewhat in the most recent years. In 2008, there were on average 18 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the world. In developed countries, teledensity was 47 while in developing countries it was 12.


At the end of 2008, the number of mobile subscriptions reached 4 billion. Although growth was somewhat lower than in the previous year, it still remained close to 20 per cent in 2008. On average, there are now 60 subscriptions per 100 people ...Reflecting explosive growth, the penetration level in developing countries is now eight times higher than what it was in 2000. Almost every second person in developing countries is thought to have a mobile phone and fewer than a dozen developing nations have a mobile penetration of less than ten. ...

There were an estimated 1.4 billion Internet users around the world at the end of 2008. Reflecting that the number of users grew five times faster in developing than in developed countries, the former now account for more than half of the world total. China hosted the largest number of users (298 million), followed by the United States (191 million) and Japan (88 million). A little over one fifth of the world's population used the Internet in 2008. However, wide gaps remain. While more than half the population in the developed world is now online, the corresponding share is on average only 15-17 per cent in developing and transition economies.


There were an estimated 400 million fixed broadband subscribers around the world at the end of 2008. Developing countries accounted for almost 40 per cent of these subscriptions, making broadband one of the few ICTs where developed countries still represent the majority of users. The digital divide is particularly pronounced in the case of broadband. Average penetration was more than eight times higher in developed than in developing countries. ... China has already emerged as the world's single largest broadband market, followed by the United States. Brazil has also moved into the top 10 broadband markets.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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