Really, raise your hand. Infact, grab a pen and a piece of paper. Write down #AfricaNeedsBetterInternet. Raise the paper and take a selfie. Post it everywhere and remember to use the hashtag in your post(s). Let’s get something positive trending.
It’s obvious we all have access to internet services, across the continent and we are grateful. [ Kinda ] The issue here is the inconsistent and over-priced data services we’ve been forced to adapt to. Well now, we are evolving and our internet appetite is getting bigger.
Our appetite didn’t develop over night though. Over the past few years we’ve been demanding more and most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have had no choice but to give in to our demands. Now, internet prices have reduced significantly over the years but internet services haven’t improved much and some African countries still suffer from ridiculous prices. Technically speaking, the prices of data plans haven’t dropped per se. Instead, ISPs are offering more data for pretty much the same price and a few new options have been added.
For instance, 4 years ago in Nigeria, you’ll have to spend N1000 for just 100MB of data. Today, you get 1.5GB for that same price. By comparing similar plans from other ISPs, we’ve gotten 4-10 times more data than we had a few years ago.
Personally, I think the youths are to be appreciated for such changes. Due to the fast growing mobile landscape in Africa, alot of millennials grew up with Smartphones, either ours or our parents’. Then came the advent of social networking and we just knew we had to be a part of it. Soon after, ISPs started creating “youth centric” plans and packs. We could finally afford such plans and almost immediately, tap into the power of the Internet. It was then extended to the older generation and now, it seems we are all walking around connected. You’re welcome, Dad.
We haven’t however gotten to the climax of our internet potential though. Far from it actually. You might not have noticed but we are still using last generation’s tech. In this case, last generation’s connectivity. Here are the three reasons why we still don’t have better internet services in Africa.
1. Limited coverage from ISPs: In each country where a Service Provider operates, there are certain regions with good network reception and others with bad (or zero) reception. It’s understandable that their services must be extended to developed regions first inorder to build an eco-system, but most stop there. They don’t extend their services to developing communities and don’t improve their services in already developed communities. Because of this, we can’t comfortably travel from one region to another without worrying about poor (or zero) reception when we get to our destination. Something I’m currently experiencing. *eye-roll*
2. Let’s embrace 4G connectivity: If you’re like me, you’ve probably thrown your phone around a couple of times because of how slow the internet service can be. This can be eased if we all migrate to 4G as soon as possible. 4G is the 4th Generation of internet connectivity which is about 5 times (or more) faster than traditional 3G services. And no, you don’t need a modem or router from SMILE or SPECTRANET to enjoy; your SIM card is enough. The reason why most people (myself included) haven’t upgraded is because of the process. Most Cellular Providers like MTN require a SIM swap at their office or the purchase of a new 4G SIM from them. You also can’t use 4G if your phone isn’t compatible. Alot of non-4G smartphones are flooding the African market. Most of them coming from OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) that we know and trust. And believe me, they won’t stop coming unless we stop buying.
3. It’s STILL expensive: It’s still expensive for individuals and it’s worse for start-ups organizations. They have to spend huge amounts of money every month to access the Internet. Some start-ups even spend more than they can accumulate on internet subscriptions alone which is one of the unsung reasons why certain start-ups fail. An article from TechPoint sheds more light on the issue. This has pushed users like me to look for cheaper alternatives or should I say “cheats”. Over the years, tech savvy Africans have looked for flaws in internet protocols and have exploited them. This “cheats” have been made available to everyone as acts of charity and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve used them, many times. Can you blame me?
The Internet is NOT a luxury or a privilege. It’s something everyone deserves to enjoy cheaply in this day and age. Companies are basically extorting us with their over-priced and inconsistent data services.
So, what can we do to rectify this?
The new age of Africa is growing, we have dreams and ideas founded through our reach on the internet.
We use social media to push our brands, we put up websites, tumblrs, to share our work.
You have media platforms like BAAB Media, Konbini Nigeria, Pulse Nigeria, creating content for a conscious Africa, we need the Internet to share this information.
A lot has changed since the internet came to Africa, things are finally getting better cause we have a voice, expressed online and globally to our darkened environment.
Our service providers need to promote faster internet services, with wider reaches into more communities.
We need to bring more Africans online, at the same time accommodating the the present ones.
Affordable subscriptions and plans, more curated packages.
It all needs to be provided; Africa needs the internet to keep on glowing.