DRC: 80 million people, few ISPs
By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Due to the lack of fresh and reliable data, the number of internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is estimated to be about 20, out of a population of about 80 million living in a country of 2.345 million square kilometres.
These include, among others, Vodacom, Orange, Standard Telecom, Microcom, Iburst, and International Technology Management.
DRC’s ISPs face serious challenges in their day-to-day mission to satisfy their customers, and their limited number also means that their products are expensive and browsing seems to be sometimes slow and frustrating, Biztechafrica has found.
Many services such as Skype and Youtube do not even work in some of these connections.
Biztechafrica has run several tests through various Congolese ISPs and found that many of these operators advertise aggressively, but in reality their end-products appear not to match the content of their adverts, meaning they appear to be misleading the people.
The dawn of the fibre optic in the DRC seems not to have brought major changes in their operations, including the speed and the price.
Nevertheless, Vodacom Congo, Airtel DRC and Orange DRC have been at each others’ throats for some time through billboards and other forms of adverts, triggering an aggressive advertising ‘war ‘, in which each one claims to be the best internet network in the DRC.
But consumers disagree, saying actions speak louder than words. Chantal Omatuku, university final year IT student, told Biztechafrica. “None of these ISPs, mobile or otherwise, can really stand stall to say that it is the best. My classmates and I have tried them all in terms of our online research, we always get mixed results.”
Clarisse Luyeye, Omatuku’s classmate, echoed her sentiments. “The DRC has one of the worst internet connections in the world. It’s very moody, when it’s smooth you smile. But there are days, even weeks that it goes very slow or wouldn’t even move. It can be very frustrating.
“I think the problem lies with the lack of good telecommunication infrastructure, an area which the World Bank agreed to help us but seems to be dragging its feet.”
Internet café manager Moise Mulumba also slammed some ISPs for not attending to their customers’ problems on time. “When your shop has a technical problem, you have to wait for almost a week before they do something about it.
“A steady and fast internet connection is a luxury in this country. Unless many players, especially from the West, come to invest here, we’ll still be doomed,” he said.