– about and above Africa –
By David E. Kaplan
Cape Canaveral is synonymous with “We have a liftoff” but the “liftoff” of Israel’s Amos-17 satellite by Ramat Gan-based company Spacecom on the 6 August at Cape Canaveral, Florida was also a “lift off” for Africa too.
AMOS-17’s goal is to beam free internet across sub-Saharan Africa as part of a project with Facebook.
To address the ‘digital divide’, back in 2015, the tech giant launched Internet.org – a non-profit initiative – that would bring together technology leaders, nonprofit organizations and local communities to provide Internet access to the most remote regions of the world.
The Now Generation
It is so easy to take services today for granted that were once thought a luxury. One prime example is the INTERNET that is essential to growing the knowledge we have and sharing it with others.
In almost everything we do today, we use the Internet from ordering a pizza, buying a computer or printer, sharing a precious moment with a friend or sending a photograph over instant messaging. Before the Internet, if you wanted to keep up with the news, you had to walk down to the newsstand in the morning and buy a newspaper reporting what had happened the previous day.
Now everything is instant – emphasis on the – NOW!
While for many of us it’s a huge part of our everyday lives, in much of the world, many still do not have internet access. Internet.org’s goal is bringing internet access and the benefits of connectivity to regions in the world that doesn‘t have them – notably AFRICA.
Imagine the difference an accurate weather report could make for an African farmer planting crops, or the power of an encyclopedia for a child in a remote village without textbooks.
However no less important is what millions across the African continent could contribute when the world can hear their voices.
The more we connect, the better our world.
One is reminded of the Lionel Richie/Michael Jackson lyrics of the 1985 charity single classic for Africa “We Are The World”:
“There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all…”
It’s time the ‘Now Generation’ includes the continent of Africa and Israel is responding in addressing the Digital Divide.
Built by Boeing, AMOZ-17 will be located at 17° East where it will reach across the African continent, providing satellite communication services including broadband and high-speed data services to Africa as well as the Middle East and Europe.
It will be the most technologically advanced satellite over Africa, “providing extensive C-Band HTS capabilities, Ka-Band and Ku-Band to a range of markets and combining broad regional beams and high throughput spot beams to maximize throughput and spectral efficiency,” says Spacecom.
It will change the face of the continent which suffers from snail-pace internet speeds and inadequate infrastructure. According to a 2018 joint report by the World Wide Web Foundation, the Alliance for Affordable Internet, and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women known as UN Women, internet penetration across the African continent stands at 22 percent.
Sunny Days Ahead
To get connectivity in Africa via Amos-17, all that will be required said the director of business and technology ventures at Spacecom Eran Shapiro, speaking last month at a conference, is “a simple solar-powered terminal.”
With no shortage of sun, all of Africa will be ‘connected’.
Quoted in the Times of Israel, Shapiro said “Africa is a huge continent with the fastest growing population in the world, forecast to reach 2.5 billion in 2050. It also has the highest percentage of young people, with about half of its current population under 18. The continent has a growing demand for content, with the number of households using digital TV growing some 20% year over year to 2022.”
However, the continent suffers from a lack of internet access infrastructure with vast areas either underserved or completely not connected to any communication infrastructure.
This is set to soon change and it will be as easy as
“a simple solar-powered terminal.”
The Israeli satellite will be the first over Africa that will provide “high-throughput satellite services (HTS) as well as C-band frequencies, which allow high availability of service,” said Shapiro. It will be suited to the African climate and send a single beam per country, as opposed to numerous narrow beams provided by other common HTS satellites. “Its digital payload will provide higher service availability and easier customer adaptation and expansion,” the company said, and will be able to adapt to existing C-Band terminals on the ground, so there will be no need to upgrade equipment.
The Israel Connection
The $250 million Amos-17 is expected to operate for at least 20 years. Spacecom CEO David Pollack told reporters last week that the company hopes to recover that cost “in about six or seven years. And then, because it’s 20 years, we have hopefully a long life to make profit,” according to a CBS News report.
Spacecom has a number of already signed agreements with various African broadcasters, notably Nigeria-based IDS Africa. IDS Africa will use the satellite to broadcast Channels TV news programming throughout Nigeria as well as to the Nigerian diaspora in Europe.
Founded 23 years ago in Israel, Spacecom is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The $250 million Amos-17 weighs 6.5 tons and will be the length of three buses.
Evolution On A Treadmill
From the onset of the agrarian revolution many thousands of years BC, “it took took 6,000 years to double the world’s GDP,” writes Jean Philbert Nsengimana in Forbes. With the Industrial Revolution kicking in around 1760, it took less than 100 years and with the computing revolution in the latter half of the 20th century, the time was reduced to less than 15 years.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, continues Nsengimana, “digitally smart factories, cities and entire economies connected to the Internet – has demonstrated that the rate of change will only accelerate.”
While Nsengimana laments that while much of Africa may have missed the opportunities of the earlier revolutions, the continent that is home to 16.3% of humanity but also home to only about 4% of global GDP, “cannot afford – nor does it have to – miss out on the possibilities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
“We Are The World”
With a unity of purpose, if the African continent connects everyone and empowers the young generation, experts believe it could bridge the development gap with the rest of the world in around a decade.
By 2030, Africa will have the largest potential workforce. What if every one of them was connected, digitally skilled and an empowered digital consumer and or producer?
With Amos-17 in the sky above, Israel has its eye on Africa and ready to extend its hand.