Mozilla, ATU to Promote Rural ICT Connectivity in Africa
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A project aimed to promote rural ICT connectivity in the African region has been established by Mozilla and the African Telecommunications Union (ATU).
A statement from ATU explained that the project will ensure affordable access to communication across the continent through the utilisation of spectrum policy, regulations and practices.
“I believe access to spectrum in underserved regions cannot be treated purely as an economic decision.
“If citizens can’t take advantage of modern communications tools, an approach focused simply on auctions will amplify inequalities.
“Spectrum strategies need to reflect the urgency of making access to broadband both inclusive and affordable,” the CEO of Mozilla, Ms Mitchell Baker, stated.
She emphasised that those with affordable phone/internet services have the advantage of access to the ever-increasing education resources, opportunities, services, and social safety nets such that the unconnected fall further behind just by standing still.
“Access strategies that do not target everyone can end up magnifying the digital divide,” the IT expert said.
While speaking on the initiative, the Secretary-General of ATU, Mr John Omo, stated that, “Everyone needs affordable access to communication.”
According to him, “Access strategies that are not inclusive can end up magnifying the digital divide.”
“This MoU acknowledges the need to urgently address access to spectrum in rural areas as a policy and regulatory issue in order to unlock innovation and investment as part of the strategy towards actualizing affordable rural access to communication,” he said.
The Internet today is a global resource open and accessible to all, and while half of the world is connected to the Internet, existing policy, regulatory, financial, and technical models do not fully cater for the poorer and more sparsely populated regions.
For the African society, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided great momentum for this need given that rural connectivity in the continent remains a challenge to date with some areas lacking even basic voice connectivity.
This is despite the fact that more than 60 per cent of Africa’s population is based in rural areas, a lot of which still lacks supportive infrastructures such as road access and energy. These factors render conventional service provisioning in these areas commercially unviable.