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Technology 19 June 2015

Bringing together the East African Community to build Internet infrastructure in Africa

Betel Hailu
By Betel HailuCommunications Advisor

The Internet Society in partnership with the East African Communications Organization (EACO) and the African Telecommunication Union (ATU) has organized an East African Internet Infrastructure Forum, which will be held on 24 June 2015 in Kampala, Uganda. The Forum will bring together ICT Ministers and high-level officials within the Eastern Africa region, experts, telecommunication policy-makers, infrastructure providers and content providers.

We are excited to enter a new phase in our long-standing work with the Internet community in Africa. For more than two decades, the Internet Society has been engaged in promoting technical capacity of Africans to help enable them to build their countries’ networks and get connected to the Internet. In particular, most of the pioneers of Internet in Africa have gone through our legendary INET workshops.

Africa was connected relatively late to the Internet, and in the first years access was limited to a small section of its population due to sluggish growth of the Infrastructure and the high costs of access. Most Africans were also deprived of broadband Internet, and were largely limited to content that was created and hosted elsewhere.

However, in the last five years, Africa in general, and East Africa in particular, has seen tremendous growth of their Internet Infrastructure including the arrival of many submarine cables multiplying the international Internet bandwidth twenty-fold in just 5 years. At the same time, an increasing number of Africans have started to get access to the Internet, reaching a highly symbolic Internet penetration rate of 20%, which is considered as the minimum level that enables a country to get significant economic benefit from an Internet economy. At the same time, entrepreneurs throughout Africa are beginning to seize on the opportunities afforded by Internet access.

We see this as the ideal time to build on the gathering momentum, and help develop a truly African Internet ecosystem. As part of our work to identify further barriers to Internet connectivity, our East African Internet Infrastructure Forum will focus on the discussion of access and local content as well as policy and investment issues that are critical factors in building the Internet infrastructure in Africa. Based on this, the panels of the morning session of the forum, which is open to public, will mainly focus on:

  • The value chain to access the Internet from international link to last mile
  • The value chain for content, from creation through delivery
  • The policy and regulatory conditions that promote public and private investment

The forum will further serve as a platform for encouraging governments, business and civil society into focused efforts to enable building and utilizing the African Internet infrastructure, starting in East Africa while promoting a collaborative multi-stakeholder approach to addressing implementation challenges that continue to face the Internet throughout the continent.

As a high-level Forum, the East African Internet Infrastructure meeting will have an afternoon closed session of experts in a round table discussion, which will seek to start an in-depth dialogue to identifying the existing barriers to connectivity in the region while addressing issues such as deployment challenges, cross-border connectivity, financing, measurement and demand-side issues.

This Forum is expected to be held in other regions of Africa and based on the results, the Internet Society will identify best practice for Internet Infrastructure development, and highlight case studies to help speed-up the deployment and usage of the Internet in the continent.

Find out more about the East African Internet Infrastructure Forum

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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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