EYE IN THE SKY
Africa has long been known as a land of poverty, civil wars and corruption. The internal strife on the continent, including serious governmental problems within individual countries, has made it almost impossible to build a strong communication infrastructure. The lack of reliable communication has hurt economic development and stunted Africa’s growth.
But things are starting to change. There have been new initiatives in numerous African countries for satellite technology, to be used business development and climate monitoring. Multiple countries including Nigeria already have satellites in orbit that are used for purposes including disaster monitoring and management. Satellites are even now being used to monitor the habitats of endangered gorillas.
With all that satellite technology has to offer, the growing use of satellites in Africa will open up entirely new worlds for the African people.
Satellites for Everyday Living
In the developed world, satellites affect our lives on a daily basis and in a profound way. They have the potential to do the same in Africa, and create a communication network that will enhance the continent’s development in the long run.
Satellites make it possible to receive cable and network TV signals. They can send them directly into homes, providing live and real time coverage of news, weather, traffic and more. Satellites make the use of cell phones and pagers possible. They provide in-flight phone communication on planes and are also used in rural or remote areas where land phone lines are not available. They enable land navigation through systems like GPS, allowing civilians and military to navigate land, sea and air. They are used in thousands of different ways by businesses including instant credit card authorization and teleconferencing. They can provide detailed readings of global weather, as well as track disasters like hurricanes and volcanoes. They can monitor wind speeds and help to determine the extent of man-made disasters like oil spills. In remote places, like in many parts of Africa, they have the ability to help local populations access educational services and medical expertise. They can further help with resource management and sustainability. In the field of space exploration, satellite telescopes have been critical in understanding things like black holes and in measuring the age of the universe.
The incorporation of satellite technology into the everyday lives of Africans is a huge step towards integrating 21st century technology on the continent.
Bridging the Digital Divide
There is a huge digital divide between Africa and the developed world. Lack of reliable communication infrastructure has made it difficult or impossible for international businesses to engage in relations with many African businesses. This divide has hurt Africa’s ability to have a strong business presence in the world. In order for the continent to be able to keep up with the requirements of modern businesses, the development and use of satellite technology is vital.
Satellite technology, or VSAT, is likely Africa’s best hope for widespread voice and data services. It is far easier technology to access over remote areas than terrestrial wire and wireless methods. Communications can be quickly established via orbiting satellites and only basic infrastructure such as power supplies for hubs and remote terminals need to be put in place. VSAT technology has been thoroughly tested over many years and is a highly stable means of communication. Countries in Africa that have satellites in orbit include Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria. In those countries, unlike many others, businesses that have access to the satellites no longer have to wait for wire and wireless infrastructure to become available. They are better placed for foreign investment and to make their goods and services available in global markets. These companies are key players in Africa’s growth as a global power in business and other endeavors.
Costs for satellite technology are currently high, but as more providers enter the market, they will drop. Besides, the outstanding benefits of the technology are something on which you really can’t put a price.
Every year in Africa, natural and man-made disasters cause devastation and loss of life. From widespread droughts to wars, the continent often finds itself in need of relief coordination efforts. There is no greater tool for this than satellite imagery.
In an effort to share satellite information, seven organizations from Africa, Asia and Europe have come together to form the Disaster Management Constellation (DMC). Countries represented include Algeria, China, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. By exchanging satellite data, each organization is able to access comprehensive Earth imaging data and reduce response times to disasters. The images are also used for national and commercial applications. One example is that satellite imagery of the highland forests between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo border is being used to monitor endangered African mountain gorillas. The gorillas are in danger of loss of habitat due to forest clearing. They are also are threatened by poachers. Protecting the parks is a huge challenge because the boundaries are not always accessible and are not well mapped. But having access to satellite imagery allows conservation workers to chart the region and help the conservation bodies working in the park.
As Africa further embraces satellite technology, they will be able to push the limits of its capabilities.
Africa is developing a strong desire to advance its communication infrastructure. The use of satellite technology is helping the continent to usher in a new era of technology that is bound to propel them to success in many endeavors. It will be interesting to the changes in the years to come.