LIKE many cybercafes in the centre of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the Amazon Digital Internet Café is always jam-packed. Run by Annette Byaruhanga and her husband Ernest, the venue can make up to 400,000 Ugandan shillings ($155) on a good day.
But every now and then there is a major problem. When the country’s undersea communications cables are damaged – and they often are – it causes havoc for local people and businesses. During a recent hiccup, Annette Byaruhanga lost business for two weeks. “We were severely affected by disruption of broadband service when the undersea cable was ruptured,” she says. “The damage spoiled our reputation. Our customers lost confidence in our café.”
There could soon be a solution. A recent satellite launch promises to revolutionise broadband in East Africa, helping to bring high-speed internet to some of the millions in the region still without it.
Many in the region, like Byaruhanga and her husband, feel let down by the undersea fibre-optic system that connects some African countries to Europe and Asia. The multilayered, armoured cables have been cut on several occasions by shipping, and there are repeated outages. The most recent serious incident was in February this year and was due to a ship’s anchor. It left Ugandans without internet access for days.