“Why Tech Giants are Failing in Africa’s Last Mile Connectivity: Lessons Learned from Google Loon and Facebook Express Wi-Fi”
When it comes to providing internet access to the most remote and underserved areas of the world, Africa is a prime example of a region where the tech giants have struggled. Projects like Google’s Loon in Kenya and Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi, which promised to bring cheaper internet access to developing parts of the world, have both closed down with little to show for their efforts. So, what went wrong?
One major issue is the lack of partnership with local innovators. These tech giants often come in with a “one-size-fits-all” approach, trying to impose their own solutions on local communities without truly understanding their unique needs and challenges. This can lead to projects that are not well-suited for the local environment, and that ultimately fail to gain traction.
Another problem is the idea that “free internet” is the solution to last mile connectivity. In reality, however, providing internet access is a complex and costly endeavor. Simply giving it away for free is not a sustainable business model, and it can also lead to a lack of investment in the infrastructure and technology needed to make the internet accessible to all.
Another important issue is the lack of a multi-purpose digital infrastructure. In Africa, traditional telecommunications companies have been able to generate revenue from multiple sources such as mobile money, voice, SMS, and internet services. This diversification of revenue streams allows them to maintain a sustainable business model and continue to invest in their infrastructure. In contrast, the tech giants have focused on providing only one service, internet access, which is not enough to build a sustainable model for last mile connectivity.
Finally, the tech giants have also failed to create an investment vehicle for mergers and acquisitions with local tech companies that understand the local environment. This would have allowed them to tap into the knowledge and expertise of these companies, and to work together to create solutions that are truly tailored to the needs of local communities.
In conclusion, the failure of these tech giants in Africa’s last mile connectivity highlights the need for a more collaborative and localized approach. It’s important to involve local innovators and communities in the planning and implementation of internet access projects and to understand the unique needs and challenges faced in different regions. Additionally, sustainable business models and investment in infrastructure and technology are key to the success of last mile connectivity projects and building a multi-purpose digital infrastructure can be an effective way to bridge the digital divide in Africa and that what we plan to do next at ARED>