DRC’s ICT penetration reaches 23%
By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) penetration in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has risen significantly, to 23%, according to figures revealed recently by minister of posts, telecoms and ICTs, Kin-Kiey Mulumba.
In a desperate attempt to show that his government was now taking the ICTs seriously despite the lack of a formal policy, Mulumba also said that the DRC was now connected to the world through the WACS submarine cable landing point in Muanda, adding that the 650 km-axis Kinshasa-Muanda was fully operational.
“Kinshasa is linked to Brazzaville by an undersea cable, we have a 2200 km of fibre optic network laid between Inga and Kolwezi, another major network is being built between Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, 3G is operating and testing of 4G were allowed,” Mulumba said, as the government begins an ICT stocktaking experts believe will help the country benchmark its few technology achievements in the region.
“Mobile banking is a reality and is now contributing to the payment of salaries of civil servants,” he said.
The government of Joseph Kabila has also been praised by industry watchers for paying the country’s 20-year-old debt in contribution fees it was owing to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
However, despite these gains, many believe the mineral-rich nation still has a long way to go to be counted among the continent’s ICT greats.
Bienvenue Matadi, an ICT teacher in the capital Kinshasa, told Biztechafrica that the DRC could not make a real impact in the ICT world as long as it was still carrying a high number of computer illiterates.
“There are just too many people in this country that cannot use computers, and this includes pupils, tertiary students and civil servants. I think the government should open many computer centres nationwide where the population can come and learn basic computer skills at an affordable fee,” he said.
“A lot of ICT centres are being opened but most of them are privately-owned and the fees cost an arm and a leg, which is a huge problem in a country where the minimum wage hovers around US$40,” he said, slamming the government for a lack of political will and vision.
The DRC’s internet penetration rate stood around 1.2% in June 2012, while there were a total of 915 400 internet users and 903 020 Facebook users for the same period, according to the Internet World Stats.