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Pinging Africa - A decadelong quest aims to pinpoint the internet bottlenecks holding Africa back

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The University of Kinshasa, the largest university in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has nearly 30 000 students, faculty, and research staff-but only 800 computers. And although its internal data network is fast enough to support on-campus e-mail, virtual library access, and online coursework, its link to the outside world is no better than that of a typical household in the United States or Europe. When I visited the university about a year ago, the restricted capacity meant that only 200 senior staff had Internet privileges-for whatever those were worth. I was able to go online for a short time, but the connection was barely usable. Web pages timed out or loaded so slowly that after about 10 minutes, I simply gave up. Regrettably, the situation in Kinshasa is familiar to millions more schools, organizations, and communities in emerging parts of the globe. And the technical gap between developed and developing regions only widens the economic one. Without these connections, many developing countries miss out on innovations that offer higher standards of living, such as telemedicine, remote learning, and online commerce.

Published in:

Spectrum, IEEE  (Volume:50 ,  Issue: 2 )