bfafrica

Internet in Africa

 When I talked to a friend of mine about writing a short piece on the internet in Burkina, she told me make sure to tell everyone that there is only one word to describe it… moan… And she works at the European Union offices… so I can only conclude that they are not, unlike the Canadian embassy here, connected to the satellite via a Canadian communication system.

I suppose I should find myself lucky we have internet at all, given how poor this country is and given how little technical infrastructure there exists… but ‘moan’ just the same!

According to OOKLA Net Index, Burkina consistently rates 196th on the household download index.

This comes from data analyzed between November 13th, 2014 and Feb 25th, 2015, using 5728 unique IP addresses for a total of 12,699 total tests.  It is fair to say that 196th place squarely places the country at the very bottom… well, I hear that Eritrea still has a dial up internet (I am dead serious), so maybe we are not quite the last… but pretty well down there.  These results made the front page of the local papers, no need to say.

There is ONE optic cable coming from Togo.  There is a new one that will be coming from Côte d’Ivoire… but for the time being, it is still in the planning… So ADSL is only available in ‘large’ cities like Ouaga and Bobo Dioulasso and only since 2011. And internet at home is mostly offered by ONATEL, the state telephone company.

Internet keys are available from Airtel (who else) and I hear Telmob.  They are rare to find and when available, they are snapped quickly by users… so, of course, they are always in short supply.  When we moved December 2013, I tried to find one until such time as I would be connected at home with ONATEL… to no avail.

Internet connections are, of course, not dedicated.

A dedicated connection for 128 kpbs without satellite connection is only offered by one provider from what I can understand – and it is 157$. If you dedicated that with satellite connection that cost jumps to 223$.

Yes there is G3+… if you can get it. My cell phone does not, and many of my friends express frustration because it is often down.

Given that many Burkinabé live in the country side or in areas without electricity, it will be no surprise to you to hear that the penetration of internet in this country in rather limited.  There are lots of internet café,s but few shops and restaurants that offer wi-fi.  Although to be fair, it is becoming increasingly available.   Internet literacy is also, evidently, very low.   Very.

The use of email address are dismal! Employees in private enterprise will still use their own personal email address to deal with clients on line (which is not frequent).

For government officers, , let’s just say that unless you get a younger officer with a smart phone and a personal computer he takes at work (and yes, I have seen that a lot!), you usually get no internet communication.

When I worked a few years ago (and it has not changed since) the older government officials I dealt with often had a computer on their desk, but it was not connected.  All it did was collect dust – and trust me, in this country, that expression takes a whole new dimension as dust is everywhere all the time. Burkina Faso is  located in the Sahel desert.

 These older officers all insisted that I contact them by phone.  But as their phone and/or the line was and is pretty bad, making conversation at times is nearly impossible.

Regular texting became part of my doing business.  But more often than not, I would simply go visit them at their office.  Reports, by the way, are often typed on a typewriter somewhere.

Internet connection regularly goes off … and I mean a few times a day.  I am reading the news and then, bang, I am offline and cannot get to the next article.  These outages are usually short.  They are frustrating but no big deal – unless you are downloading a program, then it means starting all over again.

But the internet connection regularly goes off for longer period of time.  The reason? It’s usually because some poor soul, not knowing what their  doing, is digging and hits that one cable, damages it, and then the whole town goes ‘MOAN’.

Sometimes these cuts are put back together with silver tape and you have a bit of a connection … but it is painfully slllloooooowwwww.

Some areas of town have an internet connection that work better than others.  Zone du Bois (center) works better when it works – but Ouaga 2000 (at the limit of the city) has a more consistent internet because it is closer to the location when the cable ends.

Of course, downloading a movie or an episode of your favourite show will take anywhere from 3 hours (194kb) to days.  I avoid HD files because it is almost impossible, and before you ask – Netflix is not available here.

For  this ‘high speed’ service (I am supposedly getting 512K, up from the 216 when I arrived in 2011) I pay 50,000 CFA, or $105.00.  So next time you complain about your internet service and/or cost, remember that it is way worse elsewhere in the world!

BUT… giving the low penetration of computers in private homes, I love to see the kids playing in the streets with the animals or with whatever they make toys of instead of being glued to their computer. I love to go to restaurant and see people talking to each other as opposed to texting and being glued to their cell phone, and yes, I do appreciate having the poor internet I have simply because I have internet and I can connect to my family and friends back in Canada,  even if my Skype connection is nearly impossible.

Living abroad has taught me so many things – but the one that is the most important is to appreciate and enjoy every little thing we have.  I know it sounds corny but, it is the truth.

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