Network coverage technology in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and other parts of Africa, is still 3G, with 79 per cent penetration.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which revealed this in its 2019 ICT Facts and Figures report, said more than 95 per cent of the population in Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and the Americas is covered by a 3G or higher network.

In the Arab states, ITU said 91 per cent of the population is covered by a 3G or higher network, while in the CIS region coverage is 88 per cent, followed by Africa at 79.5 per cent.

In other words, 1G, 2G, and 4G networks control have the remaining 20.5 per cent coverage.


Corroborating this statistics, the Head of Africa, GSMA, Akinwale Goodluck, in an interview with The Guardian, said a lot of operators are now pushing up their investments infrastructure upgrade, especially in the deployment of 3G, and 4G technologies.


Goodluck noted that in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), there are more 3G connections than 2G, “and we envisaged that by 2023, we will have more 4G connections and this will lead to rationalising the standard most operators are running.”


GSMA found operator support for 3G in the region appears to be driven by two key considerations. First, the ongoing prevalence of feature phones means 3G networks can support both voice services on these more basic devices, as well as data services on Smartphones. Unlike markets such as India where operators such as Reliance Jio have invested heavily in 4G, operators in SSA are taking a more cautious view on the move to 4G, and investing gradually..


The second factor, according to the telecoms body is the relative scarcity of mobile broadband spectrum in the region. Operators are therefore choosing to refarm 900MHz spectrum to offer mobile broadband services over 3G, rather than waiting for new spectrum auctions to build LTE networks.


Jumia Mobile report also claimed that 44 per cent of mobile subscribers in Nigeria are using 3G technology and four per cent are using 4G technology as compared to over 18 per cent 4G penetration in South Africa and 16 per cent in Angola.


Meanwhile, ITU, which is the United Nations arm in charge of global communications, informed that an estimated 4.1 billion people were on the Internet as at 2019, reflecting a 5.3 per cent increase compared with 2018.


According to it, the global penetration rate increased from nearly 17 per cent in 2005 to over 53 per cent in 2019. It stressed that between 2005 and 2019, the number of Internet users grew on average by 10 per cent every year.


The UN body noted that in recent years though, global growth rates are not as a high as a decade ago, because some parts of the world are reaching saturation levels.


It however noted that lack of ICT skills is a barrier to effective Internet use especially in its uptake and effective use. In the study it carried out, ITU informed that in 40 out of 84 countries for which data are available, less than half the population possesses basic computer skills such as copying a file or sending an e-mail with an attachment.


“For more complex activities (classified as “standard skills”), such as using basic arithmetic formulae in a spreadsheet or downloading and installing new software, the proportions are even lower. In 60 of the countries for which data are available, these proportions are below 50 per cent,” it stated.


According to it, with respect to advanced computer skills, in only two countries (United Arab Emirates and Brunei Darussalam) do more than 15 per cent of people report having written a computer programme using a specialised programming language in the last three months.


ITU informed that only in 10 other countries is that proportion above 10 per cent, adding that although more data need to be collected, these results showed that there is a strong need to develop digital skills.


The body also revealed that broadband is still expensive in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). It noted that a high-usage mobile broadband bundle, which include 140 minutes of voice, 70 SMS, and 1.5GB of data, costs on the average just under $40 in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. It stressed that there is a significant difference between developed countries (31 PPP$) and LDCs (45 PPP$).


It stressed that a low-usage bundle of 70 minutes of voice, 20 SMS, and 500MB of data has an average price of 25 PPP$, with very little difference between developed countries, developing countries and LDCs.


The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region former Soviet Union, has the lowest prices, while in Africa mobile broadband bundles are the most expensive.


According to ITU, computers are no longer needed to access the Internet at home. The body said the percentage of households with Internet access at home is generally correlated with a region’s level of development. In all regions of the world, households are more likely to have Internet access at home than to have a computer because Internet access is also possible through other devices.


ITU noted that in Africa and the LDCs, very few households have either Internet access or a computer. It pointed out that before the rise of Smartphones, there were virtually no countries where more households had Internet access at home than computers.


In recent years, however, more households in many countries have had Internet access than computers. This is because computers are no longer necessary to connect to the Internet, and many people connect using devices such as Smartphones.


Meanwhile, ITU informed that wide gender gap in mobile phone ownership is often coupled with a wide gender gap in Internet use.


Based on the countries for which data are available, ITU said it appears that mobile phone ownership is correlated with income levels.

“The lowest mobile phone ownership rates are found in Africa and South Asia, the highest rates are in Europe, with Latin America in between. In 24 of the 85 countries for which data are available, a higher proportion of women than men own a mobile phone, although the gap is usually quite small. In only three cases is the gap wider than five per cent, with the widest gap of 12 per cent in Chile.

“However, for 23 of the 58 countries where more men than women own a mobile phone, the gender gap is over 10 per cent, and in 14 of those countries over 20 per cent,” ITU noted.


The UN body observed that most countries with a large gender gap in mobile phone ownership also have a large gender gap among Internet users.

According to ITU, given that mobile phones are the most frequently used means of accessing the Internet, addressing this gender gap could help to reduce the Internet usage gender gap.

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