Elon Musk proudly shares his work with SpaceX spacecraft, Tesla’s electric cars and Neuralink’s brain-machine. However, this week he changed headlines with a way to reduce poverty in Nigeria and Mozambique. Poverty in Nigeria and Mozambique both have strong ties in rural areas with less connection to neighboring areas. Currently, 83 million people in Nigeria live in extreme poverty, with 53% in rural areas. In Mozambique, 77% of their 18 million residents living in extreme poverty live in rural areas as well.
On May 27th, 2022, SpaceEx creator Elon Musk announced over Twitter that his satellite internet system Starlink gained approval for use in Mozambique and Nigeria. Starlink is a set of satellites in constellation form that SpaceX created to provide internet in rural areas, including schools without internet. In the series of tweets, Musk added that one Starlink unit could supply internet to hundreds of students in a single school.
While the United States turned to online learning during the pandemic, developing countries like Nigeria and Mozambique did not have the same tools to keep their children in school.
Internet in Mozambique and Africa
Poverty impacts families in a variety of ways including hunger, lack of education for children and poor health care. The Internet provides a way for children to prevent life-long poverty. Educational programs on the internet can teach children new farming or fishing techniques. They can connect with teachers in other countries and educational videos from around the world. In developing countries, 65% of people do not have access to the internet.
Schools will have access to the internet using Starlink and this could help fight poverty in Nigeria and Mozambique. Currently, only 16% of people in Mozambique use the internet. Along with giving more people access to the internet, Starlink provides a faster connection to those who have it. In Nigeria, the current download speed is 9 megabits per second (Mbps), while Starlink runs at nearly 100 Mbps.
How Starlink Can Help Poverty
Starlink first launched its satellites into space on May 23, 2019, sending 60 into low Earth orbit. Information sent through space moves 47% faster than fiber optic cables. As of January 2022, Starlink consisted of 1,900 satellites sending information around the globe.
Starlink provides high-speed internet to rural areas with previously no connection or slow speeds. Through Starlink, users can “gain access to education, health services and even communication support during natural disasters.” Those who purchase Starlink receive a satellite dish, wifi router and power supply.
Impact on Education
In Nigeria, approximately 10.5 million children do not attend school although its services are free. In some states, such as Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, many schools are not open or have experienced damage and destruction.
Mozambique continues to improve its education system with free textbooks, but “quality and improvement in learning have lagged behind.” In Mozambique, only 1% of teachers have “the minimum expected knowledge.” Providing one teacher with two-day, high-quality training costs $116.
One Starlink unit costs $599 for installation and $110 each month. This investment would offer schools the opportunity to use remote learning through video calls with teachers, online classrooms and other online materials. Over time, Starlink will help provide a higher quality of education to children in Nigeria and Mozambique.
Future of Starlink in Nigeria and Mozambique
In the United States, Elon Musk has a reputation across the internet for Tesla’s electric cars, trying to buy Twitter and giving his child an unconventional name. But in developing countries, people know him as the man that provides internet to people who never had it before or had unreliable internet in the past.
His constellation of satellites provides internet to 32 countries with more than 2,200 satellites in orbit. In the future, he hopes to launch up to 42,000 satellites so anyone around the world can use Starlink’s internet.
Starlink’s connection proved to be resilient after the invasion of Ukraine. Starlink donated receivers to schools, hospitals and local governments and it worked remarkably during the crisis. Those who faced a lack of internet received connection in a war zone and will continue to work in new areas facing extreme poverty in Nigeria and Mozambique.
– Sara Sweitzer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons