The GSMA has launched its global State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2021 showing that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of the world’s population is now using the mobile internet. Mobile internet usage translates to just over 4 billion connected people, 225 million more compared to 2019, and up from a third of people globally just six years ago.
Even with this impressive growth in mobile internet connectivity, both in terms of mobile internet coverage and usage, the report highlights that work must accelerate to bridge the digital divide. Of the 3.8 billion people who remain unconnected, only 450 million people do not live in areas with mobile broadband coverage, (“the coverage gap”). The coverage gap represents a significant improvement year on year.
The far bigger challenge is the 3.4 billion people who live in areas that are already covered by mobile broadband, but are not using it, (“the usage gap”).
The report examines trends in the coverage and usage of mobile internet over the last six years and identifies the key barriers to mobile internet adoption. It also looks at the early impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the most significant regional effects. Finally, it makes recommendations to help close the digital divide and ensure greater access to mobile internet connectivity.
“The COVID-19 pandemic made clear the importance of mobile internet access to people’s lives and livelihoods and has accelerated the digital transformation around the world. Mobile is the primary and often the only way to access the internet in low- and middle-income countries. While more people than ever are now using the mobile internet, some fundamental barriers stop far too many people from using mobile internet. To close this usage gap, all of us – government and industry – need to do more,” says the GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, John Giusti. “In particular, we must address the key barriers to usage of mobile internet services, most notably literacy and digital skills, as well as affordability. Only through targeted and collaborative action can we bridge the digital divide.”
Coverage and usage gap in mobile internet is narrowing
During the last six years, the coverage gap has continued to narrow:
- In 2014, almost a quarter of the world’s population did not have access to a mobile broadband network.
- By the end of 2020, that figure was only 6%.
- Now, 94% of the world’s population has access to a broadband network, with most progress between 2014 and 2018.
- In 2020, global coverage increased by one percentage point, from 93% to 94%. This reduced the number of people living in areas without a mobile broadband network to 450 million. Those who remain uncovered typically live in sparsely populated rural areas with difficult terrain.
The number of people using mobile internet has also increased for the second year in a row:
- However, the usage gap remains large and accounts for the majority of the unconnected.
- In 2020, 3.4 billion people (43% of the world’s population) lived within the footprint of a mobile broadband network but were not accessing mobile internet services.
- Although the usage gap is narrowing, it is now seven times larger than the coverage gap.
- In 2014, the usage gap accounted for 64% of the total unconnected population – this figure grew to 88% by 2020 due to the increase in mobile broadband coverage.
- Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) now account for almost 93% of the world’s unconnected population and more than 98% of the uncovered population.
- Between 2019 and 2020, the most significant increase in mobile internet usage is in East Asia (61%), which grew by 4%.
Barriers to mobile internet usage
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of mobile internet connectivity to the social and economic well-being of people around the world. People with mobile internet access were able to stay connected with friends and family, conduct business, gain access to critical information and services, and otherwise ease the monotony of lockdown life. Yet 47% of the population in LMICs are still not using the mobile internet despite living within mobile broadband network coverage.
Key barriers include:
- Lack of awareness of mobile internet and its benefits, literacy, and digital skills make up the largest barrier to adoption. Nearly a quarter of adults across the report’s surveyed countries are not aware of mobile internet and its benefits.
- Affordability: internet-enabled handsets and data became less affordable in many LMICs in 2020 due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These barriers often disproportionately affect specific segments of the population, especially people living in rural areas and women.
A Collaborative Approach
The global climate challenge shows that mobile connectivity can be a lifeline for people during crises, re-emphasising the importance of doing more to improve access to mobile services. The only way to close the digital divide is through a strong collective effort to address people’s barriers to accessing and using mobile internet. It requires targeted action by all stakeholders including mobile operators, policymakers, government and the broader private sector.
This report is the output of a project funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The views expressed are not necessarily those of either organisation.
The GSMA’s State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2021 is available at: www.gsma.com/somic
Waxed: Revolutionising Africa’s Transport Industry
Waxd Group CEO, Anthony Stewart (Image & Article: Waxd)
An estimated 70% of Africa’s urban population live in informal settlement housing. They rely on privately-owned minibus taxis and public bus transport systems to travel to work, send their children to school, and live out their day-to-day lives. The need for digital payment and cashless fare collection solutions – that provide a secure and seamless way for people to access the routes they use every single day – is critical.
Digital payment systems for the transport industry will remove the need for physical tickets and cash payments, and speed up transactions and transport times. With public transport spending accounting for up to 10% of consumer income in Africa, the implications for the transport industry are vast. South Africa alone has over 200,000 minibus taxis transporting more than 15 million commuters daily.
The Waxd story started when Waxd patented a method for processing app payments through EFT rails, cutting merchant fees from 2-3.5% to 0.4%. Although the idea was good, it needed the co-operation of the banks. This was not very forthcoming as the solution would cost the banks in transaction revenues. After months of frustration, Waxd decided to look at areas of innovation where the banks had failed.
Waxd provides an accessible payment solution that enables public transport drivers to accept different payment methods from passengers, including biometric and prepaid cards which can be recharged by commuters to pay for their rides. Transport operators, owners and drivers can also track their revenue in real-time and manage their fleet with improved efficiency and transparency.
An informal, unregulated transport industry leads to many challenges being faced by all stakeholders. A digital payment system leads to a simpler, safer payment solution for all – from commuters and drivers, to owners and government.
The Africa transport revolution is happening at a rapid rate, and Waxd is at the forefront of developments – committed to providing technologically-advanced payment solutions and to enabling financial inclusion for everyone.
The State of AI in Africa: 2022 Report
The State of AI in Africa Report launch was held on the 14th June at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Pretoria, South Africa and co-hosted by the World Economic Forum Centre for the 4IR South Africa and City of Tshwane. This 32-page report will appeal to analysts, enterprises, channel managers, governments, VCs or investors, NGOs, Embassies, trade missions and regional promotion agencies who are seeking deeper insights about the dynamics of this rapidly growing frontier tech market.
A key finding was just how cross cutting this technology is, with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya dominating this sector and AI impacting at least 120+ separate market segments across Africa. Privately owned SMMEs or Micro businesses make up 75% of this sector, 40% of which were founded in the last 5 years, showing the importance nation states need to place on supporting their local tech ecosystems.
It’s also attracting serious capital, with Tunisian AI start-up InstaDeep receiving $100m USD Series A funding earlier in 2022. The global AI market is also projected to grow from $387 Bn USD in 2022 to $1,394 Bn by 2029, exhibiting a CAGR of 20%. Bradshaw concluded, “It’s a positive sign that this technology and the growing regional AI start-up ecosystems can win big across Africa if these trends continue.”
A copy of the report can be obtained online here.
The AI Media Group is a South African based industry analysis, publishing & business events consultancy specializing in the 4IR or smart tech sector in Africa. They are curators of AI Expo Africa, the continent’s largest B2B/B2G Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trade show and publishers of Synapse, the first quarterly trade magazine charting Africa’s 4IR innovation journey. The group also runs AI TV which hosts discussions on trends in AI and 4IR technologies with local, regional and global thought leaders.
Digital Asset Marketplace in a Web3 Economy with Chains CEO
The digital asset landscape has been evolving over the past decade since blockchain technology made it possible to exchange value digitally. This was not previously possible before the launch of the Bitcoin network by Satoshi Nakamoto due to the double-spend problem.
A crypto exchange is effectively a marketplace where people buy and sell cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The first well-known example of such a platform was Mt Gox which appeared in 2010, created by Jed McCaleb who is also co-founder and the Chief Technology Officer of Stellar – a payment network blockchain ecosystem focused on enabling low-cost cross-border transactions. The exchange imploded when it got hacked for hundreds of thousands of bitcoins and following that, many other exchanges started popping up, promising better security and liquidity.
The industry has evolved since then. Now there are hundreds of crypto exchanges – centralised and decentralised, custodial and non-custodial, from peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Paxful to order-book based exchanges such as Binance. These digital asset marketplaces also offer different services from spot to futures trading, savings products, NFT marketplaces and so much more.
Chains.com hopes to become one of the new market leaders by introducing a comprehensive offering that amalgamates all the different crypto products and services into an all-in-one platform. In this interview, Anderson Mccutcheon, CEO of Chains.com gives insights into the future of crypto marketplaces. Excerpts below:
BAO: How would you best describe Chains?
Anderson: Chains is a MetaFi platform, aimed at the next generation of web3 users. A single account, connected to multiple products, that are connected to multiple blockchains. Our goal is to cater to users that want to utilise cryptocurrency and NFT products, without having to learn the underlying technology.
BAO: There are already many crypto projects offering launchpads, exchanges and marketplaces. Why does space need a platform like Chains?
Anderson: For the same reason the world needs an Apple and a Samsung. A Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Variety and competition breed excellence and better results for users. We see what happens in markets where few players dominate – innovation slows down and users get locked into mediocre products.
BAO: Is Chains an open-source project and are you building on or integrating with any public blockchains?
Anderson: We are integrating with multiple blockchains that are open to various degrees. We natively support ETH, Polygon, BSC and TRON, with our generation-1 products. We will definitely be introducing more support for more blockchains and products in the immediate future.
BAO: What are the components of the Chains blockchain ecosystem? Can you share some key insights into your technology stack?
Anderson: Chains is not a technology company. Just like Coinbase isn’t. We are a product company that uses hundreds of technologies at any given time. We are part of the Amazon Activate program and our centralised services are mostly AWS-powered.
BAO: Are you looking to bring NFTs to your ecosystem in the future? In what ways will NFTs be used within your ecosystem?
Anderson: NFTs are an integral part of our ecosystem. We are conducting one of the biggest NFT allocations in the world with the Deep Space Society GEN-0 drop. 1 million NFTs allocated on Polygon.
BAO: What is a CHA token and can you describe its utility or tokenomics?
Anderson: It’s a utility token that is the backbone of our product ecosystem. Not using CHA and using Chains would mean paying more fees, not having access to certain stages of token sales and advanced marketplace features.
BAO: When can people expect the token sale?
Anderson: We are currently in the pre-sale phase, an opportunity that hasn’t presented itself in years where those who believe in the project can buy into a blue-chip ICO. It’s been a long time since a CeFi/MetaFi platform has conducted a token sale in this way for early adopters.
BAO: Is the sale subject to any regulatory oversight and will you be accepting accredited investors?
Anderson: Yes. We have successfully completed SEC 506c compliance, meaning we are not only compliant, but we can market openly to accredited investors from the US.
BAO: Currently you have one of the most popular whitelists in the entire crypto space, what do you think makes a good crypto project?
Anderson: A strong team, a financial model that has been tested and proven to be working, a multi-year roadmap and a track record of delivering.
BAO: What is vCHA and how can people earn or acquire some?
Anderson: vCHA is a non-currency issued to our early adopters. You can accumulate it by registering, filling out your profile and inviting others to the platform. vCHA is converted into a permanent discount on the platform (which includes the upcoming CHA token sale) , which is the equivalent of staking $5000.
BAO: What can the community expect next from your roadmap?
Anderson: Launchpad comes first. Our goal is to showcase our ability to deliver world class products that can serve hundreds of thousands of users. Prism, our Analytics product, will also be launching this year, and will set a new standard for what a portfolio and asset tracking system should look like.