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Lockdown: The challenges – and opportunities – of working from home in Africa

South Africa’s internet technology infrastructure is one of the most advanced in Africa.


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Over 60% of internet-traffic generated on the African continent originates from South Africa. And with 75% of Africa being under the age of 25 years, the internet and technology can and will work as a catalyst to jumpstarting the African economy.

The public world wide web is still just 31 years old. And with just over half of the world’s population using the internet, it has grown but still has room for more expansion. Africa accounts for a mere 11.5% of the web’s citizenry. South Africa’s internet usage grew an impressive 1,259% between the years 2000 and 2020. However, this is just over half of all South Africans. Even more impressive though is the Democratic Republic of Congo with a growth of 1,495,083%. But again this is a measly 8% of the country who have access to the internet.

These numbers point to a growing adoption of the internet as an integral part of many individuals’ lives. This prevalent lifestyle is creating a Virtual Reality which is breathing down the back of actual reality and promising to recreate the world as we know it. The modern citizen is a global citizen now. All borders have been removed.

South Africa’s internet technology

South Africa’s internet technology infrastructure is one of the most advanced in Africa. The African National Congress, South Africa’s governing political party and the opposition, the Freedom Front Plus were among the first to establish an internet presence on this continent. But with exorbitant data costs, cries from the masses are moving from: data must fall to data for all. The question is: Do our political leaders know the importance of the internet, the possibilities it delivers, the doors it opens, the freedom it comes with?

Lessons can be learnt from India. India is currently the largest exporter of Information Technology. The Indian IT services sector accounts for 40% of the country’s GDP and 30% of export earnings as of 2006, while employing only 25% of its workforce. This might be a direct result of the fact that India has the cheapest data charges in the world. While the global average cost of one gig of data is at just over R150, in India the average is under R5.

If there is anything the current pandemic has taught us it is that it is wise to have more than one stream of income. And one of these streams has to be digital. You have to be able to do it from the comfort of your home. This means that you have to be connected. Even when this pandemic subsides, things will never be the same again. The fabric of society has been forever stretched and it will not return to its former shape. This is the time to start looking to the “cloud”, so to speak, for some new business opportunities.

By addressing the obstacles to the accessibility of internet services in Africa, many will be able to make a good living for themselves. There are four major challenges to connectivity in Africa.

The challenges

1. Low levels of computer literacy

This is an opportunity to start training and upskilling services. In-person or telephonic consultancy can also be another avenue of pursuit.

2. Poor infrastructures

Bad politics and corruption have largely left Africa in the Stone Age whilst the rest of the world blazes by. Our poor infrastructure is slowing our economic development. With poor quality but expensive infrastructure services there is a need for a player in IT who will revolutionise the sector.

3. High costs of internet services

With most of Africa still not having access to the internet there is still a great market to tap into. Assuming that the first two challenges are met, namely — getting Africa computer literate and servicing and upgrading the infrastructure — ISPs have to start thinking in terms of economies of scale. Companies can increase revenue while lowering costs by having a higher uptake and spreading the costs over a larger number of consumers.

4. Power availability is also scarce

Africa has vast rural areas that are not connected to power grids and many major urban areas (and in some cases, entire countries) that experience frequent black-outs. I could have placed this challenge under infrastructure but it does deserve to be addressed separately. Books have gone digital and almost any information is freely available on the internet. Since this is the case, if knowledge is power, then it stands to reason that electricity and data are the power that enables us to get knowledge.

Africa has the ability to scale. We can add resources, capacity and infrastructure at an incremental rate while getting more people into the IT fold at an exponential rate. This is what we have always done. We have always skipped steps in processes. Africa needs African solutions to its problems. And with 75% of Africa being under the age of 25 years, the internet and technology can and will work as a catalyst to jumpstarting the African economy.

This content has been created as part of our freelancer relief programme. We are supporting journalists and freelance writers impacted by the economic slowdown caused by #lockdownlife.

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