With Google and Facebook in a neck-to-neck race to corner the unconnected parts of Africa be a boon for ordinary Africans?
By: Ringo Bones
Copper cable and optical fiber internet based systems are yet too expensive and their penetration too slow for the parts of Africa not yet connected to the information superhighway via broadband but will the neck-to-neck race between Google and Facebook benefit ordinary Africans? The two internet titans differing competing methods could open up the hitherto unconnected parts of Africa.
Google’s Project Loon (named after the high-flying waterfowl?) plans to use high-altitude balloon-born internet servers hovering at 60,000 feet or higher to provide in the most economically viable way at present to provide internet coverage to areas in Africa not yet connected to the world wide web. Rich de Vaul chief architect at Google is one of the heads of Project Loon.
While Facebook also has a similar project that use solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles carrying internet servers to provide affordable internet service to areas of Africa that are yet to be reliably connected to the internet. Providing increased connectivity for Africa is just part of a business expansion plan by Facebook to turn itself into a global utility via pilotless drones that provides internet coverage in remote areas and can stay aloft up to 5 years at a time.
Both Google and Facebook had been eyeing to purchase Titan Aerospace – the South Korean firm that manufactures the solar-powered UAVs that carry the internet servers to 60,000 feet or higher and could continuously stay aloft for up to 5 years. Both balloons and UAVs are currently much cheaper – and hence more commercially viable – than the broadband internet via Earth orbiting telecommunication satellites.
According to leading consultancy firms, the race between Google and Facebook to corner the African internet market doesn’t just benefits the two internet superpowers. With increased internet connectivity on the African continent, up to 44 million internet-based extra jobs would suddenly become available across Africa. Increased internet connectivity could potentially translate to 450 US dollars worth of additional GDP per person across Africa. Whoever wins on this titanic commercial battle, the biggest winners could be the ordinary Africans currently denied reliable and affordable internet connectivity.