I heard on the World Service recently that Kenya has finally joined the world of broadband. It always astonishes me to realize that the benefits of high-tech living are achieved by something as fundamental, though mind-boggling, as feeding a cable more than 10,000 miles long along the seabed.
But it was a casual statement in the news piece that really got me thinking: East Africa will finally have an internet presence. The impending impact is almost inconceivable: small businesses will have a chance to gain global customers. Cross-continent friends and divided families will be able to stay in touch with ease. A whole nation will have a chance to make itself known on social networks and forums. News from Kenya can now be transmitted as speedily as it is from our nearest neighbors.
Now, if your business happens to sell globally, you may simply be happy to learn that there’s a new potential market for you online. If you outsource work to call centers, you may sniff the potential for another economical business model. If neither of these applies, you may wonder why it’s worth even thinking about Kenya. My point is that what is about to happen there is what has happened here in the western world, only more gradually. A small piece of news like this gives us a chance to look afresh at the vast changes that have happened in the way we run our lives, socialize, buy and sell, all within the last ten or so years.
If there’s still any lingering doubt as to how the internet changes lives, consider that the undersea cable costs a cool £360 million. No-one invests that sort of money unless they are very, very sure there will be a return. Expect to hear the voice of East Africa online very soon – and for the planet to have shrunk that little bit more.