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Joël Cariolle (Ferdi)

Publié le 3 septembre 2018 Mis à jour le 3 septembre 2018
Le 11 septembre 2018 De 12:30 à 13:15
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Submarine cables deployment, digital vulnerabilities and the digital divide in Sub-Saharan Africa


While the massive laying of fiber optic submarine cables (SMCs) over the subcontinent in the last
decades raised the prospects for the digital economy’s expansion in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), this
deployment may have made the telecommunication sector subject to new vulnerabilities. On the one
hand, SMCs are vital nodes of the telecommunication network, and their recent laying in SSA, though
having boosted the digital economy, has also increased the sub-continent vulnerability to SMC
outages. On the other hand, the laying of SMCs has widened the spatial digital divide within the subcontinent
and within countries: between coastal or urban populations close to SMC landing stations
and key other backbone infrastructures, and isolated inland or rural populations with low infrastructure
coverage and more exposed to telecommunication network failures. This paper studies the impact of
SMC deployment on the SSA’s digital divide, and highlights the importance of aforementioned digital
vulnerabilities: the country’s exposure to SMC outages and digital isolation. Diff-in-Diff estimations
of the impact of different waves of SMC arrival on internet penetration rates are conducted, and stress
a 1%-significant four percentage-point increase in Internet penetration rates following the laying of
these cables. However, the panel data analysis points that digital vulnerabilities related to SMC
deployment negatively affect Internet and mobile penetration rates, ICT investments, and positively
affect prepaid mobile cellular tariffs and the wireline network instability.


ICT, submarine cables, infrastructures, telecommunications, Sub-Saharan Africa

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