Thursday, December 27, 2007

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating: Internet connections in South Africa

I have mentioned on several occasions the lack of access many people have to this space. Living as you almost certainly do in a broadband world, you probably don't even realise the extent to which you have become dependent on services that other people don't even know they lack. And it's not only the third world, either - I can't remember which of the Daves it is (Warlick or Snowden) who often bemoans the cost of Internet access in New Zealand. So, if I may:

This morning our post included the annual University of Cape Town alumni news magazine (UCT News 2007). In an article by one Chris McEvoy, called "Wireless technology makes Internet affordable" the opening paragraph runs as follows:

It's a well known fact that Internet access in South Africa is among the most expensive in the world. In fact, it is said that the average American teenager has access to more bandwidth than a medium-sized business in South Africa.
Sadly, the article neglects to mention who it is who says this, but it seems that someone has decided to do something about it.

An award-winning young startup called Skyrove, the brainchild of a computer engineer called Henk Kleynhans, has come up with an approach which allows providers to "install their own wifi hotspots to share the Internet with others" and then charge users per megabyte rather than the usual approach of being charged for time spent online.

In a country with unspeakably high unemployment rates, entrepeneurship is the most important source of job creation, and this company's approach appears to foster that in spades - according to the article: "anyone with IT experience can become a provider, set up as many hotspots as they want and earn ongoing income from it" using a router supplied by Skyrove which the provider connects to the ISP of their choice. Users then connect wirelessly to the Internet via the router using credits purchased online.

So there is hope! Who knows, perhaps my family will soon be able to see the pictures I send and Animoto videos I post for their benefit.


Anonymous said...

It was me Karyn (complaining about New Zealand)
In the UK BT has a good scheme. If you use their homehub then you can opt to share your wifi zone to anyone with a BT open zone account. It means you have to drive around outside people's houses trying to get a connection so kerb crawling charges may ensure - but it is a nice idea
Dave Snowden

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing that out, Dave.

I had heard that there were plans afoot to create wifi clouds over all major centres in the UK. I love the idea of being able to connect from a cosy corner of any random restaurant or coffee shop.

Because I'm just on the four mile point from the telephone exchange, my broadband connection at home isn't fast enough to allow me useful access to SecondLife, which I find extremely frustrating - all the more so because it is one of the many things blocked from work (mind you our connection speeds there aren't much better). But even so, I am better off than my family back in South Africa who are still stuck in the dial-up dark ages unable to view a 30 second Animoto video or download a 1MB+ photo, and as for downloading any of the TED talks - heck they take me a couple of hours, so for them it can't even be considered.

henkk said...

Hi Karyn, thank you for the kind words on Skyrove. It's a solution born simply out of wanting to solve my own problem: internet that's too expensive!

See you around!