Atlas Magazine December 2010

The digital divide

On June 8, 2010, twenty telecommunication companies announced the building of an optical fiber submarine cable, linking France to South Africa. With a length of 17 000 km, the cable will serve twenty-one West African countries. According to the promises of its designers, it will contribute to "reduce the digital divide in this region."

In countries of the South, the digital divide is reflected, in particular, by a lack of telecommunications infrastructure, a high cost of access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), the lack of adequate training and a shortage in designing local content.

Some figures illustrate the North–South gap:

  • Africa with 12% of the world population has less than 1% of Internet users, while the United States, which comprise only 4.7% of the world population, accounts for 43% of Internet users.
  • The average price for broadband access to the Internet is estimated at 16 USD for high-income countries and at 186 USD for low-income countries.

In spite of the access difficulties , the web represents a major vector of the Africa development. The web remains a source of unlimited opportunities. It gives worldwide exposure to companies that can improve their competitiveness. It also allows to offset the local shortcomings to knowledge and technical training.

ICT have a significant cost that ought to be honored. This is the price that African insurers must pay in order to survive in a globalized economy.

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