Miruna Codeanu

The Infrastructure will be online

In cappuccino on October 7, 2015 at 6:30 am

downloadChina is a bubble. No, China is actually the world bank now. No, China is stagnating. No, China is becoming the world’s leading economy. Arguments on whether China is or will be the dominant economy. Long before China was even the topic for this discussion, one could see the course of action: China was to become an important economy, while the next developing countries would be African. I’m still willing to make this bet. I know about that hypothesis in which India will be the next boom, but I see Africa as being more dynamic, and I see both China and the US cooperating into creating Africa as the next market. Let’s move on to our topic today: Facebook will deliver internet access to sub Saharan Africa. 

Mark Zuckerberg is following his Interner.org initiative, and if all goes well, in 2016 14 sub Saharan countries will have internet access. Seems that Mark Zuckerberg would be on my side in this bet, also John Sculley and his Obi. Truth be told, in order to avoid another 2008 we need new markets, and until Mars, we have to stick to planet Earth, and there are just a few countries left that can become new markets. Africa will be a long term bet.

Infrastructure is an indicator for the level of development of a country. We’re used to think roads, railroads, buildings, tunnels as traditional infrastructure. Internet, as it will be delivered in Africa, was not part of what we traditionally called infrastructure. Internet was one of the last services to be provided. It was not seen as essential. South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya are among the countries that will be covered. Sub Saharan African is one of the poorest regions in the world, and traditionally, we would have said internet is not a priority. Don’t make that face, I know what you’re thinking: they also need hardware to access the internet. They do, but they don’t really need the latest Samsung S6 Verge of the Iphone 6s. Remember John Sculley and his plan to sell affordable smartphones in African countries. We might get to see some very interesting cases of otherwise isolated areas that will now be connected to the world with the help of internet.

I was glad to read Facebook is following their plan with internet.org, and I was thinking, in terms of development, what is this, what is this that is now happening with Africa? Infrastructure. They are building infrastructure in order to help African countries develop. Do not worry, I use help with profit in mind. Remember, I said this is about new markets. Maybe roads are not a priority anymore, maybe the Internet is. I remember some stories about the use of cellphones of some Masai people. With access to information, embracing change will be easier. Most traditional and rural communities develop change resistance when it comes to bringing anything that will reshape their lifestyle: be that a road or a facility. Something interesting might happen: the ones affording technology will be leaders implementing change and taking communities towards development.

I was saying in my previous posts: states are no longer policy makers, companies are. Now, go back to Facebook delivering internet in Africa. Change will no longer come from national policies, but from private initiatives that will shape social realities. A closer look at this matter: in traditional states you had some government official coming into your village and saying that the state has decided you need to spare some land because they will build a new road. That is inevitably followed by drama: people do not want a main road passing through their village: more noise, more pollution and some emotional attachment to their land. In 2016 Facebook will deliver internet to sub Saharan countries: it is your choice to have it or not but you will want information, leaders of communities will probably be the first to have access and they will lead the community towards change be that a simple talk about the weather or for example, easier communication with tourists in Masai villages.

Internet is the new infrastructure and it makes perfect sense. In school we were taught that the primary use of a road is to connect communities. Connect. You need to connect with your friend in Africa. What’s the first thought that comes in mind? Exactly. You reach your smartphone and not for a phone call because actually talking on the phone is now a secondary use.

  1. […] Facebook makes a better newsfeed for a slower internet connection. Well, it should, because remember, internet.org comes with Facebook, which should also work with a slower internet connection. Not only that its next billion does not use the same advanced technology as its first billion but, Facebook might also replace traditional media for its next billion. In sub Saharan African it just might be that some homes will own a smartphone, but not a tv, because, as mentioned in a previous post infrastructure we are now building is online.  […]

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