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EU launches wireless connectivity project in Africa

Michael Malakata | Sept. 22, 2010
The broadband project is expected to stimulate rural economic development

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, 22 SEPTEMBER 2010 - The European Union (EU) has launched a pilot project aimed at providing wireless broadband connectivity for rural areas throughout Africa, first getting the program off the ground in South Africa.

The project is expected to stimulate rural economic development by using wireless mesh network (WMN) technology based on IEEE 802.11 a/b/g standards to provide broadband telecommunication services to local businesses.

In South Africa, the EU has partnered with the Department of Science and Technology on the project, which will cost €30 million (US$42 million). Although South Africa is Africa's second-largest telecom market after Nigeria, many of the country's rural areas including schools still have no access to the Internet.

The EU's target is to have an end-to-end Internet uptake of 95 percent in the targeted areas. As in South Africa, many rural areas in Africa are still not connected to the Internet. The South African government and the EU hope to establish small enterprises run by local operators known as village operators and provide Internet access and VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service to more than 450 government sites, mostly schools.

In the initial phase of the project, the South African Department of Science and Technology said a number of community facilities including schools, clinics and libraries are being connected to broadband infrastructure. Africa, according to the EU, needs a hybrid solution to connectivity, such as fiber and broadband wireless technologies, and a compressive approach in terms of infrastructure growth and regulations.

"There is need for the region to develop science and technology because everything that we do, including communication, hangs on science and technology development," Zambian Minister of Science and Technology Brian Chituwo told Computerworld Zambia Wednesday.

This is the second project that the EU is initiating in Africa in less than two years, after launching the EU-Africa strategic partnership on science and information technology, aimed at coordinating ICT development plans in the region in 2008.

 

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