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Fibre Optic Connections Gives Somalia A “Culture Shock”

by Milicent Atieno

Fibre Optic Connections Gives Somalia A “Culture Shock”

zIn early April, 2014 Somalia’s capital Mogadishu witnessed the country’s first launching of fibre optic services. The residents of Mogadishu who have never been outside the country experienced a phenomenon which can best be described as a “culture shock”. Users of the new internet connection were used to accessing the internet via dial-up connection or satellite links.

Even though earlier on, telecommunication companies had installed 3G mobile phone services, but had to discontinue these services due to the threats coming from the Islamist militants, al-Shabab. Al-Shabab is an al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group that issued stun warnings to the telecommunication companies to stop all internet services. Those that failed to comply with al-Shabab directives would be perceived as “working with the enemy” and dire punishments in line with the Islamic law would fall upon them. For this reason, all the 3G mobile phone services were since shut down.

Photo courtesy: BBC Africa

Photo courtesy: BBC Africa

However, a project to launch fibre optic cable services in Mogadishu continued to be installed despite the al-Shabab threats. This was largely attributed to the fact that al-Shabab reign in Mogadishu was overthrown by the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) back in August, 2011, but still al-Shabab maintain a strong hold on smaller towns in central and southern parts of Somalia where they’ve imposed a strict Sharia law reign.

The rolling of fibre optic services was thus only done in Mogadishu and became fully installed and operational at the beginning of early April, 2014. Ever since, internet cafes and hotels have seen unprecedented amount of people flocking in to use the internet facilities. A good number of whom are seeing video platform such as YouTube and social media sites for the first time in their lives something most are reacting to as a “culture shock”. Those who used dial-up and satellite links connections expressed the fibre optic connections speed difference to their previous internet connection like day and night compared to what they were used to.

For those Somalis who have recently come from the diaspora, this new development is a breath of fresh air again, since the local internet speed was just choking their productivity. The installation of the fibre optic services in Mogadishu is seen as a step in the right direction: towards giving the country a huge economic boost. Somalia is on the road of recovery from over two decades of civil war, even though al-Shabab is yet to be completely squashed out of the country. But now they have a legitimate government in office.

It would be important to note, that historically in other parts of the world, whenever a fibre optic cable is installed in a given country. The country experiences a significant increase in GDP growth mainly riding on the improved communication which in turn drives down the cost of communication and business activities flourishes. All stakeholders like the business community, learning institutions and government operations will benefit from the fast internet speed connections.

It’s undeniable that the presence of al-Shabab insurgents in some parts of the country will limit the spread of the services outside Mogadishu, but residents of Mogadishu will without a doubt benefit immensely from it. Somalia fell into mayhem since 1991 when clan-based warlords, Islamist militants and rival politicians started battling for Somalia’s control. Ever since, lawlessness has flourished but the recent moving into Somalia by KDF backed by UN and African Union forces there has been a significant drop of lawlessness in the horns of Africa nation.

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