Monday 23 November 2015

SumVoices: Problems Without End In Algeria's Internet

Our last installment of SumVoices featured Swedish librarian and Internet access advocate Helén Palm. This week we bring you the insight of Algerian journalist Rim Hayat Chaif. The two-part report features a version in Arabic, below

Rim Hayat Chaif, Algeria, internet accessTalking about the situation of the internet in Algeria has spilled much ink, between frequent cuts, high costs, poor quality service and exaggerated rates of subscriptions. Algérie Télécome (AT) is the only internet service provider (ISP) in Algeria and it leads the telecommunications sector. Algerian internet users complain of bad service. The promises are many, but without implementation on the ground. Let Algerians ask about solutions and what to do to avoid such things.

Algeria greatly lags behind in access to technological resources including the internet. In the region of North Africa, Algeria is ranked behind Morocco and Tunisia. Indeed, the internet penetration rate is estimated to be 14% while neighbors Morocco and Tunisia are respectively about 51% and 39% according to a case study conducted by Google North Africa in 2013. This lack of penetration is explained by the vast space of the country compared to its neighbors.

The infrastructure of the internet in Algeria is weak and requires many things to make the situation better for Algerian internet users. This poor quality of internet connectivity is due mostly to selling the same bandwidth to more than 40 families at the same time, which causes major online blockage and traffic.  Users wonder why they are getting such a slow internet connection even if they registered for better service. By this logic, it became impossible to give them good internet service.

Algerian internet users certainly know better than anyone the extent of the shortcomings of internet services. They have suffered from decades of bad connections. Moreover, this is due to the monopoly of the internet by just one company. In vain the private sector suggested the creation of an independent company, which would manage the national network and the fiber optics as well as the international connections and the infrastructure. Algerie Télécome (AT) is the state owned company that monopolizes the national IT market and telephone lines in the country. The lack or even the absence of competition in this sector has resulted in a delay for the internet and what comes with.

This situation has created a huge delay in online services as e-commerce and e-payment have not been implemented yet. Despite the existence of many e-commerce sites in Algeria like and, traditional methods for payment by bank transfer, cash on delivery or even by chéque are used.

A recent official report published in Algerian newspaper Echourok disclosed that Algérie Télécome (AT) was unable to make a global and obvious plan for fiber optic utilization and exploitation in a better way or to raise the capacity and the speed of the local and international access to the Internet. Algeria is considered to be one of the countries that has the slowest internet connectivity in the world, ranked 179th with a rate of 3.3 mbps/sec, according to a net index website.

Meanwhile, the improvements are minor, and several places in rural regions in Algeria are still unconnected.

Recently, internet access was disrupted for several days and was totally cut in some areas, caused by a cut of a submarine cable linking Annaba (600 km east of Algiers) to Marseilles in south-eastern France. This was announced by Algerie Télécome on 22 October. As a result, the country lost 80% of its internet access capacity.

This blackout forced many cybercafés to close their doors, and many netizens criticized the weak infrastructure. In reality, there are two submarine cables that link Algeria to Europe, the one which was cut, and the other from Palermo, Italy.

In fact, Algeria has about 10 million internet subscribers while two million are connected via ADSL according to AT, nearly a quarter of the population. After that Internet was restored, ADSL subscribers received a free automatic extension for a period equal to the time during the plagued interruption of the internet service.

Rim Hayat Chaif

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1 comment:

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