Mozilla, African Telecommunications Union ink deal to advance rural connectivity

Africa's smartphone market thrives

Mozilla and the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) have signed an agreement at aimed at promoting rural ICT connectivity in Africa.

According to a statement released by the ATU , the project will ensure affordable access to communication in Africa through the utilization of spectrum policy, regulations and practices.

John Omo, ATU Secretary General said, “I believe access to spectrum in underserved regions cannot be treated purely as an economic decision. “If citizens can’t take advantage of modern communications tools, an approach focused simply on auctions will amplify inequalities.”

Also commenting, Mitchell Baker, CEO of Mozilla said, “Spectrum strategies need to reflect the urgency of making access to broadband both inclusive and affordable.”

Baker emphasised that those with affordable phone/internet services have the advantage of access to the ever-increasing education resources, opportunities, services, and social safety nets such that the unconnected fall further behind just by standing still.

As the Internet has become a global resource open and accessible to all, existing policy, regulatory, financial, and technical models do not fully cater for the poorer and more sparsely populated regions in Africa.

“This MoU acknowledges the need to urgently address access to spectrum in rural areas as a policy and regulatory issue in order to unlock innovation and investment as part of the strategy towards actualizing affordable rural access to communication,” added Omo.

For the African society, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided great momentum for this need given that rural connectivity in the continent remains a challenge to date with some areas lacking even basic voice connectivity.

Despite the fact that more than 60% of Africa’s population is based in rural areas, the continent still lacks supportive infrastructure which renders conventional service provisioning in these areas commercially unviable.