Somaliland:The Arrival of Fibre-Optic Broadband Internet
The Impact it will have on us
While we wait, for SomCable to eventually rollout fibre-optic broadband internet; perhaps the greatest pace of change will be seen. Somaliland already has about 1.5 million mobile subscribers (approximately 61% of the population total) and Broadband Internet LTE (long term evolution) or as most of you would know as fibre optic cable deployment of SomCable is quickly gaining momentum, with SomCable initially predicting 1 million customers by 2015.
The impact of this technological revolution should not be underestimated. It’s important to remember that for many Somalilanders, the emergence of Broadband Internet does not follow logically on from a pre-existing deployment of reliable 2G/3G services. Additionally, many Somalilanders do not have access to fixed internet and have not yet come to regard data services as a simple utility. The sudden arrival of Broadband Internet and mobile broadband will power an unprecedented social and economic revolution.
Already commerce in Somaliland is becoming dependent on mobile services. As a whole mainly via Telesom Zaad services, Somaliland now has smartphone penetration rates of around 15 per cent. I would suggest that Somaliland may become one of the first and few post-PC countries in Africa meaning going straight to smart phones and fast broadband internet thus leaping over the PC for access to internet.
Fibre-Optic Broadband opportunities for Somaliland
Broadband Internet carries the potential to give Somaliland users in rural, remote and underprivileged areas the benefits and advantages afforded by high-speed broadband Internet connections. It is now universally recognized that there is a direct correlation between levels of Internet penetration and the overall wealth of a region. Internet penetration levels go hand in hand with the accessibility of economic and social opportunities.
The promise of a social betterment
Technology has always been a great enabler of economic success and the arrival of Broadband Internet in Somaliland is no different. It has the potential to level the playing field of wealth distribution and drive forward social change. The creation of new jobs and investment opportunities are important catalysts for Broadband Internet deployments in Somaliland, but it is the promise of social betterment that is the real popular driver here.
Importantly it’s key that the Somaliland government is seen by Somali citizens – as well as the international community – to be boosting economic output and creating opportunities for all areas of society, rather than broadband internet accessed only in some parts of the country. Nevertheless, the challenges should not be underestimated. Somalia/Somaliland has one of the highest concentrations of people living below the poverty line. However, this also makes the most benefits from the gap between rich and poor being narrowed.
If – and these are big ‘ifs’ – the Somaliland government can wake up (i.e. the ICT Commission starts to function) and realize the technology capabilities and benefits of Broadband Internet networks, and SomCable make the access to their network affordable to all, then Somaliland will be able to look forward to a future that is far brighter than the majority of its people could have ever hoped for. In the future people may well say that it was mobile communications that truly let Somaliland forge ahead both economically and socially.
By Abadir Ismail Aw Abdi