‘The World Is Flat’ (Thomas L. Friedman) explores globalization. Thomas Friedman examines the influences shaping business and competition in a technology-fueled global environment. Friedman depicts the emergence of a level playing field, where all economic competitors have an equal opportunity.

The book identifies the ubiquitous access to global communications as the main driver of this process. Africa, at the time, was far from being a part of Friedman’s ‘flat’ world. When the book was published in 2005, only one in every 10 Africans owned a mobile phone, one in 50 had access to the internet and one in 100 had a fixed-line telephone at home.

Since 2005, the continent’s ICT infrastructure has been growing at unprecedented rates. The growth rate of mobile browsing in some African nations is up 365 percent compared to page views in those countries just one year ago. Opera’s monthly State of the Mobile Web report (December 2010) took a closer look at mobile Internet usage in Africa. Some highlights of Africa’s usage:

  1. The top 10 countries using Opera Mini in Africa are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Sudan, Libya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
  2. Some numbers: From December 2009 to December 2010, page views in the top 10 countries of Africa increased by 365%, unique users increased by 176% and data transferred increased by 331%.
  3. Growth rates in Africa: Sudan and Zimbabwe lead the top 10 countries of the region in terms of page-view growth (4908.2 % and 2321.6 %, respectively). Zimbabwe and Sudan lead the top 10 countries of the region in growth of unique users (1719.3 % and 1219.4 %, respectively). Sudan and Zimbabwe lead the top 10 countries of the region in growth of data transferred (3672.6 % and 1449.5 %, respectively). Zimbabwe leads the top 10 countries of the region in page views per user, with each user browsing 830 pages on average each month.
  4. In the top 10 African countries, Facebook and Google vie for the number one ranking. In 6 out of the top 10 countries, Facebook was number one. In the remaining 4 countries, Google was number one. YouTube, Yahoo, and Wikipedia are also prominent on the top 10 lists of the top 10 African countries.
  5. We looked at the top 10 handsets used in each of the top 10 African countries. Out of the 100 total handsets listed, 87 of them were Nokia, 8 of them were Samsung, 3 of them were Sony Ericsson and 2 of them were LG. In 6 out of the 10 countries, the top 10 lists were comprised solely of Nokia handsets.

Broadband subscriptions in Africa are expected to reach 265 million by 2015 and cloud computing, virtualisation and hosted services are positioned to become critical elements to making such growth a reality.

In ’The World Is Flat’, Friedman describes ten flatteners driving the process towards a commercial
level playing field across the globe. Nine of the flatteners require data connectivity as they are related to software, communication devices and the way in which people use ICTs to organize processes efficiently. I believe Africa is better positioned with the growth of internet data access via mobile phones. The opportunity for growth is enormous