ICT Sector Development in Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Government has made the development of information and communications technology (ICT) one of its strategic priorities. The endorsed and currently enforce ICT policy is a demonstration of its commitment to the development of ICT both as an industry and as an enabler of socio-economic transformation. The policy stems from the recognition by the Government of ICT as the key driver and facilitator for transforming Ethiopia's predominantly subsistence-agriculture economy  to an information and knowledge-based economy and society, effectively integrated into the global economy.

One of the guiding principles of the Ethiopian government ICT policy is the government shall actively collaborate with the private sector, civil society organizations and communities to promote and encourage the use of ICT towards transforming Ethiopia to a knowledge and information age. The policy also promotes the necessary coordination to establish cooperative practices and spirit amongst various stakeholders for a cost-effective development of ICT.

The government of Ethiopia is creating favourable environment to enhance the exploitation of ICTs for accelerated socio-economic development by elaboration and institutionalization of the national ICT development framework and the creation of the former Ethiopian ICT Development Agency (EICTDA), and the now Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) which is responsible to coordinate and supervise the planning and implementation of Communication and Inlonnution Technology development initiatives and ICT policies.

The national operator, Ethio Telecom provides fixed, mobile, Internet and value added services. In addition, it provides dialup Internet, CDMA 2000 wireless Internet, ADSL and wireless Internet using AIRONET, VSAT, and EVDO. It uses VSAT technology for the delivery of services to various government networks such as WoredaNet, SchoolNet, AgriNet and to non-government organizations. Furthermore, Ethio telecom provides other Value Added Services (VAS) such as Domain Name registration and management for the .et country code top-level domain (ccTLD), the Domain Name System (DNS), Web hosting, and Internet Protocol Address service. The resale of airtime vouchers and Internet services through cyber cafés is allowed for the private sector.

Table 1: Ethiopia's Communication Sector Statistics

 

Service Type

Subscribers in 2013

1

Fixed line telephone

790,188 (June 2013)

2

Public telephone

5,359

3

CDMA telephone

136,744

4

Dialup internet

76,504

5

Internet and data

221,000

6

Mobile Telephone

23,637,007

7

WCDMA Telephone

296,897

10

AgriNet

49

11

Multimedia

6,500

12

Roaming

444

13

CDMA 1X

104,003

14

GPRS

4,208,989

15

EVDO

76,445

16

Gota

1,010

17

Internet bandwidth

8.686 Gbps

 

Source: Ethio Telecom

The ICT sector in Ethiopia has seen substantial growth over the last decade. Mobile telecommunications grew from a mere 1.2 million subscribers in 2007 to around 23.7 million subscribers in 2013. The voice communication  geographic coverage has reached 64%, a progress by all standards considering Ethiopia's start from a very lower base in 2005.  Ethiopia's fixed telecommunications network stands at 790,188 subscribers, representing about 1% of the population.

The country has also seen a substantial growth in mobile Internet users largely fuelled by the availability of CDMA across the country. The international bandwidth for Internet capacity was 8.686 Gbps in 2013 with about a quarter of a million subscribers.

The use of mobile for Internet is growing. A Research ICT Africa Network survey shows that the proportion of mobile Internet users was 1.2% in 2012 driven by increasing use of social networks such as Facebook. Ethiopia reached the million Facebook users level in 2013 with an increase in the users by 20% between 2012 and 2013. The demand for mobile services and Internet access continues to grow exponentially.

The government has continued to invest in the communications infrastructure to meet this growing demand. The second phase of a vendor credit project between the Ethio Telecom and two Chinese companies - Huawei Technologies and Zhongxing Telecom Corporation (ZTE) in the amount of US$1.6 billion from the Chinese Export and Import Bank was approved in 2013. This follows the completion of a first round of vendor credit in the amount of US$1.5 billion that was signed in 2007.

The first round project, which was implemented by ZTE, has seen the rollout of 10,000 km fibre across the country and the expansion of mobile transmission network to a capacity of over 30 million subscribers and a CDMA wireless network covering rural towns. The second loan is expected to increase wireless telecom coverage from 64% to 90%, the number of mobile subscribers from 27.5% to 45% and the number of Internet users to about 20%.

Ethiopia has also been working towards stimulating the demand for the underlying infrastructure by increasing access to the public sector network. The e-government strategy that was approved in 2011 envisages the implementation of 219 e-services comprising of 79 informational and 140 transactional services over a five-year period. Implementation is proposed through 12 priority projects and service delivery would be through four primary channels—Portals, Call centres, Mobile devices and Common service centres. The e-government service delivery will be facilitated and strengthened through six core projects, including:

  • The National Payment Gateway,
  • The Enterprise Architecture framework,
  • The Public Key Infrastructure,
  • The National Data Set,
  • The National Enterprise Service Bus and
  • The National Integrated Authentication Framework.

In addition, common applications that horizontally cut across all ministries are proposed. These include initiatives like E-Procurement, Human resource Management System, E-Office, E-Mail and Financial Management Information System.

The government has already been active in interconnecting schools, agricultural research institutions, districts (Woredas) and promoting applications that bring efficiency in delivery of public services. Some of the achievements include the launch of a Government Portal, a Justice Information System, a Driver and Vehicle Management Information System, a National Records and Library Management Information System, a Public Sector Human Resources Information System, a Trade Registry System, and an Exam and Placement System.

The SchoolNet project is one of the largest initiatives of the government that provides educational satellite television broadcasting to 1,710 high schools in Ethiopia via a total of 15,600 Plasma TVs. Some 1482 television programs in 6 subjects (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Civics and Ethical Education, and English) are broadcast to grades 9 to 12 students across the country. The WoredaNet is another public project that provides a terrestrial and satellite-based network linking 950 districts. It was designed with the primary objective of providing ICT services such as video conferencing, directory services, messaging, Voice over IP, and Internet connectivity to the Federal, Regional, and Woreda level government administrative units across the country.

A multi-lingual national portal (www.ethiopia.gov.et) is also one of the achievements in the recent years. Most government ministries and agencies have now their own portals that are connected to the national government portal. These ministries and agencies use their portals to deliver information and transactional services to citizens. The portals provide a platform to interact with citizens through various e-participation features.

The Ethiopian government has also been building a national "ICT Park" with the aim of attracting multi-national ICT service companies such as those involved in business process outsourcing (BPO), Software developers, manufacturers, system integrators, incubators and R&D centres.