South Sudan is a small country in northeastern Africa that achieved independence from Sudan in 2011 and is the world’s newest country. Following its independence, a civil war broke out between the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan, the Dinka and Nuer tribes. Since the resolution of the conflict in 2018, South Sudan has been working hard to improve technology within its information and communication systems in order to revitalize its economy, advance foreign relations and expand networks to all citizens in South Sudan.
The Need for Technology
Information and communication technology (ICT) is a “diverse set of technological tools and resources used to communicate, and to create, disseminate, store, and manage information.” ICT includes any mechanism which facilitates communication and the transfer of information including the internet, computers, cellular devices, radio and television. From education and health care to business, the development of ICT has had a huge impact on nearly every aspect of modern society.
In South Sudan, nearly 80% of the population resides in rural areas with extremely limited access to the internet or mobile services. In 2021, only 8% of South Sudan had internet access, severely limiting the population’s access to the global market as well as valuable international and regional information.
Prior to COVID-19, South Sudan had been experiencing economic growth with a 9.5% GDP between 2019 and 2020. While much of the world transitioned to virtual methods of business and communication as the pandemic progressed, the lack of technology in South Sudan’s rural areas resulted in most of the country experiencing isolation from the world. Without sufficient ICT outside of South Sudan’s capital, Juba, rural populations lost access to even more valuable resources.
The Development of ICT in South Sudan
Despite the obstacles of the pandemic, the development of technology in South Sudan is still underway. In the past, the only way to access the internet was through very expensive satellite-based and mobile phone providers. However, the country has been working since 2018 to lower the price of communication by extending its fiber-optics infrastructure. As a land-locked nation, the quickest way for South Sudan to do that was to negotiate plans to tap into the existing fiber-optic networks of Uganda and Sudan.
Since its onset, the project has seen great success. Between 2020 and 2021, the percentage of internet users in South Sudan rose by 1.5%, and the number of people with mobile connections increased by 17%. In July 2021, President Salva Kir proudly inaugurated the first-ever South Sudanese-owned mobile telecom company, an operation that intends to expand ICT services to citizens in rural areas while simultaneously boosting the economy.
While there is still room for progress, South Sudan continues to show resilience in the face of COVID-19. A large majority of the country still lacks access to ICT and each new broadband network connects those who experienced isolation. There is great potential for the continued development of information and communication technology in South Sudan in the future.
– Hannah Gage