BY FARAI MATIASHE
Southern Africa Telecommunications Association executive secretary Jacob Munodawafa has urged information and communication technology stakeholders to push policymakers to speed up regional internet exchange points (RIXPs) and regional internet careers (RICs) projects as Africa is paying billions of dollars to overseas carriers to exchange continental traffic on its behalf.
The RIXPs and RICs projects are aimed at increasing the number of people using the internet in least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, where access and use was low by reducing the costs and increasing the internet speed.
“We are paying billions of dollars to overseas carriers. We should not be paying much. We need to push our policymakers so that we take it up to Sadc and then take it up to the world,” Munodawafa said, while speaking at a Sadc capacity building workshop on RIXP project organised by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulation Authority (Potraz) in Harare yesterday.
He said internet was for free as nobody owns the internet, but countries should only pay a reasonable fee when connecting to the world.
Speaking at the same event Information Communication Technology deputy minister Jenfen Muswere said part of the IXP would be located in a host country, where traffic between at least two other countries is exchanged via public or private network.
“African internet exchange system (AXIS) project aims to keep Africa’s internet traffic by providing capacity building and technical assistance to facilitate the establishment of national internet exchange points and RIXP in Africa. Increasing efficiency of regional traffic is an area that has this far not been addressed, resulting in a slow and expensive exchange of African inter-country traffic via overseas hub. The AXIS project was meant to address costly as well as inefficient way of handling inter-country exchange of internet traffic by providing capacity building to member states to facilitate the establishment of RIXP and RICs,” he said.
Muswere said by setting up RIXPs the exchange of the traffic generated in the region would remain in the region and hence reduce the traffic load on upstream providers and reduce latency for inter-country exchange of traffic and enhance internet development.
He said lowering communication costs by establishing AXIS would help reduce the cost of financing trade and ultimately the prices of goods and services.
“Affordable and accessible bandwidth will encourage regional trade integration and new ‘think work’ industries like business process outsourcing and call centres will emerge and create employment, reduce poverty and generate wealth,” Muswere said.
Potraz director-general Gift Machengete said the 2019 statistics on internet usage show that if local content were to be kept local, developing countries would save almost US$1 million.
“In terms of time, almost 700 000 hours of video footage is watched within an internet minute, while in terms of spending, a whopping US$997 000 worth of data is spent every minute. If local content were to be kept local and regional content, regional — then that figure of almost US$1 million on data would drastically fall, thereby saving countries like ours, in the Sadc region, a lot of money,” he said.