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More Branches: How Connected Are We Really?

In the beginning, there was nothing except for our own unique style of doing things until the internet came and disrupted every sphere. It could easily pass as the most notable revolution since Oduduwa's entry to planet earth.

One thing that everyone is aware of is that the increased availability of internet technology in Africa and how it is positioning the continent towards a paradigm shift.

The African telecommunications market is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the world, there's even more internet growth than mobile telephony in spite of the high tariffs. I guess this doesn't bother you much, because the classification of internet either as a luxury or a basic commodity essential to our everyday life is still a question that is unfixed.

The development of internet in Africa has made great progress since the mid-1990s, and especially in the 2000s which has affected changes in policies and regulations. If there's one obvious thing, it's the fact that internet has been influential across cultures and has also transformed the way we do things. Don't get me wrong, there are challenges around infrastructure and a major lack of access; in fact, many communities in Africa are still disconnected. Nevertheless, the internet and advancements in technology are playing a pivotal role in bridging these infrastructural gaps that its governments and other powerhouses are aware of. The bloom is obvious and day after day, privileged Africans are taking advantage of the connection to replace traditional methods with innovative and efficient approaches across fashion, music, lifestyle, food, news, politics, healthcare and other facets of life.

Although the dominant use for internet in Africa is to access social media, innovation around the technology is growing. Asides poor access, some say the absence of substantial talents is a fault to hold on to, but with the birth of startups like Andela, increased numbers of developers' ecosystems and funding from the big guns, it's safe to strike a wiper across the narrative.

The influx of companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Google & Alibaba into the region with a plot motto to connect the unconnected have been essential in the development of stronger ecosystems and creation of Afrocentric smart brands. Good thing is, Africans are also pulling forces through fundings and collaborations to grow their own internet infrastructure and they’re doing it using fairly rudimentary methods: By trenching pipes and building cell towers. They have a long way to go, but they’re already proving remarkably successful. Companies like MainOne are laying cables, OneWeb--a company backed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are also taking a different approach towards satellite internet; these companies say they can provide access that is faster than the traditional satellite internet with less latency by simply placing satellites in low earth orbits--roughly 100 to 1250 miles overhead. These lower orbit satellites can’t cover as much area as a traditional geosynchronous orbit satellites at an altitude of about 22,000 miles; simply means that these companies will have to launch hundreds of satellites in order to cover the planet with their wireless signals.

In 2016, 77 African tech startups raised a total of $366.8M in fundings which seems to me a good thing but let's pause for a minute and talk about the realities, the African realities. What products are they building? Why are they building what they are building? Who are they building for?

Ask and you'll be sure to receive answers about how they want to 'leverage' on the 250 million smartphone connections that are only active on charts and graphs. Yes, I said what I said. The real beneficiaries of the internet are the urbanites, the people who know how to hail a taxi two streets away from the confines of their homes, the entrepreneur who understands that online payments yield faster and better productivity for her business or that college student who is aware of the endless possibilities of the depth of information filtered across the web.

These people only cover 40% of the graph under analysis. Some time this week, I vibed with my friend Asher Lienad who is of the belief that there's been a massive improvement in recent years in technology around the African space but he also explains that it can get better. He cited the 2015 Nigerian presidential elections and the use of internet in the build-up of nonstop excellent media campaigns.

"Yes I believe we are connected now more than ever before. Take a look at political relations. Nigeria received largely favorable reviews in the build up to the 2015 elections due to non stop excellent media campaigns.

Another thing to point out is the ousting of Yahaya Jammeh."

Prior to the golden social media age, people barely knew what was going on in other countries except by watching the news. But with internet connectivity, a lot of people were able to stay updated on events in real time.

Amidst these developments; the real deal is that no matter what happens, no matter the price or accessibility of internet, many Africans will still remain unconnected. The reason is short and simple: It's who we are.

People who take a closer look at the cultures, the way of life and our approach to things will understand better. Majority still perceive the internet as luxury, traditional Africans will even tell you it's a satanic instrumentation. Sounds funny and baseless but these people cannot be neglected, their rationales will still reflect in the statistics.

Not every African will order stuff online. Not every African will use management tools to make operations efficient and effective. Not every African will save or send money online.

Data available shows that only ten countries in the region have mobile cellular prices that are at least as affordable as the average in other parts of the world.

Mobile broadband is the only de facto option for accessing broadband Internet services for most of the population in developing countries, given the limited capacity and reach of fixed infrastructure, but it is expensive.

This doesn't discredit anything, the reasonable percentage of Africa's population willing to be conscious and conversant with the internet will keep rising, we will see eruptions of companies building high end products to solve everyday problems, things will change but mindsets need to evolve.

The bone of contention now is; how are we going to plug the rest of our continent to the pool of consciousness?

How will we be able to manipulate the system to create a new connection that is appealing to our people? It may sound random, but the usefulness of the internet is spontaneous processing of information and inter connection of interactions.

Can we design these things to fit the life of the typical African, to enlighten minds about the conversations happening, basically bringing the internet offline. Touching deep on roots and bridging gaps just because we belong; we understand our culture and what being african feels like.

If we can go grassroots with the level of information and transformation happening, we're reaching out to millions of Africans who need the education of how the world works, the millennial who needs to believe in her potential and dares to dream.

The internet coming offline is a wave that can play out, and also achieve its purpose. We believe in Africa, we believe that 1billion informed populace can be conscious enough to take on a reshape and revolution of the most powerful tool, the web. Maybe we should just dare to imagine the impossible, let's do Africa 2.0

#tech #morebranches #google #digitalskills

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