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New fiber optic cable to bring internet to millions in Africa

By Donna Donowitz
April 22, 2011
With the advent of the information age, many wealthy countries have sped toward greater, faster and more robust connectivity.

Some parts of the world, however, have not had the resources to carry out the kinds of large-scale infrastructure deployments that are common in western nations. For many living in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia, high-speed internet connectivity remains a thing of the future.

A new initiative hopes to take important steps in reducing the connectivity gap. The West Africa Cable System, or WACS, is designed to bring high-speed fiber optic network access to one of the least-connected parts of the world.

According to a recent Al Jazeera report, work has begun to lay the infrastructure for the new communications network. A central component of the fiber optic system will be an under-sea communications cable that will traverse the Western coast of the African continent.

In total, the WACS cable will run approximately 8,700 miles, from London to South Africa. Users in as many as 12 countries will be able to access the new high-speed network.

While some countries, such as South Africa, have had access to sub-marine communications cables before, others have not, Al Jazeera reported. The Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and Togo will be among the countries receiving high-speed connectivity of this kind for the first time.

According to Al Jazeera, WACS will offer bandwidth approximately four times greater than any other African data pipeline. The connectivity offered by the new infrastructure is expected to open myriad new opportunities for Africans.

In a connected world, high-speed internet access offers cultural, business and educational opportunities. Many point to the rising service market in India, for example, as one of the greatest achievements of high-speed connectivity.

Currently, just 10 percent of Africans have access to the internet, according to Al Jazeera. This is significantly less than the 65 percent of Europeans who are web users.

Speaking about the initiative with the Cape Argus, Alan Winde, a representative in the provinicial legislature of South Africa's Western Cape, said WACS will help spur economic growth. “A World Bank study has found that for every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration, developing economies grow by 1.38 percent," he said.


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