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Africa a major force in driving societal change – Alcatel-Lucent

September 5, 2012 • Features

The real goal behind ICT service delivery and technology application in Africa is to achieve broadband penetration to empower citizens and boost economies.

Alcatel-Lucent's Karl Bream engages with the media at this year's Telkom SA SATNAC. (Image: Alcatel-Lucent)

Alcatel-Lucent was a diamond sponsor of the Telkom SA 2012 Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference (SATNAC).

Management of the global services provider in mobile, fixed, IP and optics technologies has spoken of the societal change and the drivers behind this change, including urbanisation.

Africa is considered very much a part of these trends.

Karl Bream, Strategy Vice President & Partner at Alcatel-Lucent, spoke to IT News Africa about prospects on the continent and the company’s role in helping to transfer the benefit of the relationship between broadband penetration and GDP growth.

  • Where does Africa lie in terms of societal change and managing this process?

 I think a couple of things. I think first of all the trends I talked about for societal change – So when you talk about urbanisation and the 2,3 billion people, Africa is a huge part of that move. So those changes and the stress on infrastructure must be dealt with on the continent. That is clear. As far as application is concerned, there is so many different areas – like healthcare and education – and we use the term social equity, because a broadband-enabled citizen that has access to skills has better economic prospects than someone who doesn’t. So the real goal in Africa is how do you get the broadband penetration and 90% coverage so that people have the tools in order to get the education, healthcare and needs, or sell their products if it is a private enterprise – and this leads to growth. The higher the penetration of broadband, the higher the GDP.

  •  what is the best way to go about this?

There is a depiction we call the flywheel growth, which basically means that you have to start with a proactive investment policy –  so the government, together with service providers and private industry, need to come up with an investment policy. When this is in place and deployed and starts to get coverage, you then start to get the healthcare, education applications and this then drives more economic value, which allows for additional investment.

  • Are there countries in Africa that are more advanced than others in terms of this process?

I don’t know for Africa. What I can say is that this cycle varies, depending on various factors. These include the history of a particular country or location, what do they have in the ground, is it copper? What are they going to invest in. Decisions like whether they are going to inverst in 3G or 4G. It depends on a set of variables of what works better here compared to other parts of the world, the tele-density of a region. Countries like Kenya are pushing their ICT strategy and there is also a drive to instil 4G.

  •  What is your opinion of governments role and regulation?

 I think if we look around the world, certain governments that have taken a more – not necessarily a restrictive view – but have taken on the view of equal access. This means that those providers that have to invest are less likely to invest if they are going to have share the infrastructure with other companies. That tends to make the risk higher and investment a bit more delayed. Whereas with governments that are more open in terms of making sure providers reap some of the rewards from investment.

Chris Tredger, Online Editor 

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