East African Community (EAC) member states have come together to launch a joint communications satellite aimed at providing reliable broadband Internet services and broadcasting capabilities. The decision was made during a four-day ministerial meeting on ICT Infrastructure Development held in Nairobi, Kenya, concluding last week.
The primary objective of this initiative is to ensure secure access to the Internet during crises such as cyberattacks and natural disasters that may disrupt terrestrial internet services. Additionally, the satellite will extend broadband connectivity to areas currently lacking internet access within the region.
The resolutions, outlined in a joint communique, also include plans for the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cybersecurity. This effort is crucial to address emerging cyber threats in the region effectively.
Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, chaired the inter-ministerial meeting, while Dr. Aminah Zawedde, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, chaired the technical arm of the ICT Infrastructure Development Cluster. Dr. Zawedde emphasized that despite individual member states having developed satellite capabilities, a regional satellite is now deemed necessary to reduce communication costs across the region.
The joint committee, consisting of technical experts from Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Kenya, has been tasked with developing a consensus concept note for the regional satellite system. The discussions will be guided by respective technology agencies.
The participants also agreed to standardize digital infrastructure in the region, emphasizing the importance of working together as the East African Community to be part of the digital revolution. Dr. Baryomunsi highlighted ongoing efforts such as the One Area Network to simplify and reduce the cost of telephone communications across borders, as well as initiatives to interconnect national backbone infrastructures and Internet fibers within the region.
Dr. Zawedde emphasized the significance of creating a single digital market to enhance the region’s business environment and generate revenue. She pointed out that while tech giants profit from the region’s services, the EAC currently does not benefit financially. The shared satellite and collaborative digital infrastructure initiatives aim to position the East African Community as an active participant in the evolving digital landscape.