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I am excited to be in Tunis this week at the Africa Internet Summit where I was honored to be able to address participants at the AfNOG plenary session.

Much of what I outlined during my keynote is reflected in an important study produced by ISOC Africa that we have launched this week, entitled “Internet Development and Governance in Africa”. This report highlights that Internet penetration across the whole of Africa now stands at approximately 20%, a critical threshold for any country to reach in order to reap the benefits of broadband investment.

The report notes that the time is right for Africa to maximize the potential of the Internet. It also highlights some important considerations as part of this continuing journey, notably the importance of the multistakeholder model of Internet governance as an essential part of Africa’s Internet ecosystem.

Tipping Point

I believe that this study illustrates how the African Internet is now at a tipping point, primed to build a better Internet on a renewed sense of confidence for a connected future.

I highlighted the impressive advances that have been made in recent years. For example, in just 5 years – from 2009 to 2014 – Africa’s international bandwidth has increased 20-fold while its terrestrial network more than doubled. There are now more than 30 IXPs and Africa has the highest growth in mobile subscriptions year-on-year in the world, since the turn of the century.

What is clear is that Africa is on a forward-looking path and there is no turning back. However, this path means further change and the African Internet community needs to build on those achievements to complete the work. 

Looking Ahead

With a healthy appetite for more of what the Internet has to offer, there is still a need to build more Internet connections to provide better availability and access. While there is a clear opportunity to build an Internet that’s tailored to Africa’s needs, there’s a need to bring people together to create the platform for growth.

The bottom-up spirit of entrepreneurship must form a central pillar of any further development of the Internet and there’s a need to include everyone to drive the kind of uses that will directly benefit families and communities. And finally, there’s a need convince governments and business partners that the multistakeholder model is vital for success.

As I talk to people at AIS in Tunis, I can feel the excitement in the air, I can hear the confidence in their voices. Africa is well and truly on the rise and the Internet Society stands with the continent to continue the great momentum, overcome challenges and enable the economic and social possibilities that only a truly open, trusted Internet can deliver.

Picture: "Haouaria Sunset"  © Walid Mahfoudh 2014 CC BY-NC 2.0

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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