Telecoms experts set to bridge digital divide in Francophone Africa

An estimated 7.87 million people use the internet in Cameroon, while about 70% of the country’s population, mainly in rural areas, are known to be offline, according to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

The Ministry also indicates that data services on the African continent are the most expensive in the world, with only 17% of the African population able to afford a gigabyte of data.

Telecommunications experts in Cameroon and some international organizations want to reverse this trend as they source for solutions to unequal ICT access, use and integration into public and business services, in a two-day workshop in Yaoundé.

The workshop in Yaoundé on the theme “Complementary Connectivity Solutions to address the Digital Divide in Francophone Africa,” to run from March 15-16, 2023
is the brainchild of Cameroon’s Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and the German Society for International Cooperation, GIZ.

The Digital Divide

Expensive Internet services, low purchasing power, lack of skills and the absence of complementary infrastructure such as roads and electricity, especially in rural areas are some reasons that account for the digital divide in most African countries.

“People in rural areas and the vulnerable are not really connected. They have to be connected to improve their lifestyle. It is the duty of the government to connect everybody. We want to set up a relevant environment to connect people,” Post and Telecommunications Minister states.

The digital divide is a major barrier to the transformation of countries within Francophone Africa.

Staksholders say service providers are known to connect only areas where they have a return on investment. Regardless, the experts think communities that are not connected can be actively involved in improving connectivity, especially in rural areas.

“What we are advocating through this workshop is the use of complementary access solutions, especially community networks. We have seen communities come together to address issues concerning agruculture, so they can also come together to develop their own internet connectivity,” Josephine Miliza, Africa Policy Cordinator for the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) told Crtv Web.

Cameroon has adopted several national programmes for digital development over the last decade. But authorities want to increase the Internet penetration rate, the digital access index, the data transfer rate and reduce the level of the digital divide by 2029. This will favor the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Accordingly, the telecommunications experts are working on making communication affordable, examining new trends, technologies, business models, and regulations that could contribute to improving connectivity for all persons.

Kathy Neba Sina

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