Bringing internet to Africa – VPRO documentary – 2015

this is about us all of us right now a couple billion of us have access to the Internet and amazing things have come from it so what happens when the rest of us get access the Internet has become a basic necessity of life three billion world citizens are now online and plans are in the pipeline for the other four billion because everyone has to get on board the big tech corporations are ambitious to expand the internet to grow their markets Google wants to create a shell of balloons around the planet imagine it for the first time in history humanity firing on all cylinders everyone everywhere Facebook their competitor is experimenting with drones over remote areas they also offer a free app for people who do have smartphones but can’t afford mobile internet our plan is to make basic Internet services affordable so everyone with a phone can join the knowledge economy to all these conquerors of the unconnected world Africa looks like the promised land it’s still the continent with the lowest number of Internet connections but also the place where the biggest progress can be made the idea is that Africa was digital before the digital we were called high speed which the rest of the community said well if that’s the case then that’s what we are if there’s a little girl somewhere who feels different because she’s a geek somewhere and is really super interested in electronics and things that are not girly that it’s perfectly perfectly fine welcome to backlight welcome to Africa lab of the future three quarters of all Africans now own a mobile phone in some countries almost half of these are smartphones in the streets of Nairobi Kenya the presence of cheap smartphones is overwhelming everyone seems to be online permanently but statistics show differently only one in five Africans has access to the Internet but this is about to change many companies have now discovered Africa as a market and are locked into a competitive race to connect the rest of the continent you’ve probably seen that there’s a lot of mobile network operators in Kenya and there’s a lot of cell towers and it’s been interesting because in Kenya like very differently to the West we we missed the cable area we missed a fiberoptic era well we’re moving the fiber-optic now but we missed the Karthik player the top infrastructure and it means there’s no cable out of almost near the books captured pneumonia was Omar named dog Facebook does a lot of internet chat I’ll go outside with any Titus feel complex sir and again episode leader Hong hands on the condom one of the pioneers hoping to provide Internet services to Africa is Dutchman Robert mica he and his American partners offer a limited version of the Internet where there’s no access to information at all they use satellites and radio frequencies to transmit selected parts of the internet as bits and bytes this technology pulled the Outernet is only a one-way system so far but it’s free dual batteries in the car we use it to power all the amplifiers Wi-Fi routers near the bricks Malvina Africa calm when Africa I call what did I call Sudoku picture this feel my heart meant to tell for the wheels right here in Africa today a new coach Milton and we can alternate Africa up chatter on their American Department Mad Men see de villiers an Advil most doorways on the information gap the closer these were many get to Hong head thoughts dot inform rc- material videos internet Wikipedia other Cydia the is that good for the for the for the hill I can meet with Han alone Alice water beta from I can knowledge is power you know I don’t know these boxes three I’m sure someone knows there may be no wonder and you’ll see open these power lines that things are been not so reliable we had a problem at it two years ago where the whole country went out of power when they turned it back on they pumped 400 volts to the whole root system and that means that you know everything like fridge refrigerators light bulbs ovens everything started Victor working milk I mean what do you use okay what I use you find it each internet you find that it is the easier one you can use like was up was up you can get everybody and also the problem of internal is when everybody’s connected so you find that it’s time in sometimes you see learning using a simple do-it-yourself receiver the Outernet can bring parts of the internet to people with limited resources free of charge it is connected to your to your dish and now I need your friend to point it to that decode 0 2 and connected exactly same like you did so what you see here is the library it’s just Wikipedia and some news etc you see try try to connect to it there’s not even this so what’s up but there’s all the internet there’s all the right now you know go to your browser then you you see her name so hopefully we didn’t have an hour or so I’ll have all the football scores we Pena now you know I don’t think this video right now but we’ll have all that stuff that you know that you might like so and the thing is this is always free to use so you’ll never pay for that so you know your friend you have to use that is you can is slum and but they people to build up you buy a slum that you think your arse are mile in there’s oh there’s a park all about something I do suck I don’t need you I don’t need our deepest of cellar Nevada home Samsung s5 in an iPhone’s escort the guy forever at poker and the negative an are men across the hollandaise here innocence now if they’re in a now my convey stick it out very much done exit ask enough it’s gonna act over over five years either any online Clark that in mind our will on serve over dr. so gonna go to heaven matching the interaction of the mobile phone in the continent has been evolution in the ways in which people I think relates to themselves these are not simply objects of use these objects have become part of who people are it’s also a major shift in terms of how people relate to each other and more importantly to to the world in the sense that hardly any African today can be considered to not be connected to the rest of the world the rest of the continent so I think that the internet will play exactly the same role it helps Africa to leapfrog the kind of technological evolution all continents and societies have undergone today is possible to move from Stone Age to the digital age Elam Bambi an influential political philosopher writes about the new mentality growing in Africa caused by the abundance of connections on all levels born in Cameroon and educated in Paris Bembe now lectures at Duke University and Harvard in his hometown of Johannesburg he describes her developments have accelerated on his continent more and more Africans are connected as we speak many more will be connected in the next five to ten years the middle class is increasing exponentially almost everywhere it is understood that by the year 2030 the number of people belonging to the middle classes in the continent will more or less equal what we see in China today but if you visit a Township where more than half a million people live under rather extremely hard conditions access to Internet is is pursued sometimes before access to electricity so all of these signals I think a major shift in the ways in which contemporary Africans relates to the whole question of technology the kind of main thing about coming to petites a day is that it’s it really depends on where you are right so we have over 50 countries you have pockets of really good connectivity in certain high density areas such as Nairobi where we are right now but we drastically different in you start to move into rural areas or smaller countries that don’t have as much of a priority on connecting users so the key thing to remember is that it is very uneven and you experience we very different in different parts of the continent but the general direction is that there is a massive amount of people starting to come online over 200 million now or estimated in Africa mobile penetration is much higher than internet most people on mobile are accessing the internet through mobile there’s a lot of cheaper smartphones really decent of smart phones under $100 it’s now now accessing the internet on it it’s really kind of next thing for the mass market I think one of the key things is really understanding the local needs and tastes rather than just simply replicating what’s worked in other parts of the world and the markets are very unique so it’s it’s not about Africa adaptation but it’s really about at the country and maybe at the the megacity level you know probably the cities haven’t probably more in common with each other than ten countries at large yeah Nyong’o comments on a map showing the mobile networks in Africa yeah because that’s there’s pretty much following the high-density areas in terms of where the 3G focus is most of this has happened in the last five years so it’s really amazing but you know for the for the urban populations because they haven’t had this good access for a long time being able to just go online and stream movies and video etc is it very recently and cloud computing for small businesses as I was saying so it’s to me it’s it’s a huge amount of progress in a relatively short amount of time of course not as dense as you know some other parts to the north but I think again the core challenge will be in these other areas how do you how do you actually provide Khan activity in a sustainable way and I think with increase of connectivity and focus of cheaper better internet access in high urban areas that we will start to see you know the emptying out of kind of the the countryside’s as people gravitate towards where there is better opportunities which will kind of be synonymous with conductivity yeah so that’s what I kind of see over over the next ten plus years computer on the floor and it got really mad it doesn’t seem to me that a further digitalization of the continent will result in rural areas being entirely disconnected no what we’ll see is really the densification of all kinds of networks both human and technological which will reshape the entire African spatial map if you travel today from Lagos to Accra it’s like one big constant city going from legacy began kottar nuu and love that Lamia in 50 years nobody will know where are the borders of Legos because Legos will expand physically from Legos to Accra and you have such corridors they are they are building up so I would say that in 50 years those borders will be seriously dismantled you will still have those physical borders but then these physical borders will be superseded by all kinds of interactions most of them virtual and this is already happening physical borders dissolving in the face of ever faster and denser virtual traffic investment capital swarming over the planet finding its way to new markets unstoppably the more people are beginning to use technology the so forth it’s a bigger market for Microsoft and all our other partners right so when we talk about cloud technologies when we talk about office 365 those things right now only limited to people in cities why we want everybody Kenya to be able to send mail we want everybody across Kenya to be able to access the internet microsoft has the products that allow for that to happen but right now there’s no connectivity to allow them to even experience the product Microsoft is the leader of the dynamic spectrum Alliance an international union of big companies who advocate the use of TV white spaces that’s unused TV frequencies for fast internet as an alternative to mobile or fiber glass networks we launched pileups to demonstrate the use of TV white spaces as an alternative technology provide high speed low costs broadband access to remote areas that otherwise would not have that technology it’s like a TV antenna the special thing about it is propagates ten kilometres in any direction that means that is all of that that makes it very affordable let’s get a lot of cable fiber cable broadband cable that’s coming to Africa all around the coast but the reality is that most of that connectivity is limited to the cities I remember the first time I went well dealing with children who had never seen a computer before and I recall vividly how they were reacting in the arid northern regions of Kenya Oh Tia no shows his pilot project to a key official of the Ministry of Information the pilot uses TV frequencies to offer fast internet to a four hundred kilometer area a simple TV antenna transmits to various Wi-Fi spots the project is called Moringa the cloud Microsoft has decked the school out with tablets and computers who knows what country this is you found it show it to me online all right well done clearly are gonna do well you’re more than a doctor when tell anyone it’s very good to find and exacting to use a computer for the first time can you describe it how it was for you how it felt I feel so really quite well because it was my first time to tape and to work with computer well one of the other schools that we are dealing with is over there it’s about 14 kilometers from here okay and they are getting the connectivity from here actually you’d be surprised you probably find that in some of the homes around here their smartphones yes as much as there’s no power people find ways of charging their phones through solar chargers you probably find that some of the people actually do have smartphones and they need to connect the internet and do their stuff this mass doesn’t cost much and it’s covering 10 kilometres which basically means when you compare it to the 3G alternative you bet have a better chance of getting recovering your investment nothing yeah it’s nothing so it sounds to me like the difference with the 3G technologies that this 3G is more or less commercial so when the operators are rolling out they have commercial considerations so either one of the government platforms is to provide laptops to schools so one of the things we are looking at is number one we have to provide them with connectivity that’s power and that’s both on the national grid but about five to six thousand of those schools in remote areas will be connected by a solar so the fact that this technology of yours uses low power I think would be an advantage because PI’s are really big issue and we want to leapfrog to make sure that even if there is no electricity grid in those five to six thousand schools they’re able to connect to technology such as this which is a low-power but then gives them access to high-speed broadband how do you see the future of Africa at digital I think Africa’s future is will be very bright Africa’s population is young probably more than 50 percent is below the age of 18 years old I think what will happen is that these young people now as they get exposed to technology and many other things good education good health you then start to see them coming up with innovations that will address the challenges of Africa and then start to address some of the other challenges of the rest of the world so I think the next frontier is going to be Africa I think the northern hemisphere has had its time Asia has had its time this is the time for Africa so the future for Africa is really bright in the countryside there’s hardly any internet at all and often no electricity either but in the heart of Nairobi we are plunged into a totally different reality everyone is online often with a made-in-china smartphone it’s an explosion of technological innovation we’ve got startups in the healthcare space startups in the agriculture space startups in e-commerce or mobile commerce startups in entertainment and music startups in education and they’re all trying to figure out what are the problems in agriculture in education and health and how can technology help to alleviate or to change things in those spaces so the iHub is a space and a community it’s this space and the idea is its narrow B’s innovation hub when you need to interface with developers talk to technologists launch a product learn from luminaries tech luminaries not just Kenyan luminaries but global luminaries this is where you meet this is where you meet this is where you meet them this is where you engage with venture capitalists this is where you may meet your co-founder you may meet your next CTO or CEO oh this is where you you celebrate this idea of making technology companies and it’s a really fantastic community that numbers more than 11,000 and it’s constantly growing and over the last five years we’ve seen more than 150 startups commit coming out of this space we’ve seen the model grow beyond Kenya into the rest of Africa it’s a huge market and we should be seriously looking at providing better services to the informal sector so the map is a guide for getting around the city some of the different ways to get around the city are either using a big bus or using a smaller van called amitié to the muchacha system is actually quite complex but really fascinating because that’s the way a majority of Kenyans get to work every day it’s a fascinating system and it’s now being digitized there’s project called digital more tattoos that shows this information in a digital format what may seem like a debilitating problem can also be a business opportunity people in the informal sector can ill-afford bad design because there is no time for friction there is no time to waste where things are don’t work well but one of the things that I think is fundamental in African culture is this culture of making that it’s not just about consuming that it’s also about looking around figuring out what needs to be done figuring out what you have that you can that can help you to to do it and then you just use what’s available to make something I saw that in my grandmother and how she would make things by hand and that culture of making things by hand is part and parcel of several communities in Kenya and I think it’s something that we should look to as inspiration even for us who are more in the digital realm not to forget that we’re part of a lineage of of makers and people who looked at a problem and went about fixing it not waiting for somebody else to come fix it is a fertile ground for the new digital technologies because the philosophy of those technologies is more or less exactly the same as ancient African philosophers in African cosmologies see African systems of thought before the colonial era and even now a human person was was always a bit more than a human person a human person could metamorphosize into something else he or she could become a lion and then or become a tree and it it seems to me that that archive of permanent transformation and mutation and conversion and circulation is an essential dimension of we can call African culture an Internet responds directly to that that drive and to our extent Africa prefigures the world that is coming if you want to if you want to to to to have any idea of the world that is coming the world ahead of us look at Africa so that’s why I see that in fact Africa was digital before the digital Africa is the perfect match for the digital era a creative reservoir and all we have to do is turn on the tap but first you have to get connected so far 80 percent of Africans have no internet South Africa has the biggest fibreglass network on the continent but even here most citizens can’t get access to fast internet it breeds a new kind of activism people take control of their own connectivity jabulani Villa Kazi quit his job at a call center and got a subsidy for tapping the fiberglass cable under the Soweto pavement and connecting it to a mast now the whole neighbourhood has access to free Wi-Fi this is so we’re too disadvantaged people a lot of people use Internet using mobile phones which is expensive fibre cable is currently used by the corporates your bank’s your malls people will be able to utilize this when this is put when our high site is up and running so in total more people will be able to connect with less data costs this is our access point that is used to connect to the high side this is where the last model works and where this is where the last mile works and other people get access to Wi-Fi through their fiber that is lay down on the roads off now the electric is one of the risks in life that when these power cuts and there is no access to information I did this because I saw that as a gap between the haves and it is perhaps not so that was a digital gap so like this I made this because people like people have been it’s not included in the digital economy from this Wi-Fi that’s inside could cover up 250 meters for every man working on the street we couldn’t accommodate more than 30 people and it could it could provide more than one Meg for everyone who’s using the internet goes up to the barbershop and the cars at the Papa Schadt could be able to advertise their businesses on the interface of the access point the features of Africa is looking bright with all their eggs with all the international capacity going out their roads to other exchanges to other internet exchanges it made life a bit easier because infrastructure to the country has been has been drilled out more than five years there’s more cables that are all that but they still battle is that access to people people cannot have access to that well that fiber that is out there currently right now and it is how huge potential forget to get the masses on their market and get them online a few kilometers down the road in Parkhurst residents initiated the installation of superfast internet with one gigabyte per second they called themselves the first fiber hood at each and each home is there’s a break ups there’s a break up points and then we put the father when the fiber cut and when the Pharmakon team comes through they’re gonna pull in the fiber 3s and they’re gonna put a piece of father in here pull it use the drawstring and I’m gonna put it into the box it’s a very big job I think if you think about crossing 2,000 driveways and trenching 54 kilometers and doing it in six months and I think it’s a quite a unique you know project so especially in South Africa no-one’s done it before yeah I mean this is Johannesburg’s this crime is a problem here and so you have lots of independent security companies that offer their you know that offer their services to residents and you’ll see each each home has actually got a number of different providers that looks after their the security for their home so what the father does it connects to the CCTV cameras that are dotted throughout the suburb and it transmits the video feed from those cameras underground through the fiber cable to a control points where their cameras can then be monitored off-site and it allows them you to do number plate recognition facial recognition and all these types of surveillance activities this is my fiber-to-the-home box which delivers me to the world and the world to me we’re a highly connected community we use technology to our advantage we needed to do this as a community because after years and years of imploring Telkom the the incumbent telecommunications provider to improve our infrastructure our networks and so on absolutely nothing got done there would be promises and unfortunately we were constantly disappointed and we reached the point where we said there’s no point in grumbling there’s a lot that needs to be done in the country we need to put in our efforts as well and to see what we can do to improve our own lives Parkhurst is an interesting neighborhood within Johannesburg it’s a close-knit community there about 6,000 people living here on just over 2,000 property usually it’s one of the few areas in Johannesburg where people really do get out of their homes and walk in the streets and and meet and know their neighbors and we worked very hard to develop a sense of community the reason behind the fiber-to-the-home actually was born out of a security need there had been some theft of motor vehicles and so on especially related to our high street where there are a number of restaurants and we felt that using modern technology was the best way to improve safety in the neighborhood even though we’ve got some excellent images on currency CCTV cameras with Wi-Fi the quality that we’d be able scared with fiber is significantly better especially if we start using infrared cameras and heats heat source cameras as well because we’re going to be using technology GPS technology and so on to map where incidents occur and to map movements and map unusual movements and the system that we have decided upon is based on algorithmic interpretation so it interprets what movements is considered abnormal rather than typical movements in a neighborhood of people walking their dogs and so on have you look at the ball and have a look at the the physical infrastructure I like will be complete by the end of the week and then it’s about the in-home connection we had a couple of people that objected to technology in general so which was quite an interesting experience one lady thought that her mom had gotten sick because of the local power substation and so they really didn’t want the fiber rolled outside their house so that was that almost stopped one whole street from getting fiber which was which was tricky and then another felt that it wasn’t worth going through the pain of what are these what do all these yuppies need like high higher speeds than that for you know he did say that his speed was about three or four I think that’s real we were called high-speed I think what’s what the people who don’t support it meant was that we’re just going after speed we want something flashy and we’ve got up to 1 gigabit per second if that’s what you choose to have which is absolutely fantastic so we are absolutely thrilled to have reliable always functioning and always speedy internet access in our homes right now so it’s actually been a quality-of-life thing and we’ve seen more and more neighborhood saying we want this – why can’t we have this and I’m really really hopeful that what we’ve started is a revolution I think we might see we might see this play out in in terms of communities doing exactly that rallying together getting together to make stuff happen when the government or parastatal failed failed to provide the services you know that that they should be providing and I think this will this will spread to you – Alison but is it something only rich people can do know why I don’t I don’t think it’s any something that that rich people can do this there’s no reason why other other communities no matter what your Ellison get together work together to make you know to bring about a change the Internet almost a million apps downloaded at every hour about 250 million every day and that one it occurs because a couple the technology always comes with with a utopian dimension technology is nothing without a capacity to make people dream what the power of technology does where it resides it is embraced insofar as people believe in the promise inherent in it of improving their own lives and and making it better and and freeing themselves from all kinds of all of social constraints but what has happened is that the means what is just a means internet pretends that it is not really the means it is the ends it is salvation you want salvation get hooked on internet because then it will bring all that is needed to you for you to be happy so what we see now is is a kind of proposition for happiness that is embedded especially in in a medium that pretends to not be a medium but pretends to be in fact the destination only religions played such a function in Iran religions promised salvation that’s why I was saying that Internet has become a religion Internet is a means but the question is to what end what forces will win out in Africa will the web be accessible to everyone or will inequality only get worse out in the countryside in Kenya we meet an inspired blogger with an independent mind it’s a great place to live yet really enjoy a life here away from the busy hassle of town life you can think of yourself and just if you are if you like keeping livestock it’s a good place for you Derrida is okay it’s not so cold in the river Montaigne the scenes are really nice but no electricity and no internet connection I did I change school so I can’t use it I can’t do anything my hands have been handcuffed there is a high level of unemployment and it’s skyrocketing every day so I wanted to study something that I can be self-employed and maybe create jobs for others I think we can change the places like this one enough your small office year if you have the internet connection and electricity you can work from this comfort and Noah so see if you have what it takes to work on me in the near future almost everyone will be working online you need internet you can go to baggage with a container that offers free internet connection and their power and such things I never believed trust true how can you give print and it’s expensive I saw the container so I started working on land the cheapest is there so I rented the house so even some of my friends they’re planning to come here now that’s now the spirits who are doing with those people who are working online we are just there for you be there for someone else I hold your hand you hold my hand I hold someone else and we all make it that’s what we are doing right about politics music technology fashion you see you know you write things that will draw people if they read that’s how they will commence and that’s how they like and that’s how they will share so they pay you according to the traffic you generate the site that people make that the $200 in one week do you feel more connected to the rest of Africa because of it online actually yes Africa and also the world I feel like if I need to know anything about New York just the Bangkok just the China anywhere will not don’t trust me I don’t trust me definitely because the sometimes we all meet sometimes the exaggerated but I can really meet someone in person like in Skype can I see some videos of their then you have your camera you can show me so I feel it’s ok I’m really connected to the whole world actually I think we are taking over now if we have a electricity and a good internet connection West Point could the next Apple be founded in Africa and invented here we have to we have to take that possibility seriously if I were an adviser to Google or Facebook I would put I would advise them to come to the continent and work with people who are innovating and elicit from those multifarious practices the formula for the next next Apple or even though the next the one after the next

Danny Hutson

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