One of the most memorable speeches by celebrated Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi's remains, The Danger of a Single Story. In a TED talk, she paints a vivid picture of the skewed and one-sided narrative that blinds us from seeing the bigger, brighter picture. She further illustrates how this can easily lead to negative stereotypes and the overbearing consequences they bring.
Gambia’s internet puzzle: The story of a single connection [OPINION]
In the digital sphere, a single story can take the form of anything, ranging from a spy device, a repressive policy, malware, or even a stereotypical perspective on any youth seen moving with a laptop and other sophisticated IT gadgets.
For the people of The Gambia, Africa’s smallest in-land nation, it is a single internet service provider, one owned by the state.
The country’s National Broadband Network (NBN) has broadband access through the Gambia Telecommunications Company Limited (Gamtel) and Huawei project initiated three years back.
According to the Londa report, this, by the end of 2021, provided an alternative backup to the Africa Coast to Europe - ACE Cable, permitting at least 75 percent of homes to have affordable access to high-speed internet connectivity by 2022. And it is just one of many actions dedicated to ameliorating the situation.
But speech is not action
Between 2021 and 2022, The Gambia witnessed at least six internet outages, owing to technical disruptions, caused by a range of factors.
These include cutting of the broadband cables by road construction projects, interruptions due to the sun affecting the submarine cables when ships brush off on it, and lack of backup submarine cables to reduce dependency on the ACE Submarine cable.
Another challenge facing the country’s digital space, Londa recalls, is the exorbitant cost of mobile data. Addressing this and the internet disruption challenge, it notes, would be ideal with the coming of a second submarine cable, through the Western African Digital Integration Project funded by the World Bank.
The Gambia is one of the smallest and most densely populated countries in Africa, with about 10.7 thousand square kilometers and 2.5 million people.
The country is two years shy of celebrating its 60th year of independence. This gravitation towards the landmark is one many Gambians look forward to with excitement despite the impediments and bottlenecks obstructing a smooth digital acceleration.
The nation runs an ICT for Development (ICT4D) Policy with the aim of facilitating the process of transforming The Gambia into a predominantly information-rich and knowledge-based society and economy.
This falls under key areas of its advanced Broadband ICT Infrastructure Development Plan. The plan and other measures, including the Universal Access Fund (UAF) policy meant to address rural connectivity for the majority of Gambians in rural areas.
Going by the Londa report, the Information Communication Act of 2009 under review has to be completed on time to make Gambians feel safe from the danger of draconian laws that can hinder free speech, promote openness, and, above all, that citizens can use the internet safely and securely.
Lofty as this sounds, the taste of the pudding remains in the eating. The country’s uncanny political past cannot just be discarded.
While progress on the ground should be appreciated, the future remains the best judge.
Africa and the world are watching, curious and excited at the prospects of having The Gambia tell its single story in a way most representative of its people.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Pulse as its publisher.
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