Monday, September 24, 2012 | 2:03 PM
A decade ago, Senegal was one of the most promising African countries in adopting the Internet, with more than double the Internet penetration than in Nigeria. Yet today Nigeria have leaped ahead with 30% of its population enjoying access to the web versus only 16% for Senegal.
In order to find out what went wrong, we commissioned a study being published today. Produced by the consulting firm Balancing Act, the report is titled "Obstacles and Opportunities for the democratization of broadband in Senegal."
Many obstacles exist in Senegal. Because of rigid licensing and weak regulation, the incumbent operator holds a de facto monopoly on access to the national fiber infrastructure and the copper lines into households. This lack of competition keeps prices high - it costs $400 to get 1 Mbps/km capacity in Senegal, but only $20 in Kenya.
In contrast, the study shows that the introduction of liberal licensing regime in Kenya and South Africa has increased competition. In Kenya, for instance, the number of infrastructure licences doubled over the past three years and now counts 30 providers. Similarly, in South Africa the number of ISP soared to 726, up from 326.
Balancing Act proposes several key changes. Internet suppliers must be authorized to build their own infrastructure and compete against incumbents. Government should encourage competition and transparency in international capacity by enforcing existing but until now ignored regional regulation.
We believe it is important to have a conversation on how to improve Internet access in Senegal. Please download and read the report and share your comments, observations, questions and contributions via this form. Next month, we will organize a feedback workshop.
We look forward to hearing from you - and hopefully, sparking a vigorous debate.