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Internet Society pushes localisation agenda for Africa

Internet Society pushes localisation agenda for Africa

Localisation is the key to unlocking socio-economic benefits of the internet for Africa, according to advocacy group the Internet Society.

Speaking ahead of the organisation's 9th African Peering and Interconnection Forum in Cape Town in August 2018, Michuki Mwangi, Senior Development Manager for Africa at Internet Society, said stakeholders have to embrace localisation as a way to reduce internet costs and thereby improve uptake and user experience.

Mwangi said Africa has paid an exorbitant amount to communicate with itself mostly because of the dependence on international networks.

"A couple of years ago the African Union conducted a study which revealed that Africa was spending six hundred million dollars more than it should annually just to communicate with itself. The reason that bill is so high is largely because we depend on international networks to speak to each other. Our signals depend on network operators in Europe and elsewhere, so the more interconnected our network become, the better it will be for us to improve the end-user experience and lower costs which will lead to increased usage and the creation of new opportunities for relevant content hosted in Africa."

Mwangi said in 2008 Africa had just 12 exchanges in a handful of countries. Today, there are just over 44 internet exchange points in 32 countries and while this reflects improvement, there is still far more work to be done.

"We need to be targeting all of the fifty five countries. Some countries like South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania have more than one beyond their business capitals and include other major cities in order to localise the traffic in those cities..."

Mwangi added that the Forum seeks to address Africa's internet transit deficit which, ten years ago, stood at 90%. While the organisation could not provide quantified details about what the current rates are, it does have a stipulated target.

"We chose to turn these numbers around ... by 2020 we want to have at least eighty percent of the internet traffic consumed in Africa being locally accessible, and twenty percent or less to be sourced from outside the continent. That was the goal that was set out and some networks have taken this on board (like Liquid Telecom and SEACOM) and (have) been able to achieve this for themselves through partnerships - up to seventy percent of content that their subscribers want is pulled through networks in the region. But the majority are below this mark."

Looking ahead to the Forum, Mwangi said South Africa was chosen as the host because of the lessons it can share with its international counterparts and the fact that it has the most exchange points – with two in Cape Town, two in Durban and two in Johannesburg.

"When you look at the interconnection and peering ecosystem, South Africa is well ahead of the rest of the continent. This will be an opportunity for stakeholders from other parts of Africa to learn what has worked. South Africa will also be able to engage with operators, content providers and others for opportunities to interconnect for businesses in the country that have reach across the continent. We want to avoid paying others to interconnect us."

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