The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has demanded a ‘Marshall Plan’ to help Africa catch up in infrastructure and internet connectivity. Investment in IT infrastructure in Africa reached USD8 billion in 2005, up from USD3.5 billion in 2000, according to the Geneva-based ITU. Most investment has been focused on mobile telephony, with the number of wireless subscribers increasing five-fold over the same period. However internet connectivity in Africa continues to lag the rest of the world; in 2005 less than 4% of Africans had internet access, versus an average of 9% in developing countries. Broadband penetration rates on the continent stand at just 1%.
ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure reiterated the UN target of connecting all villages in the world to the internet by 2015. Gaps in infrastructure mean increased usage costs for domestic and business users, and 70% of African internet traffic passes through networks that are outside the continent. The ITU is organising a summit called Connect Africa in October in the Rwandan capital Kigali, which will bring together governmental representatives, the private sector and international organisations, to try to tackle this issue.