(Albert D Bangura)

What is the internet?

The internet is the infrastructure that carries things like email, the web, file sharing, online education, streaming services etc. In simple terms, the internet is a bunch of connected devices.

How does the internet work?

For instance, say I have my friend in Freetown whom I want to talk with; we can do that by connecting a crossover cable from my computer to his or her computer. A crossover cable is an Ethernet cable that allows you to connect two like devices together. But this is not the best solution, especially if there are more friends whose devices I want to connect with.

Thankfully, the internet uses routing, where there are physical devices and other machines that connect my information or my data to somebody else.

So the way that devices are being identified is through IP address, short for Internet Protocol. So the only thing that my computer needs to know about my friend’s device or the billions of other machines out there are these IP addresses.

In more advance terms, the internet is a network of networks; perhaps, I need internet in my house; I would first need to contact a local internet company in my country who are connected to the Global Internet. They will connect me to their network for me to access the Global network. So what the company will do is bring a router in my home simply; the router is responsible for routing IP addresses. The router is needed to get network traffic from one IP network to a different IP network. Finally, my devices can now connect to the internet via my router and communicate with any device on the internet.

How is the Data sent?         

My data makes its way over cables; from my house, I can tell you that I have got a wifi Network, but that wifi is powered by an AT & T cable coming to my house. It is buried underground, it goes along my road and then at some points that meet up with some other cables and joined together. And there are a whole bunch of undersea cables that go all over the globe. My data makes its way through those cables as pulses of light, that is, electrons going through the cable. It’s kind of miraculous how it all works.

How can Africa improve Internet Connectivity on the Continent?

According to the International Finance Cooperation(IFC), World Bank Group, “today, more than 1.2 million kilometers of internet cables run across the ocean’s floor, but just 20 years ago Africa was completely disconnected. Africa has the lowest number of Internet connections—only 22 percent of the continent has access. It also has the largest potential for progress.” They also projected that the next step of broadband expansion in Africa is a fibre-optic network. One kilometer of fibre-optic cable cost $30 000, and according to IFC, Africa needs 500 000 km to achieve full connectivity-that is $15 billion.

Looking from another spectrum, I see satellite internet service providers be the way for Africa to solve its connectivity issues. According to a description of Starlink @, Starlink is a satellite internet constellation being constructed by SpaceX providing satellite Internet access., it reads: “Starlink is ideally suited for areas of the globe where connectivity has typically been a challenge. Unbound by traditional ground infrastructure, Starlink can deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable or completely unavailable”.

Satellite internet service provides the best solution to Africa’s poor internet connectivity. Starlink in particular because it promises availability, reliability and a relatively cheaper cost for connecting Africa to the Internet—as there would be no extra cost on buying fibre optic cables!

Tags: Computer Science. Internet. Communication. Technology. Africa.

Blog post written by Senior felow, Albert D. Bangura          

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