Affordable and easily accessible internet in Africa remains a challenge in most countries mainly due to lack of collaboration between nations and tech players in this space.
To address the challenges, tech giants, internet experts, and government officials from Africa and beyond are in Kigali for a four-day meeting of the 11th edition of the Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) to harmonise strategies that will see Africa bridge the digital divide and have cheaper internet.
The meeting was jointly organized by the Internet Society and Rwanda Internet Community and Technology Alliance (RICTA).
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry ICT and Innovation Yves Iradukunda said that broadband Internet access and utilization have a profound impact on the improvement of services delivery across all sectors of the economy.
This, he said, has an impact on the quality of life of the people.
“Today, Internet usage enables better outcomes in learning, delivering healthcare, managing better our energy resources, and achieving higher citizen engagement with governments,” he said.
Iradukunda also pointed out that Rwanda has over the last decade heavily invested in the deployment of high-speed connectivity, which has been an enabler of fast-tracked development and e-services development for communities, service delivery, and driving the cashless agenda.
“To encourage adoption, Rwanda is revising the broadband policy with the goal of creating additional opportunities and putting in place other instruments to harness broadband penetration across the supply and demand sides of the ecosystem,” said Iradukunda.
However, Africa is still battling some challenges and according to the Permanent Secretary, the region’s poor infrastructure gap, particularly in digital infrastructure, remains a major hindrance to realizing the vision of connecting all African citizens to the internet.
“The digital divide prevents society from reaping the benefits of information and communication technologies. In this context, actions to promote physical internet access are still necessary, but they are insufficient to establish a truly inclusive information society.
Experts at the meeting are also looking at how they can fast-track the exchange of traffic locally through Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) as a way of reducing internet access costs and network delays and increase content access speeds.
According to Michuki Mwangi, the Senior Director of Internet Technology and Development at Internet Society, one of the biggest challenges Africa faces as a continent is that a lot of traffic that is consumed was or is still coming from outside Africa which is expensive.
“To address that, there is a need for collaboration with all stakeholders so that content is available locally and to build infrastructure that will allow Africa to have content shared locally. This has an impact on the cost, the resilience of the internet infrastructure and improves end-user experience,” said Mwangi.
She pointed out that the forum intends to increase the accessibility of the global networks through peering and to keep 50 per cent of traffic locally.
“To achieve such vision, there is a need of participation from across the Internet ecosystem stakeholders. However, there are still significant challenges to achieve sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective networking on the continent.
Many of these challenges specifically relate to the lack of network interconnections between many countries in Africa, especially landlocked countries,” she said.
The four-day meeting has attracted over 300 delegates who are seeking to expand and develop the African Internet.
They are also looking at ways of connecting internet infrastructure, service, and content providers to identify ways to improve network interconnection, lower the cost of connectivity, and increase the Internet’s resiliency and experience for local users.