Spreading Mobile Data Into Africa Is Getting Better

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If wiring an advanced, fully-industrialized society like the US for wireless broadband data has been difficult, then just imagine trying to pull it off in Africa. But wireless innovation is becoming (gradually) cheaper and easier in the troubled continent.

Bill Gates himself details the lengths to which his foundation is going to empower Africans through mobile technology—dishing out $800,000 in grants to researchers using bland phones for awesome purposes. Take Peter Lillehoj and Chih-Ming Ho of UCLA, for example. Their work has been dedicated to using cell phones as mobile malaria testing devices—taking advantage of a cellular signal to ferry diagnostic data back and forth from the field.

And what of that cellular signal? We just got 4G service in Manhattan—what's it like grabbing a decently-speedy signal in, say, Uganda?


Probably not as bad as you'd expect. After the arrival of the massive SEACOM underwater internet cable, African 3G service competition has risen as prices have dropped. For a bundle of Ugandan 3G service, preloaded onto a SIM card, you'll have to shell out only around $20 bucks. Now, you still have to grant that Uganda is a massively poor nation by western standards, with a per capita income of only $1,200—but (relatively) affordable, (relatively) quick internet access will mean big things for citizens trying to pull themselves out of poverty and political turmoil. [White African via The Atlantic and Bill Gates]
Photo by warrenski