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Expanding Internet Access in the DRCIn today’s digital age, the internet is a norm in many people’s lives, as nearly 4.66 billion active internet users exist worldwide. People use the internet for communication, research, gaming and e-commerce. Yet, most citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have no access whatsoever to the internet. Only about 20 million people out of 100 million people living in the DRC have access to the internet. However, changes are occurring in the DRC. Nearly 9 million people in the last few years have gained access to the internet due to technology companies investing in the development of the internet in the DRC. Likewise, Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT) and Facebook are partnering to build a massive fiber network in the DRC. Here is some information about how they are expanding internet access in the DRC.

How LIT is Expanding Internet Access in the DRC

Liquid Intelligent Technologies plans on building a 2,000-kilometer-long fiber-optic cable network from the DRC to the Atlantic Ocean. From there, it will connect with the 2Africa submarine cable system, which Facebook has a major role in developing.

On completion, the undersea cable network will better connect the DRC to Europe and the Middle East. It will help complete LIT’s two-year-long project to build a vast digital pathway from the Atlantic Ocean connecting to East Africa and the Indian Ocean, where millions of people would gain access to the internet. In addition, it will bridge the democratic republic with its neighboring countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

Facebook has invested in this operation and helped plan the fiber network, but LIT will be the company to build and own the fibre network. It also plans to provide internet service providers and services to network operators to take advantage of the fibre network. Thus, the company estimates that nearly 30 million people in the DRC will gain access to the internet.

However, the effort that is necessary will not be easy. “This is one of the most difficult fibre builds ever undertaken, crossing more than 2,000 km of some of the most challenging terrain in the world,” said Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies. To help build the network, LIT will hire nearly 5,000 locals from communities in the Congo, employing many people and families in the DRC.

Why Internet Access in the Congo is Nonexistent

Government policies on censorship and high Wi-Fi costs ensure that the Congolese have no access to the internet. The government passed a censorship policy in 2002, called law No. 013/2002, which has the power to control telecommunications in the DRC. It grants the government the power to control telecommunications to defend the public or in the interest of national security. If telecommunication companies don’t comply with this law, they risk getting their operating licenses terminated. This forces many ISPs to shut off the internet.

Due to manipulation of this law, the Democratic Republic of Congo has cut off the internet, text-messaging services and social media services multiple times such as Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp to stifle civil and peaceful protests occurring in the country. In addition, the country is suffering economically as it is losing $2 million every day due to the termination of internet services.

Buying one gigabyte of mobile broadband data in the DRC costs a staggering 26% of monthly income. This makes the DRC the most expensive country to get access to the internet in the world because there are no rules regulating caps on internet prices. Additionally, customers bear the burden of high taxes on telecommunication companies. These reasons allow telecommunication companies to raise prices to an extreme.

Companies like Liquid Intelligent Technologies are expanding internet access in the DRC. However, the government will need to make changes in censorship policies on the internet, to ensure every Congolese can experience the joys of the internet.

Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

Digitization in AfricaLiquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT) is “a pan-African technology group.” The group was established in 2005 and spans 14 countries, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. LIT provides custom digital solutions to private and public businesses across Africa. LIT hopes to utilize its fiber infrastructure to accelerate the accessibility of new innovative technologies and propel digitization in Africa.

LIT’s Impact

Digitization in Africa is vital for the continent’s economic growth. LIT’s extended expansion across 14 countries provides connectivity to small businesses, enterprises and government entities. This enables productivity through several digital solutions that cater to each of their needs.

LIT’s fiber infrastructure reaches more than 100 million people across the continent. This complex network creates new, innovative opportunities by providing accessibility to businesses and individuals across Africa and accelerating the continent’s digital transformation.

In 2021, LIT succeeded in deploying 100,000 kilometers (around 62,000 miles) of fiber infrastructure across Africa. This milestone makes LIT the “largest independent fiber network provider in emerging markets globally.” LIT plans to further accelerate digitization in Africa and create unique opportunities through digital inclusion.

LIT’s Other Achievements

  • LIT has provided a high-speed fiber network connection in the city of Mbuji-Mayi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, allowing access to three million people for the very first time.
  • LIT has enabled 4G connectivity through “1,500 new mobile network operator tower connections.” It is currently preparing to implement 5G technology, which can reach a speed of up to 100 times more than 4G.
  • High-speed internet has basically been absent in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past decade. The country’s internet access is so limited that it ranked 145th in the world for internet access. LIT’s new extensive fiber infrastructure will allow the DRC to digitally transform along with the rest of Africa.

Broadband Access is a Basic Necessity

Broadband (high-speed) internet access is considered “a basic necessity for economic and human development in both developed and developing countries.” However, only about 35% of people in developing nations have access to the internet in stark contrast to 80% of people in developed economies. The goal is to provide high-speed internet access to all, particularly in rural areas.

The “digital divide” in internet and technology access disproportionately impacts rural areas and the impoverished. Higher internet access in cities compared to developing rural communities hinders shared prosperity and blocks “pathways out of poverty.”

Solving this problem could provide “millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue” in the years to come. According to the World Bank, increasing internet access from 35% to 75% in developing nations could add up to $2 trillion to their “collective gross domestic product (GDP).” Furthermore, this increase in internet penetration could establish more than 140 million jobs globally.

Access to high-speed internet boosts the economy. It is an essential tool for basic services such as education and healthcare. Further, it provides more opportunities for women’s development and enhances “government transparency and accountability.”

Bringing High-Speed Internet to Africa

The internet plays a vital role in allowing access to educational resources and providing knowledge sharing for students and their teachers. Africa only has a 20% internet penetration and LIT’s mission is to increase this by providing opportunities with its extensive fiber network and accelerating digitization in Africa.

Nic Rudnick, group CEO of LIT, tells Gadget magazine that “By providing access to information, connecting people to businesses everywhere and opening up new markets, the internet can act as an enabler of economic activity and an engine for information sharing.”

With the power of high-speed internet, LIT has helped address the most crucial challenges within “high-potential countries” such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Digitization in Africa has never been more crucial in what is now a digital era. High-speed internet brings the promise of “peace, state-building, job creation and improved livelihoods.”

Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr