Africa and casual communication

January 1, 0001

I have been in East Africa for a week, attending the MANI 2026 consultation: a pan-Africa gathering that is convened once every five years.While here, being the heavy Internet user that I am, several things I noted:

  • Bandwidth is thin. There was enough mostly for email. Facebook and Twitter were far more problematic. I was able to use video like YouTube and Netflix rarely and with frequent stops. Any high bandwidth function was challenging.
  • Bandwidth was quickly eaten up. There were high use times where you could practically forget getting on.
  • Bandwidth was fragile. The first day I arrived, access to the Internet was out tonight our hotel and, inasmuch as I could learn, a large area around it. It took three days to restore it. I don’t know why but I didn’t see workers in the area until the third day.

The upshot of these limits is: while communications with coworkers and partners are possible, the kind of communications we take for granted in areas of greater Internet deployment should not be taken for granted here.  Thick files, large videos, podcast audio, the cloud, and so on are difficult. They are not 24/7/364 near instant features of life. We should bear this in mind. I was thinking about this in my own work. I’ve thought about video and podcasts and more. But if I want to help leaders in Africa I need to maybe use these sparingly–as enhancement and not the main transmitter.