Connecting Continents

30 Nov

While I’ve been deeply immersed in an altogether different journey my colleague Marit Hendriks has trekked to Cape Town and back.

Communications networks are seen by many as the threads that tie us all together but as Marit’s exploration of the African market shows it is the diversity of developments and their contexts that provide the most interesting insights.

Although her visit was focused on the Africa Com conference & exhibition, Marit arrived in South Africa in time to see beyond the glitz of the international conference centre.  In the first of her reports (Under African Skies) Marit takes a trip into a township and takes measure of the vast inequalities and digital divisions.

At the conference itself the contrasts between Europe and Africa were also very much evident – the local approach to Social Media, the huge importance of Mobile Payment systems and the very different priorities for infrastructure in the wider wilderness.  The venturing zeal, the local software industry, the scale of the opportunities are all vast – but the scale of inequalities and the size of the un-served market demands a very different approach to market development.

If there was one common theme between our two continents it might be found in the gradual reduction of relevance of the old ‘last generation’ Telco models – while millions clamour for connectivity the investment spotlight has shifted to the cleverness of Apps and the demand for higher ICT skills – and deepened the digital divides in places that are already desperately disconnected.

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