Mobile continues to play a central role in addressing many of the social challenges in Africa and at last week’s Mobile 360 Africa in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, representatives from across the ecosystem outlined how they are driving digital inclusion. This blog post recaps some of the big news from the keynotes that Content Team members Samina and Mark oversaw.
Day one began with a focus on Enabling Access for All where Mats Granyrd highlighted 4 target areas: expanding broadband to rural communities, affordability and taxation, lack of relevant local content and improving digital skills.
According to GSMAi’s Kenechi Okeleke, mobile subscribers in Africa have tripled in the last five years with an additional 250 million subscribers expected by 2020. Ian Ferrao, Managing Director of Vodacom Tanzania (pictured above), commended the growth but called on African governments to ensure adequate availability of broadband spectrum and broadband bandwidth, to enable Africa to sustain the growth.
Dr Omobola Johnson, Chairperson for A4AI echoed those sentiments before adding that broadband can cost up to 50% of the average income. A staggering statistic that highlighted the current affordability challenges that we are facing. Chantal Kagame, Deputy CEO of Tigo Rwanda, also spoke on the need for African telecoms operators to reduce the cost of voice calls as well as roaming charges, to enable African subscribers have full access to services.
Also on Day one, in a session on Quality of Experience, industry representatives highlighted the importance of spectrum in achieving network coverage and capacity, as well as creating a favourable regulatory environment to encourage network investments. Daddy Mukadi, Chief Regulatory Officer of Airtel Africa, recommended the creation of a regulatory framework and environment which promotes investments; one which allows for the extension of network coverage in under-serviced areas, lowers industry costs, increases regulatory clarity and certainty, and lightens burdens on resources. Mohamed Madkour, Huawei, forecast that Africa’s typical data traffic would increase 20 times by 2020. As a result, government actions such as releasing spectrum more quickly, and a policy to increase site density are needed to support this growth in data traffic, especially as new services are mobilised.
On Day 2, in the keynote session, Creating Opportunities for Local Digital Content, participants discussed zero-rating services, the distribution of digital content and opportunities for monetisation. Zero-rated services was highlighted by many on the panel as an important approach to offering local digital content in Africa.
Diego Gutierrez, CEO of Tigo Tanzania, said the operator has seen success from offering zero-rated services as a means of driving penetration, and then once customer habits were created, this provided opportunities for monetisation. Jack Rabah from the Wikimedia Foundation, was also positive about zero-rated services; he said that Wikimedia Zero, its zero-rated service, is about expanding free access to knowledge, not supplying access to the internet for the first time. Nisha Malhan, Senior Manager of Policy at Mozilla highlighted a global programme being conducted by Mozilla, including in three markets in Africa, to review the effects of zero-rating services and how they influence users’ behaviours and motivations. The programme aims to address questions such as whether users actually move from subsided plans to limited plans.
Day two also welcomed some big news from Pierre Guislain, Senior Director of the World Bank, who announced a new partnership with the GSMA providing a Digital Developing Partnership (DDP). The partnership aims to put private / public collaboration to the fore in order to drive digital inclusion. Their recent World Development Report highlighted the real dangers of a digital divide which Vodacom Tanzania seem to be proactively tackling when Ian Ferrao announced their target to connect 50 million more women across 10 emerging markets – before reiterating that it could only be possible if there is available access to broadband.