NAIROBI, Kenya, December 28, 2009 - Confusion about the legal status of undersea cables has caused internet connectivity costs to remain inappropriately high for web users in Africa, speakers said last week at a two-day conference here sponsored by the non-profit group Africa Gathering.
“There is a need for an on-going relationship regarding the integration of cables between states, in order to regulate bandwidth, and give consumers high quality internet access, at reasonable costs,” said Nkeiru Joe, a lecturer in International Law at the University of Kent, Brussels.
Joe said international maritime law allows anyone to lay cables and give competitive internet services to consumers, but this has not taken place in many African countries, including Kenya.
Panelists at the conference also discussed trends for young Kenyans setting up their own businesses. The event, held at the British Council, was sponsored by Kenya Airways, Africa Rural Connect, AccessKenya, and neo.net, among other local and international companies.
Mark Kaigwa, proprietor of the Kenyan social networking site, gotissuez.com, said his Web site is a forum for Kenyans to express their opinions and complaints about various issues they encounter in their day to day lives.
“Kenyans can now express their dissatisfactions regarding what they feel is not working in their society, and tell their experiences about whatever product or service that has been less than satisfactory to consumers. The web site will help them to get ideas for solutions since other users can offer ideas on how to solve these problems,” said Kaigwa.
Panelists examined the use of mobile phones for money transfers, online purchasing and the use of social websites such as Twitter and Facebook for business networking.
Rose Ohingo and Ann Muthui of the national carrier Kenya Airways, KQ, discussed how the airline has used social networking to attract a new client base as well as to keep in touch with existing customers.
“People are surprised and impressed to find Kenya Airways interacting with them on social networks where they are online. Where they build relationships with people on a personal basis. People try to verify if it really is a KQ representative, and then they dig even deeper trying to find the names of the people behind the account (s),” the two said at the conference.
Molly Mattessich, a Washington-based director of Africa Rural Connect, discussed the doors internet networking has opened for the nonprofit, which recently held an online contest for business ideas in Africa.