Does Africa Really Need Internet Access?

So asks lepetitnegre, pointing out that while in many parts of the world Internet access is considered a fundamental right, Africa is long from realizing this dream. Not only does the infrastructure not yet exist, but many countries are so far behind, that the promise of development via new technologies is difficult to see in the long term.

Telecommunications should be considered a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. That is, pointless to adopt technology policies just to adopt technology policies. Far smarter to look at the long term: what will these technologies bring us? And how? And at what cost? For example, many governments continue to expand fixed line phone access in areas that have been leapfrogged by mobile operators and wireless technologies. A policy of landlines made sense decades ago, but today, the obstinate refusal to revise this vision is a handicap.

Is it better to spend money on roads, public health, and education than to heedlessly rush into the latest technical fad?

Of course it is. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Africa doesn’t need the Internet. It just means that Internet access, like fighting corruption, improving agricultural production, increasing revenue, creating businesses, and a million other actions that lead to development is just one among many priorities. And African governments need to do a far better job of balancing “get online at any cost” with budgetary constraints, realistic prices, and far better thought-out implementations.

Le net c’est un outils, au même titre qu’un pigeon voyageur ou qu’un tam-tam, si il est bien utilisé, il permettra un bon en avant indéniable, mais à lui tout seul il ne sert à rien!

The net is a tool, the same as a carrier pigeon or a tam-tam, if it’s used well, it will undeniably create good, but in and of itself, does nothing!

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About the author: Theresa Carpenter Sondjo is an entrepreneur and web developer. She lives in Cotonou, where she and her partner run People Online. Their mission is simple: la mise en ligne du Bénin. Follow her on Twitter at @theresac.
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