As the value of being connected to the internet increases, the need to make internet access available and affordable to all citizens becomes ever more urgent.  But how many people have access to the internet? Statistics are often quoted about what percentage of the world has access to the internet but those numbers are inevitably fuzzy, relying on varying definitions of internet access and varying levels of reporting quality. 

Fibre optic networks are essential infrastructure for a modern economy, but the telecom sector lacks readily available and usable data on their infrastructure. Under a joint declaration, the World Bank and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched the Open Fibre Data Standard (OFDS) initiative and partnered with Mozilla Corporation to develop a data standard for publishing data on fibre optic broadband infrastructure. 

As part of sharing the findings, and creating awareness and capacity on the OFDS, Mozilla’s Africa Mradi in partnership with the African Advanced Level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI), conducted a workshop on the OFDS to the regulators and representatives of AFRALTI on the 2nd and 3rd of October 2023 at the AFRALTI campus in Nairobi, Kenya. Regulators present from the AFRALTI member states were; the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), National Communication Authority of South Sudan (NCASS), Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and the Gambia Telecommunications Company (GAMTEL). Other participants that attended the workshop were the technical team from AFRALTI and collaborating partners working on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). 

Following up to the workshop was a 2-day summit dubbed “The Kenya Fibre Data Summit” on the 5th and 6th October 2023 which included participants from government institutions, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The summit aimed to set the stage for discussions on Fibre connectivity, data sharing and innovations relating to emerging technologies. The summit also featured policy and regulatory developments on Information and Communications technology (ICT) in Kenya. 

At the core of this summit was a resounding message – the significance of precise data related to fibre network infrastructure and the opportunity of sharing such data. Such an approach will rapidly lead to collaborative efforts in deploying fibre infrastructure at relatively reasonable costs , rapidly grow the understanding of the current coverage and enable valuable partnerships across the ISPs alongside the government and other stakeholders.  

Ultimately, this would lead to addressing gaps such as dark fibre, save efforts and finances that can go into duplicated deployments and enable a data-driven approach of network deployment by the ISPs. 

AFRALTI and Mozilla purposefully intends to further collaboration in the new year of 2024 to continually  raise awareness on OFDS in various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to unlock more stakeholder collaboration and support more efforts for meaningful Internet access.