Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Linking the “Other 3 Billion” to the Web

I admit, I’m a little confused.

Yesterday Google, HSBC bank and Liberty Global cable company launched O3b Networks (which stands for “other 3 billion”), a satellite service to bring high-speed low-cost internet connections to the world’s poorest people starting in 2010 – many of them in Africa.

On the Google Africa blog, they state:

O3b plans to deliver fiber-like Internet backhaul service using a constellation of medium-orbit satellites. This means data can be quickly transmitted to and from even the most remote locations such as inland Africa or small Pacific islands. The O3b satellite constellation will provide high-speed, low-latency backhaul services at speeds reaching into the gigabits per second.

The Good

This is the type of technology chess move that makes me sit back and truly laugh out loud. It bypasses inefficient, greedy or corrupt government bureaucracies and gives power to the local people. I’m absolutely thrilled with it and wish them the best of luck – hoping that they can execute on the deployment.

The Confusion…

The founder of O3b is a certain Greg Wyler. You know, the guy behind the big “wiring of Rwanda” initiative with his company Terracom. Well, his record hasn’t been stellar, and so I wonder why he is leading this whole initiative?

It might very well be that they’ve learned their lessons from Rwanda. I’d rather have a guy who has tried and failed and LEARNED from it, than some wide-eyed idealist. Let’s hope that’s the case here.


  1. WSJ reports the venture has only raised $60 M out of an estimated $650 M. Personally i get the feeling that the internet ( world wide web) will be yesterday’s technology by 2010, even in Africa.

    More interesting/valuable is the expansion of local content/communities, like say reaching critical mass on a Kenya wide web.

    You don’t need satellites for that!

  2. I think that whatever the next generation of the Internet looks like, this technology could/should be adaptable enough to accommodate, however, our next biggest concern is how to get computers into the hands of the people who most need them in order to take advantage of this.

  3. This is sweet — in our last call regarding BarCampAfrica, our lead at Google suggested that they would reach out to the team that worked on the O3B deal to help us learn more — more soon.

  4. Interesting stuff. While the technology will bypass alot of the beauracracy if it makes it, what is being done to get the machines to the right people. I would think a venture like this become the right fit for both mobile provides looking to get more content on 3G phones in Africa and people like One Laptop Per Child. They will need someone who can get the machines out there for it to have quick impact. What about subscriptions and revenue generation with so many people off the grid? will they explore the prepay model?

  5. This is very interesting and will certainly accelerate development to the majority of poor people.The confusion comes in on how a person living below poverty line will manage to buy computer and be connected to the internet. But can be solved by starting producing low cost computers for the same purpose and prepare people in the remote areas on how to use and benefit from forthcoming the internet service.

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