I live in Africa, Kenya, home to the most beautiful coastline in the world.
Once in a while I take a break, go on holiday to the white sandy beaches of Mombasa, and usually, I pack my bikini’s, to enjoy the pleasures of sun, sand & sunscreen.
The past week though, was slightly different.
I went off to Mombasa without my swimsuit.
Thursday morning, I missed my 6.30 am flight to Mombasa.
Usually, when it comes to work, I am a stickler for time, and I don’t take anything less from my team. Sometimes though, it goes terribly wrong, Murphy’s Law, and this was one of those days.
The SEACOM fiber optic cable was finally landing and a number of journalists were taken down to Mombasa to experience first hand, the joys of fast internet.
And I missed my flight.
Flattery gets you everywhere!
Even though I had been told the next KQ 606 was full, I got a confirmation for the 10 o’clock flight, and when KTN’ s Larry Madowo joined me at the waiting Lounge, the anxiety I had took a quick exit, and we began to chat about everything, from his new 2’00pm show on financial markets, to his Nokia 5800 that made my old blackberry hang it’s head in shame, to college life and getting into business reporting, it was quite a great conversation.
Fast forward to landing in steamy Mombasa, meeting Solomon of Hill& Knowlton, and having a super Swahili Lunch at a real coastal restaurant near the fort Jesus Museum.
Larry & I had missed the morning Press briefing, yet we both had to prepare a news package before end of day (and I still think my report was better Larry;-)..Anyway, I couldn’t wait to go online and experience fiber.
I have one problem with the Internet, and that’s the first problem I needed to address. So, I went to CNN and clicked on “watch CNN Live”. It took 19 seconds to load the whole site as well as getting Live TV streaming in. usually it takes about 5 minutes…That was exciting!
I got to speak with Jean Pierre du leu of SEACOM, on the experience of laying fiber in Africa, and it was an exciting story, of coming from the days of Africa one, to actually completing a process that saw East & southern Africa feel the true fiber touch.
When doing my research during the week, I came across a sentence that stuck in mind: “ fiber of today is like the sea trading routes of the past, a sign of economic activity and a subsequent boom”. If we look back to how the developed countries grew, in different waves, the opening up of the trading routes was a major economic junction, and when the internet came in, another huge wave took over, and the rest, as they say, is history.
So, what does fiber really mean to Africa?
It means access to real time information. That cut across all barriers: across markets, across time, across language, and across developed and developing countries.
It is countless opportunities. There is a strong entrepreneurial sentiment in Kenya today; every young person wants to start their own businesses. With faster & cheaper bandwidth, every young Kenyan keen on growing ICT wise must find out what businesses scored large when fiber landed in the developed countries, find opportunities and make the best out of them.
ICT is quickly moving towards convergence. One stop shops that offer flexibility and convenience to customers. Cost cutting is also becoming centre line to most companies,who opt to outsource, here’s how strategies such as the Sameer Business Park serve as an indicator of what we are likely to see in the market.
Last mile providers such as ISP’s will grow in ways we are yet to fully understand. The demand for broadband is growing. You only need to look at what ISP’s like Access Kenya lay fiber across town, and realise that they are looking right into the future.
I believe cheaper broadband we will see cyber café’s turning into ISP’s.
I asked David Bunei of Cisco a couple of questions on fiber, and I got the best education ever about fiber optics during the journey between the SEACOM site and the Moi International Airport Mombasa.
I was on tweeter throughout the launch and I got several questions on when Fiber will reach Nairobi.
Depending on contractual agreements with satellite owners, ISP’s can advise their bandwidth providers to switch from satellite to fiber.
A couple of ISP’s and other Telco’s have already bought into SEACOM, with Safaricom currently being the biggest customer, so, we are likely to see that first & fast.
Terrestrial fiber optic cables are already being laid across East Africa and with EASSY launching in June 2010, and TEAMS making the final rounds, it’s an exciting time.
I know better than to expect magic within the ICT space, but it surely is an opportunity for growth.