The first day of BarCamp Jozi was supposed to culminate with a live link up with BarCamp Africa. The simple exercise of attempting to find adequate bandwidth for even a one way stream highlighted the anemic availability of adequate bandwidth here in Africa. The strange thing is that BarCamp Nairobi, Ghana, and Lagos managed to get live streams up. At the very least I had hoped to find decent connectivity here in Johannesburg considering all the activity surrounding undersea cables due to dock on South Africa’s shores in the next two years. As of last night, I now fully understand the NEED for South Africa to seriously upgrade it’s pipes. It also underlines one of my many arguments, that broadband access here on the African continent is not a byproduct of development, but a result of a pandemic lack of foresight by telecom monopolies and government. I say this only because if one were just to look at South Africa from a tourist’s point of view, this country’s development is on par with any developed nations around the world – good roads, rule of law, adequate security, etc. But dig a little deeper into the communications infrastructure, or better yet, try to find a decent wifi hot spot and you get the idea. If South Africa is this thirsty for broadband, think of how bad it is for the rest of the continent.
There’s adequate-ish bandwidth between 512Kb and 3MB here in Jozi for normal internet activities like emailing, chatting, and light web surfing. The latter of which you pay through the nose for. Bandwidth-heavy web applications like streaming, however, tend to be an exercise in patience when one is used to a behemoth 10MB down/3MB up connection like I have in Texas.