Africa: Funding Slows Continent's Digital Migration Rollout

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Most African countries are facing financial hurdles and social problems in their quest for migration to digital broadcasting system a regional summit heard last week.

Representatives of various African governments attending the Digital Migration and Spectrum policy Summit in Nairobi all acknowledged challenges in equipment and capacity building funding problems and social problems associated with public understanding of the process.

"To provide households with the right equipment by means of loans is not easy as loans are not widespread and hence not easy to access especially for the modest homes," said Congo Brazaville's Director to the Cabinet William Fidele Ebondza.

African countries have until June 2015 to migrate to the digital broadcast and transmission system which most of America and Europe has already adopted. Migration to digital broadcast is expected to free up frequency spectrums which will in turn leave more room for other broadband services like expansion of internet services via the mobile phones.

In digital transmission, broadcasting companies will only have the role of content providers will government through contracted parties will undertake the job to distribute the content. The freed spectrum caused by the migration also known as the digital dividend will then be tapped to advance broadband services.

Nigeria which is one of the most advanced countries in terms of efforts to achieve total digital migration, four out of six commercial cities are on Digital transmission though the acquisition of set top boxes which convert analog signals to digital remains a problem according to Abayomi Olaiya Bolarinwa, the Director of Communications for Nigeria.

He added that government subsidies to ease acquisition of these boxes cannot be considered since the petroleum subsidies introduced by the government years ago had left a bad taste in the mouth. "We are not looking forward to any subsidy what we are doing is public and private sector cooperation to drive this migration," noted Bolarinwa.

Kenya on the other hand reported that migration efforts are on course ahead of its analogue switch off target of 2012 adding that the digital transmission signal will be launched early next month. "There is no doubt that we are on the move given the many activities taking place behind the scenes," Information and Communications Minister Samuel Poghisio told the summit.

However it emerged that while challenges were many, most governments had initiated the process of regulation and development of the migration process. Only South Sudan which reported that most broadcast equipment and regulatory bodies were now part of North Sudan was at the initial stages of migration.

Consequently, South Sudan has sought help from the African Telecommunications Union and the International Telecommunications Union for capacity building and help in setting up regulatory framework and infrastructure for communications.