Legal Tech Held Back By Low Connectivity In Africa
Legal tech, is slowly taking off in Africa, and like in many other parts of the world, it is helping to disrupt the legal services industry, which has traditionally been very conservative. Such companies are levelling the playing field and ultimately benefitting the consumer. Outfits like Lenoma, for example, are providing anyone with an internet connection with affordable access to legal documents and other services. But therein lies the problem.
Africa’s Lagging Internet Connectivity
Providing online services is difficult in a region where internet penetration is low and internet connectivity is sporadic. For example, internet penetration in Africa is only 39%, while the global average is approximately 60%. While there is plenty of investment into telecom infrastructure, unfortunately, most of that goes towards maintaining existing broadband networks instead of trying to increase reach.
For a variety of reasons, the cost of internet in Africa is also significantly higher than other regions and Africans tend to spend much more, as a percentage of their monthly income, to obtain internet services. In fact, it is probably more expensive to access the internet in Africa than in any other part of the world. On average, to obtain a single gigabyte of data, Africans will spend upwards of 8% of their monthly income. To compare, Latin Americans spend just over 3% and Asians around 1.5%.
This is a significant impediment in the growth of online services in Africa, legal or otherwise. Particularly when compared relative to local incomes, the divide and barrier to online access is significant. On the other hand, Africa will benefit immensely from digital services as they will help spur development and bring even the remotest areas in contact with the rest of the world, but only if the internet problem is sorted.
The Promise Linking with the Stars
One potential, relatively affordable and accessible solution could be Starlink, the SpaceX Project that is working to provide low-cost internet access using low-earth orbit satellites. This is paradoxical as one of the reasons Africa’s internet is so expensive is because a lot of it uses traditional satellites due to a lack of cables. However, Starlink aims to provide such internet links at very much lower costs and in such a way that it will be accessible to all. Thus, perhaps, Africa’s wider internet revolution is just around the corner.