Improving Technology Access in the Democratic Republic of Congo
DRC’s Access to Technology is Limited, But New Initiatives Bring Hope
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), located in central Africa, is one of the largest countries in Africa, rich in natural resources, including diamonds, cobalt, copper, and gold. Unfortunately, it faces an information and communication technology (ICT) gap, which hinders its citizens’ access to various services. The lack of ICT access is a direct result of years of poor government leadership and insufficient investments in infrastructure.
According to a report, only 41% of the population in the DRC have access to mobile phone services, and shockingly only 3% have internet services. This means that many Congolese cannot communicate with friends and family outside their immediate communities, access news relevant to their lives, or engage in online business transactions.
The poverty rate in the DRC is also high, with almost two-thirds of Congolese citizens living on less than $2.15 per day. This rate is caused by the unfortunate reality of decades of civil conflict, a corrupt society, and insufficient investments in infrastructure.
The 2020 Capital Human Index ranks the DRC at 164 out of 174, indicating the quality of education, health, and economic prospects that are not promising for future generations. Lack of access to technology plays a significant role, as internet access has become critically important for education, employment and innovation.
However, there is hope for the DRC. Advancement in technology could be critical for improving quality of life, decreasing poverty rates, and helping Congolese citizens reach their full potential. This has been realized, and initiatives to increase technological access in the DRC are underway.
In 2019, Facebook launched a new Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in the DRC, which aims to encourage local technology companies and startups to remain, creating additional jobs through tech training and support. This initiative has already led to the creation of jobs and the empowerment of small businesses.
The IXP has connected Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Content Providers, and other ICT companies in the country to an equal and open exchange to share traffic and minimize latency, a significant bottleneck and cost for Internet access in the country. Furthermore, with the Facebook accelerator, the IXP encourages local start-ups to develop technologies, such as mobile applications – especially those utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, and machine learning, which can impact local development and address concerns specific to the DRC.
This initiative has helped to increase the confidence of small businesses, reduce costs of accessing the internet, and improvise local products by promoting new technologies. Local entrepreneurs can now undertake business transactions online, reducing the time and costs of traveling to their trading businesses, making them more cost-effective and efficient.
With expanded technology access, the government can expect new revenue and job opportunities, while the DRC can move closer to meeting U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The initiative not only expands internet access, but it also supports ICT innovation and can lead to a substantial economic transformation.
In conclusion, as the world advances in technology, the DRC needs to be at the forefront of technological progress to reduce poverty rates and improve the general standard of living. The initiative by Facebook and other organizations toward expanding technology access in the DRC is a welcomed development that has the potential to make a significant difference.
It is worth noting that as internet access has revolutionized communication platforms, governments like the DRC hoping to make a difference will need to ensure that access to the internet is elevated by investing more in ICT innovations.