Jennifer Haroon is Access Principal at Google.
Without Internet access, how would life be different? We go online to find a new doctor, research the best schools, and find creative inspiration. In Africa today, less than 16% of the population has reliable connectivity. Google recently sponsored the Internet Society (ISOC) to commission a report that examines some of the roadblocks to Internet access in Africa, proposing ways to lift some of these barriers.
In the last five years, large investments have been made to improve access in Sub-Saharan Africa. Undersea cables have improved international connectivity. However, there is still a lag in terrestrial connectivity—whether national, cross-border, or local—that is needed to connect users to those undersea cables.
The report highlights the need for terrestrial connectivity and recommends that policymakers remove barriers to its growth, including bureaucracy, limited cross-border permits, and stringent permit requirements. The report also highlights the need for governments to promote private-sector investment in extending terrestrial connectivity, such as allowing for infrastructure sharing, which can lower costs. Lastly, it highlights the need for agencies with the authority to make these regulatory changes and promote the growth of access.
Although connectivity has improved, more can be done. The suggested policy changes and investments can lead to better infrastructure and increased competition, which can encourage lower prices and higher quality access for users.