Archive 2013

The last frontier - the last mile

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Cisco blog – David Meads, Cisco Vice President, Africa

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Transforming countries on the African continent into knowledge-based economies is the natural next step in growing industry, society, and the economy as a whole.  Without advanced connectivity linking every individual and everything to the internet, there are limits to the amount of data that can be gathered and used to improve education, health and service delivery. Without this real-time data, available for advanced analysis, there can be no accurate forecasting, resource allocation and systems management.  Without connectivity, individuals and businesses cannot compete in the global market.

Now, connectivity is almost as crucial for a nation’s survival and growth as energy, water and transport. According to research by Booz & Company, the mass adoption of digital technologies by consumers, companies and governments could deliver, ‘up to US$6.3 trillion [approx. ZAR62.5 trillion] in additional nominal GDP and a staggering 77 million new jobs over the next 10 years. For Africa, with its challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, ICT is a lever for change.

The process of rolling out this connectivity across the continent has progressed significantly, with the arrival of vast amounts of international bandwidth. But simply arriving on our shores is not enough. The next critical phase of connectivity entails working with service providers to help them deliver optical infrastructure, taking robust optical networks into urban areas, and using 4G, LTE and small cell technologies to take broadband across the country. The real challenge, and the last frontier, is the last mile.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2013 – The Networked Readiness Index 2013, South Africa is in 70th position, while Egypt comes in at 80th, Kenya 92nd and Nigeria 113th. Despite a sharp improvement in the development of Africa’s ICT infrastructure, notably in terms of international Internet bandwidth, capacity and a strong uptake by the business community, the ICT impacts, particularly the social ones, remain limited.

Addressing the last mile challenges will require innovation, co-investment and standardisation, to build a network capable of supporting broadband penetration aspirations.

With the last mile challenge addressed, Africa will be set to embrace the Internet of Everything, connecting people, process, things and data, to create innovations that transform business and public service in ways that cannot yet be imagined.

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