South Sudan focuses on ICT to rebuild

May 8, 2013 • Features

The Republic of South Sudan, formerly known as Southern Sudan, is located in East-Central Africa and forms part of the United Nations sub-region of Eastern Africa.

South Sudan is looking to leverage off ICT to develop the country's core infrastructure. (Image source: flickr/babasteve)

The country became an independent state in July 2011 and, says Wikkipedia, is a United Nations member state, a member state of the African Union and a member state of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

Although a recently formed state, and still in the process of building its economy, there is already a significant amount of activity within the country’s ICT sector, particularly efforts to expand broadband connectivity and mobile services.

An e-plan

Towards the end of 2012, it was reported that much is expected from the country’s pan-African e-Network Project to develop numerous projects using technology and e-government as the basis for infrastructure development across Africa.

Vimal Wakhlu, MD for Telecommunication Consultants India (TCIL), said in a press statement over the weekend that “equipment for the project has already been dispatched to South Sudan for installation.”  Wakhlu added that South Sudan will “soon benefit from the project since it is the world’s newest country.”

He added that the basic objectives of the Pan-Africa e-Network Project were “to help build the capacity of the African countries by imparting quality education to students from some of the Indian universities.”

According to the project’s details, the Indian government is spending more than $115 million on the enterprise, which it said will also cover “Continuing Medical Education (CME) to practicing doctors and nursing staff with a view to update their knowledge and skills.”

In February 2013 Airspan Networks, an established provider of 4G broadband wireless access networks, announced a 4G WiMAX network deployment for a client, RCS-Communication Ltd.

As is the case in many markets throughout the continent, ICT plays an integral role in the socio-economic development of the country and South Sudanese authorities are stepping up efforts to regulate the industry.

Specifically, there has been a concerted effort to clamp down on unregistered SIM cards. Earlier this year South Sudan’s Ministry of Telecommunication pushed the deadline for the registration of SIM cards following a low turnout of people.

The telecommunications industry is still very much in development, but, upon closer inspection, there is expected to be significant competition for the country’s growing mobile consumer base.

Online research says that when peace was brokered between South Sudan and Northern Sudan, two mobile phone licences were issued – one to NOW and the other to Gemtel.

A published report adds that the accord facilitated four nationwide mobile operators – including Zain, MTN and Sudani – has set up operations. Vivacell is also the second active network operating solely in the country.

In July 2012 there were also reports that mobile and telecommunications service providers MTN and Zain were planning to launch mobile money services in the country.

Reuters was quoted as reporting that “There are less than “0.01 bank accounts in South Sudan, a small figure compared with rest of Africa’s 0.3 bank accounts and 1.6 for Western Europe.”

Addressing the need for connectivity

There is vested interest in connection with existing sub-marine cable systems (including SEACOM and EASSy) to replace satellite-based connectivity. This is generally viewed as being costly and slow.

The quest for more broadband is expected to satisfy the requirements of the country’s growing online user base. An ICT Statistics Newslog, posted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), relayed information about the South Sudanese government was looking to deploy a fibre optic network to connect the country’s capital utilising submarine connectivity.

Looking to neighbours for support

The New Times reported that the country’s government is looking to Rwanda as a source of expertise, ICT – resource, investment. There is significant interest in the ICT development of neighbouring countries, with a view to increased investment in what South Sudan could ultimately offer.

While statistics are difficult to come by, according to Internet World Stats, by mid-year 2012, the country only had 100 registered Internet users. However, this is expected to grow as investment increases and opportunity arises.

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