South Africa’s government, having failed to bring affordable Internet to the continent’s largest economy in its almost 20 years of democracy, is giving Microsoft Inc. a shot.
The software maker began a trial in the northeastern province of Limpopo last month that taps unused slices of television spectrum to provide online access to remote townships. Potential partners include state-controled Telkom SA SOC Ltd. and MWEB ISP, a unit of Africa’s biggest media company Naspers Ltd., said two people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.
South Africa remains one of the world’s stragglers in Internet access, with average broadband speeds lagging behind smaller economies including Uganda and Azerbaijan, according to netindex.com. The latest test is a chance for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft to catch up with Google Inc. in the country’s smartphone and cloud-computing markets. Google is also testing the use of so-called white spaces with a project spanning 10 schools in the Cape Town area.
“We are being led by a generation that does not fully understand the value of this IT infrastructure,” Microsoft South Africa Managing Director Mteto Nyati, 48, said in an interview this month. “The barrier for people to either get our services or buy our services is the connectivity.”
Read more at Bloomberg.