Information and Communication Technology has remained a vital aspect in fostering development in every economy. This is the reason why for Cameroon to achieve the vision of becoming an emerging nation by 2035, it will need a strong Information and Communication Technology sector to derive solutions to it socio-economic, political and environmental problems.
Cameroon has made very significant progress in the ICT sector looking back to the 1980s and 1990s when the sector was considered a strategic government tool under the control of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication (MINPOSTEL). In the `980s, the country was operating on a 5year developmental plan that place it infrastructure on an enviable position on the continent. According to ICT Africa 2012 report on ICT in Cameroon, the country became an early adopter of the GSM mobile platform in 1990s. From this period, to 2008, developments in the ICT became retard by economic crisis and lack of competition in the sector.
Notwithstanding, significant impact of ICT in Cameroon was felt in the 2nd Quarters of 2009, a period when an increasing number of Cameroonians and institutions saw the light of ICT facilities such as good computer labs, increase access to computers, increase internet bandwidth, drop in internet prices, increase awareness to various online Communication platforms like Yahoo, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and others. From this period, the country started witnessing a tremendous leapfrog in the ICT sector as per country and people performance in problem solving through ICT.
According to statistics drawn from the World Factbook of the United State’s Central Intelligence Agency, the country had only 69 internet hosts in 2008, but this number increased to 10,207 internet hosts in 2012. Base on the findings, internet users increased from 749,600people in 2009 to 985,565 in 2011 and was ranked 134th country in the world in terms of ICT development. Also drawn from this same finding, there were 737,400 fixed phone lines in use in 2012 compared to 13.1 million mobile phones.
Presently in 2016, Cameroon has four mobile communication companies and internet service providers, being: Orange, MTN, Nexttel and CAMTEL, against two: MTN and Orange in 2010, witnessing an estimation of about 150% drop in internet prices (500frs/hr to 150frs/hr) from 2008 to 20015. Due to competition in the market, average internet speed has increase from less than 50KB in 2008 to 300KB in 2015. According to Mufuh (2014) on “The impact of Mobile internet service use on cyber café business” (unpublished) 54% of internet users access the internet via mobile devices.
Significant ICT infrastructural developments are also being made in the country. Presently there is SAT-3 marine cable inward with access points in Douala (main one), Limbe (WACS) and Kribi (ACE). There is a national backbone of over 6,000 km of fibre optic cable laid down and financed by the Chinese Government. There is a fibre optic loop in Douala and a second being laid in Yaounde. Cameroon is linked to Chad with a fibre optic cable under the Central African Backbone (CAB) project. VSAT Internet is widely used. The Government of Cameroon has established the National Internet Exchange Point (IXP) a project financed by the World Bank. There are 60 operational telecentres, 110 being put into service and 15 under construction.
In order to ensure Cameroon to achieve vision 2035, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication in the country prior to the Economic Emergence Action plan of the Head of States Paul Biya, is to increase the supply of social and telephone communication (fixed-line and mobile) and ensuring high-speed internet access and social networks. In this regard, in 2014, the Cameroonian government obtained 60 percent ownership of the Limbe West Africa Cable System (WACS) that was initially owned by MTN Cameroon. The 14 billion FCFA project is set to increase internet penetration that could be exported to landlocked countries like the Central African Republic by ten percent. Government’s acquisition of the Limbe WACS station adds to the Douala landing station and linked to the SAT-3 submarine cable. Meanwhile, in a drive to make Cameroon a regional ICT connectivity hub, CAMTEL has announced its intention to construct a Kribi (Cameroon) to Fortaleza (Brazil) submarine cable link.
In addition to efforts aim at improving the ICT sector in the country by the government of Cameroon, the government has endorsed a project to construct a Central African advanced school of Information Technology in Yaoundé, a joint venture of Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo. Recently, the Head of States Paul Biya signed a contract with a Japanese company for the provision of a laptop each to all duly registered university students in the Country.
Some Key significant need-base innovations made through ICT in Cameroon
Kiro’o Games aka Kiro’o Studios founded in 2003 by a Cameroonian, Madiba Olivier is making huge gains financially and also gaining popularity. As of April 10, 2015, Kiro’o Games announces the closing of its investment funds of 182,504 Euros and is projected into the future of becoming an actual company. Kiro’o Games is privately held video game, animation, development and publishing company based in Cameroon and headquartered in Yaounde, Cameroon. Kiro’o Tales is currently working on finalizing the finishing touches on the upcoming Action-RPG Aurion Legacy of Kori-Odan. As of March 7 the game has successfully been Greenlit by Steam software to distribute the game.
Cameroonian born Arthur Zang invented the patented touchscreen Cardio Pad. He has invented what is believed to be Africa’s first medical tablet, which will allow health-care workers in rural areas to send the results of cardiac tests to heart specialists via a mobile-phone connection.
Also, “GiftedMom” created by Alain Nteff uses mobile phones to remind pregnant women when to come for antenatal care and alert mothers on vaccination schedules for their infants. It is believed to help reduce maternal and child deaths in Cameroon.
Academia, locally developed software from Cameroon’s lone tech hub ActivSpaces in the city of Buea in its first year of launch with a low budget strikingly garnered over 25 secondary schools within a month of release and has proven to be effective. Despite its difficulty to configure, the software was found very easy to use that even computer-shy teachers were able to get on board and were soon hands free.
Acad Design, The team reports to be already working on another release which will fix the issues of the first release. Cameroon will need to continue to motivate its SME’s especially those in the tech scene, to continue to motivate them so that they can be the drivers of such ICT solutions in its various sectors as their role is central to an emerging economy.
Some difficulties encountered in the process of job searching on the African Continent has been reduced by NJORKU an online job search platform founded by Cameroonian Mambe Chuchil, head office Buea , the South West Region of Cameroon. njorku.com is able to matche various jobs across Africa to suitable candidates and match job seekers to suitable employers. NJORKU is today known as one on the leading online job search platforms in Africa. Recently it was publish on the Forbes magazine as one of the Tech start ups to watch out for in Africa.
Recently in September, Cameroon won the best Economic Reformer award due to it creation of an online platform www.mybusiness.cm where willing investors can successfully registered their businesses online within 72 hours.
The small beautiful city of Buea in the South West Region of Cameroon is a rising tech hub in Africa. This small university town is the head quarter of the Silicon Mountain: an engulfment of techpreneurs across the country and the African continent: such as ActivSpaces, NJORKU, Zinger System, Clone Multimedia, AfroVision and many others. The exclusive innovative works of the Silicon Mountain cut the attention of BBC media which broadcasted live from the Silicon Mountain.
New information and communications technologies (ICT), in particular high-speed internet, are changing the way companies do business, transforming public service delivery and democratizing innovation in Cameroon. This has improved the working and living conditions of both customers and employees of the banking and health sectors in the country.
Market information, financial services, education and health services which have largely been unavailable in the past due to lack of connectivity is very much on the rise. The use of websites has served as a connection for most Cameroonian companies to the world at large.
Generally, the information and Communication Technology highway in Cameroon is rapidly growing with it impact felt on all sectors. With this rapid growth Cameroon stands amongst the promising tech hubs in Africa.