Policy is key to closing the mobile internet access gap

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Policy is key to bridging the mobile internet access gap


A mobile subscriber uses her phone to take a photo of a telecommunications mast in the town of Nyeri. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Summary

  • The pandemic has proven that a well-architected digital experience can offer an equivalent or even more personalized interaction than a face-to-face engagement.
  • The Internet is now emerging as a daily necessity.

In 2016, the United Nations amended Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) to include “Internet access as a human right”. This amendment to the UDHR has generated a lot of opposition, with many countries contesting the choice of language; that it condemned any measure aimed at disrupting Internet access or hindering the sharing of information.

I don’t need to remind you of the events that took place from the end of December 2019 to the present day. Access to this same resource – the Internet – is what has kept the global engine running, with greater reliance on remote working and online communication, resulting in a dramatic increase in Internet use in the world. world.

Digital environments have usurped daily in-person interactions, allowing business owners, employees, teachers, students – the lucky few who had internet access – to minimize their travel while still meeting their contractual, professional, business obligations. or educational.

In fact, the pandemic has proven that a well-architected digital experience can deliver an equivalent or even more personalized interaction than a face-to-face engagement. At Telkom, we have seen a 50% increase in data usage on our network, after weeks of increased usage of our home products and other bespoke solutions. It also required an immediate optimization and rebalancing of our network to respond to the dynamics of use.

The Internet is now emerging as a daily necessity. However, its universal access, especially to mobile internet, remains a challenge. While a privileged minority of students – from elementary schools to higher education institutions – were able to continue their studies, the vast majority who did not have access to the Internet unfortunately fell behind, further widening the gap between ” haves and have-nots ”.

The World Economic Forum highlighted the growing role of the Internet in the economy, especially now with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The World Bank also postulates that the Internet promotes economic development by providing access to opportunities that were previously beyond the reach of the most disadvantaged.

It is therefore evident that the Internet is now an essential engine of economic growth. Its access is crucial if Kenya and the rest of the continent are to truly bridge the digital divide. This requires additional investment in network infrastructure and continuous review of the technology used, to ensure scalability – easier upgrades and optimization, guided by future market dynamics.

Last week, we announced our partnership with telecommunications and networks company Ericsson and systems integrator NEC XON to add 2,000 more sites to our network by 2023.

This nationwide deployment which will cost approximately $ 100 million is part of our long-term network expansion strategy to address the ongoing digital transformation, as well as laying the foundation for our long-term goal of become the technology partner of choice in Kenya and the Region.

The customer also demands more competitive and comprehensive products that meet their different and ever-changing needs: browsing, downloading, streaming, mobile money transactions, reading online news and updating their applications; actions which are now very important in everyday life.

The development of new products and solutions such as Madaraka Life in response to this customer dynamic, thus enabling more people to access the Internet, but more importantly, providing the network necessary to access these products must be addressed.

Tech companies will also need to redouble their efforts to raise awareness of this crucial resource through the implementation of well-thought-out approaches to market. However, we also cannot ignore another challenge: access to mobile internet devices.

The Global Systems for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) in a recently released report: Mobile Internet Connectivity 2021; Sub-Saharan Africa Key Trends, indicates that more than half a billion people living in areas with a mobile broadband network do not use mobile internet, despite substantial increases in mobile broadband coverage since 2014.

Affordability of phones, adds the GSMA in this report, remains a major hurdle. As smartphone adoption increases, it only accounts for less than half of the total number of connections. More needs to be done to fill this gap.

This calls for an additional intervention of all the regulators concerned with the support of the other actors of the sector, to accelerate the implementation of measures and policies favorable to end consumers, allowing them to acquire the necessary devices to access this fundamental human right. .

It will also encourage service providers to invest more in the sector’s infrastructure, thereby increasing internet penetration across the country.

Kibati is the Managing Director of Telkom

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