Access to high-capacity bandwidth is providing investment opportunities in East and North Africa in cloud computing, business process outsourcing (BPO) and content management, SEACOM officials say as they celebrate the cable system's first two years of operations.
Additional areas that could get a boost from increased bandwidth include managed services revolving around e-commerce, e-health, e-government and e-learning, according to Julius Opio, SEACOM's head of sales.
Opio made the remarks at a recent meeting with the press in Nairobi as SEACOM, the first submarine fiber-optic cable to land on the eastern seaboard of Africa, prepares to celebrate two years since it went live in June 2009. Since then, several other broadband fiber-optic cables have been completed in Africa.
"The impact of high-capacity bandwidth and solutions will dramatically shift the way we learn, conduct business and bridge the knowledge gap in Kenya and across the region, hence enabling communities to unleash their creative potential and seamlessly integrate into the information-driven global economy," Opio said in prepared remarks.
Opio said improved Internet connectivity and declining capacity costs create employment opportunities for young entrepreneurs who are developing products and marketing them online to wider markets.
Since SEACOM went live, Internet use has increased considerably. In Kenya, for example, the number of Internet users increased from 7.8 million in 2010 to 8.6 million by the first quarter of 2011, Opio said, quoting data from the Communications Commission of Kenya.
Since SEACOM began offering high-capacity bandwidth, multinationals from around the world including software developers from the U.S., global telecommunication companies and banking firms from South Africa have made additional investments in the region.
In the small and medium-size business (SMB) market, which makes up more than 80 percent of companies throughout Africa, Opio said, there is now a growing need to outsource IT services for data hosting and network security to take advantage of increased bandwidth capacity. The need for outsourced IT software services includes applications such as payroll, enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources and customer relations management, among others, he said.
Growth in the telecom sector will be driven by mobile data services, and a decline in voice revenue will be partially offset by an increase in data revenue, both among 2.5G and 3G customers, Opio said.
Mobile data services are expected to contribute 24 percent of operator-billed service revenue in 2013, compared to 9 percent in 2008. Opio said operator-billed services revenue across the Africa and Middle East region is expected to rise to more than $107 billion in 2013.
On the education front, SEACOM has provided Internet services to 75 education and research institutions in Kenya over the past two years, according to Jackie Mwai, SEACOM's regional sales manager.
Mwai said education institutions have made large savings on access as prices have dropped from $2,400 per megabit per month before SEACOM's entrance to the current rate of $300 per megabit per month.
Mwai said universities and research centers in Kenya now connect using SEACOM capacity to global education networks such as ENREN in South Africa and Europe. This, he added, is facilitating the use of information exchange platforms globally for e-learning purposes.
Universities previously using 64Kbps connections now use over 10Mbps connections. Meanwhile, SEACOM will grow its network by venturing into war-torn Somalia, Africa's soon-to-be-youngest nation, South Sudan, and Burundi, which today have no fiber connectivity.