The role that satellite services can play in Africa’s journey to sustainable growth, inclusivity and economic prosperity cannot be understated, says Liquid Satellite CEO and Liquid Dataport chief commercial officer Scott Mumford.
Satellites play a vital role in bringing connectivity to more than half of Africa’s 1.3-billion people, especially those living in rural communities.
“Despite Africa having come a long way in its connectivity journey, it still faces many challenges,” he says, highlighting affordability challenges, a shortage of digital skills and a lack of devices, as well as terrestrial services that cannot reach some rural regions.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to improving connectivity on the continent. Africa has tricky terrain and lower population densities in large rural areas, making it more expensive to build traditional terrestrial networks.”
He points to a need for a range of different technologies and approaches to meet the diverse needs of different regions.
Satellite services have always driven connectivity in Africa, offering a cost-effective and scalable solution and are primed to fill the connectivity gap, providing coverage in areas where terrestrial services do not reach.
When satellite technology and services are combined with powerful cloud computing and analytical tools, he says, data innovation can be democratised, enabling and empowering governments, businesses, communities and individuals, while uplifting entire continents in the process.
“While there has always been a need for connectivity, the increased desire of many to start their transformation journey has resulted in a spike in demand for solutions and a choice of connectivity options,” Mumford comments.
“Across Africa, individuals, businesses, organisations and governments now understand the value that digitalisation offers and, as more businesses and organisations move online and on to the cloud, enormous possibilities will open up for Africa.”
Access to digital tools and services will help them achieve greater efficiency, scalability and innovation, which will drive growth and development across the continent.
“Over the past ten years, we have seen a huge number of advancements in the industry as a whole, with hundreds of billions of dollars spent on innovations such as the use of multi-orbit satellites and the deployment of low-Earth orbit and medium-Earth orbit satellite constellations.
As these types of satellites orbit much closer to the Earth than their geostationary counterparts, they can offer much higher throughputs and speeds as they connect outlying communities, schools, businesses, mines and “off-the-beaten-track” tourist destinations.
Satellites also enable the gathering of Earth observation data, which can be paired with new digital technologies such as Internet of Things sensors to help mitigate some of Africa’s biggest challenges, including illegal mining, deforestation and poaching.
“Farmers in rural areas can connect to digital services that allow them to receive valuable and accurate information, such as reliable weather forecasts, water availability and crop development trends, ultimately helping them to increase crop yields, which, in turn, not only improve socioeconomic growth in communities but also help to provide food security,” Mumford continues.
Further, mines in remote areas can connect, through satellite services, to their head offices in urban and international centres more efficiently, enabling real-time information sharing and decision-making.
“This connectivity further facilitates the running of operational cloud-based software and storing critical information safely in the cloud, allowing for business continuity if something happens on site.”
In addition, with the continent experiencing many climate-change-related crises like droughts and floods, impacting on citizens and economies, governments can benefit from satellite services, with access to satellite Earth observation data allowing for more robust and efficient disaster monitoring, management and mitigation.