‘As Africans, we embrace technology but we don’t always have the means to deliver it in the most cost-effective manner,” said Brian Jakins, when asked about Africa’s will to embrace technology.
Jakins, African vice-president for the global communications satellite company Intelsat, acknowledged the continent’s challenges with poverty might be hindering Africa’s wider uptake of technology – but remains hopeful about future prospects.
“As we [Africa] educate more people through e-learning (the use of electronic technology to deliver education outside a traditional classroom) through the use of satellite, (Africans) become more receptive to technology that is available and embrace it.
“For example, if you look at Nigeria, they have body scanners in their airport, but because their power is so unstable, they can’t use them (well) because it takes a lot of power to run a body scanner,” he said, adding that Nigerians were embracing the technology because it helped with safety precautions.
Jakins was speaking to African Independent after the launch of Intelsat’s second Epic satellite into space – in a range of seven to be launched over the next two years – which will provide high throughput satellite capacity to Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.
He explained that these satellites would open up new markets for them, especially in rural connectivity, which he said was difficult to access on the continent due to the costly nature of deploying fibre-optic cables in remote African areas.
“So, satellite is really an ideal medium to get into those markets and connect better,” Jakins said.
He spoke about a project where Intelsat collaborated with mobile network operator Vodacom in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He said they had rolled out about 800 connected sites for rural communities.
“The project entails us working with Vodacom and local government… to ensure that from a holistic point of view [we] are covering the Rica requirements (a law which makes it compulsory for SIM cards to be registered) from a cellular network perspective because they are loading new subscribers to their network.
“The prepaid [service providers]are able to get to those markets and sell to those communities. So, it’s a holistic approach that we have with our partners,” Jakins said.
Earlier this month, shortly after the Intelsat launch, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket – owned by South African-born innovator Elon Musk – burst into flames during a test run days before the intended launch of an Israeli satellite into orbit.
Jakins expressed sympathy with a fellow satellite provider and said the explosion was an anomaly because rigorous safety precautions were taken to ensure nothing went wrong during launches.
He concluded by saying there should be a concerted effort from the continent to embrace technology as this would significantly contribute to increasing Africa’s economic output.