Satellites, a solution to the digital desert in the poorest countries

Satellites, a solution to the digital desert in the poorest countries

Only one-third of people in the world’s poorest countries are connected to the Internet, a U.N. agency said Sunday. UNat a time when private initiatives are being developed to provide connection through satellites.

Only 36% of the 1.25 billion inhabitants of these 46 states, known as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), can connect a computer to the network, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

In Europe, more than 90% of the population can do so.

Digital giants such as Microsoft o Starlink propose solutions to alleviate this lack of connections.

The “digital divide” has increased over the past decade, ITU notes on the sidelines of an LDC summit in Qatar.

The issue has become one of the main themes of the meeting, since access to internet also represents access to knowledge, markets and opportunities.

“The digital revolution has forgotten about you, deprived of the technological support you need,” denounced on Saturday the secretary general of the UNAntonio Guterres.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is four times the size of Germany, only a quarter of its population is connected. The network is relatively decent in Kinshasa and other major cities, but a huge part of the country – where fighting between rebel groups rages – remains a digital desert.

Cost reduction

At the Doha summit, several companies claim to have a part of the solution.

One of them, Microsoftpromises to provide network access to 100 million Africans by 2025.

The U.S. company announced the launch of the first phase in December, with five million people connected by low-orbit satellites from the group’s Viasat.

Another 20 million to go through African telecom specialist. Liquid Intelligent Technologies.

The president of MicrosoftBrad Smith explained that these forecasts were possible because “technology costs have come down substantially, and continue to do so”.

“We can access a lot more people than we could 5, 10 or 15 years ago with landline technologies,” he added.

Starlinkby billionaire Elon Musk, has thousands of satellites placed in orbit by his company. SpaceXat 500 to 700 km from Earth.

“We are optimistic about what digital technology can do for development,” Smith stressed, although he admitted that the private sector remained “underinvested and underdeveloped” in LDCs.

For his part, Liquid Intelligent claims to have some 100,000 km of terrestrial fiber on the continent, but also a robust satellite network.

“In isolated regions, satellite is often the only or the most reliable technology for fast broadband that works all the time,” says Nic Rudnick, vice president of Liquid Intelligent(AFP)

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Kayleigh Williams