Stakeholders in Uganda are already reporting benefits from Facebook’s investment in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) aimed at tackling the barriers to Internet connectivity in the region.
Recently, the American tech company announced several initiatives of investing directly in infrastructure and partnering with telecoms operators and Internet Service Providers (IPS) to improve connectivity with economic benefits to the region stemming from these initiatives estimated to exceed $57 billion over the next five years (2020–2024).
The tech company has invested in the fiber backhaul through the Open Transport Networks (OTNx). Facebook’s investment in OTNx has seen it deploy 770 kilometres of fiber in Uganda in partnership with operator BCS and Airtel and 750-800 kilometres in Nigeria with infrastructure provider MainOne which has enabled an extension of 3G/4G coverage to over 4 million people.
A further 100 kilometers of fiber haul has been deployed in South Africa for Wi-Fi in partnership with operator Vast. An estimated 700,000 people in Uganda and 300,000 people in Nigeria got online earlier than they would have without the OTNx investments, producing an economic impact of almost $4 billion between 2020 and 2024.
“Facebook is lowering costs of backhaul in Uganda by investing in areas that existing operators in Uganda find challenging. For example, in the West Nile region of Uganda Facebook has lowered backhaul costs by over 1,000 per cent due to their intervention in building a backhaul cable covering the region,” the Roke Telkom, chief commercial officer, Michael Mukasa told Daily Monitor.
“Additionally, Facebook has provided billing and provisioning systems that have enabled operators in Uganda and the wider region to implement products and services that are cutting edge and increase efficiency of data and service delivery,” Mukasa added.
“Lastly, the partnerships that Facebook has entered into to provide caching services in Uganda have greatly decreased costs of international connectivity in addition to improving the quality of the user experience,” Mukasa further added.
“Facebook’s investment in connectivity is likely to play a positive role in supporting increased access and use of the internet and related technology in the region and thus in contributing to more users joining the digital society. Among the offshoots of these initiatives is likely to more civic engagement online in some places, increased opportunity for inclusion in digital economy, as well as access to online education, social services and local content,” the executive director of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Dr Wairagala Wakabi told Daily Monitor.
“Meanwhile, these investments could reduce the burden of communications infrastructure development for some countries. However, states should not have an excessive reliance on private entities such as Facebook to fulfil state obligations in developing, improving and maintaining access to affordable and quality internet connections for their citizens,” Dr Wakabi added.