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Community Projects Growing the Internet

Local Content in Local Languages Matters

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen great improvements in connectivity infrastructure and affordability in recent years. In particular, in some countries up to 90% or more of citizens have access to mobile Internet signals. In spite of this, Internet adoption is stagnating in many countries. The report “Promoting Content in Africa” poses that in order to spur growth, a greater emphasis on the demand for Internet connectivity is required. The report focusses on a number of issues which need to be addresses in order to facilitation content creation and availability, thereby improving the value of Internet connectivity to potential users in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Crucially, a greater focus on local language content is required, as many potential users do not have sufficient skills in popular online languages such as English and French, but do in local languages. Currently, there are very few websites in local languages, which leads to a vicious circle with little content creations in terms of websites, which attracts few users, which in turn is little incentive for further website content creation. When direct communication such as through social media, such as Facebook and Whatsapp, is concerned, uptake and local language usage is much greater.

National governments can fulfil a key role in stimulating local language content on the web, by leading by example and ensuring that content on government websites is also available in the recognised official local languages.

Additionally, monetisation of content is currently a severely limiting factor. There are significant barriers on the payments side, which prevent users from purchasing content. However, there are even greater barriers on the payout side, which prevent content creators from effectively monetising their content. This last limitation also applies to monetisation of content through advertising. In addition to this, advertising is hindered by a very limited support of local languages, which means that local language pages cannot be monetised.

Find out more about what you can do to promote local content.

Categories
Growing the Internet

Content Infrastructure: The new bottleneck

While access to the Internet used to be the critical bottleneck in many emerging countries, the mobile Internet has changed all of that. Just as mobile telephony quickly leap-frogged fixed telephony in almost every country, the mobile Internet is now the main form of access for most users. Today, with some countries having 90% availability of mobile Internet, but with adoption far below that level, we see clearly that Internet access is a means to an end, and that end is Internet content. Our new report, “Promoting Content in Africa” shows that content is king for increasing demand for Internet adoption and usage. Content must not just be locally relevant, a point noted here but it must be locally available.

As we have shown in a recent study in Rwanda, most content relevant to local needs, including both international as well as locally developed content, is hosted abroad, in Europe or even the US. This increases costs and decreases use. First, ISPs bear a significant cost in bringing the content back into the country each time it is requested over expensive international links. Second, the time to load a page from overseas is longer and less predictable and, as most of us know, the slower a website the less likely we are to continue.

As a result, content infrastructure is needed to host and deliver the content locally. This includes data centres to hold the content and provide access to local connections; hosting providers or content delivery networks to host the content in the data centre; and an Internet exchange point to provide efficient connections to the ISPs and their end-user customers. Having content hosted in a local data centre and delivered through a local IXP increases the speed of downloads significantly, which is noticeable to users and in our experience may quickly double usage.

The Internet Society has long played a role in helping to promote the development of IXPs, which are a critical piece of infrastructure for content delivery. With this paper, we go further and discuss the steps that policymakers can take to remove roadblocks and promote a local content infrastructure, in order to increase local demand for Internet content and help to create a local market for content developers, another step in the path towards creating vibrant and sustainable Internet ecosystems in every country.