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Internet access and availability are not enough to get people online, says a new Internet Society study released at the African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) that took place 30 August – 1 September in Tanzania. The “Promoting Content in Africa” report reveals that while significant improvements have been made in Internet infrastructure, most notably in mobile networks, Internet adoption rates are slowing in many countries because users lack compelling reasons to connect.
According to the study, content and services are the main factors in making the Internet desirable, especially when the subject matter is relevant and in a language that users can easily understand. A lack of local content and services is affecting the number of new online users in Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, local language content is key to bringing new users online, as many are not comfortable reading in English or French.
“Promoting Content in Africa” outlines the barriers to the development of local content and offers recommendations to improve local content availability and distribution.
In the Sub-Saharan countries studied by the Internet Society, the majority of international and locally developed content is hosted outside the country, typically overseas. This results in slow Internet speeds and higher access costs. In Rwanda for example, of all websites using the .RW domain name, only a small fraction are hosted in Rwanda. The majority of sites are hosted in Europe and the U.S. Hosting content locally is key to making the Internet faster and more affordable for users.
The region faces a combination of barriers, including the inability to pay and receive payments for mobile apps, which serve as a major channel for content distribution in most African countries.
Internet peering is a business relationship whereby two Internet service providers agree to provide access to each other’s customers at no cost. Internet users throughout Africa benefit from peering, which enables faster and more affordable access.