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‘Crucial’: Google unveils bold plan

High End Data Cables Feed Into Servers
A newly announced fibre optic cable through sub-Saharan Africa to Australia is tipped to improve economic conditions across Africa.

Google has announced a mammoth fibre optic cable to run from Kenya, through the spine of Africa and across the Indian Ocean to Australia.

Google announced the roughly 13,000km subsea cable late on Thursday.

“Diversifying Australia’s connectivity and supporting digital inclusion across the globe are both incredibly important objectives, and Google’s Umoja cable will help to do just that,” Australian Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said.

Google’s private sector partner in the project says the major and capital cities on the cable’s route will no longer be hard-to-reach endpoints away from the coast, but stations on a data superhighway.

Google has announced a mammoth fibre optic cable to run from Kenya, through the spine of Africa and across the Indian Ocean to Australia. Picture: Supplied
A very general map of the new Google cable. Picture: Supplied

A map of global submarine cables looks like a multi-coloured spaghetti collage; however, Google says this latest project is the first cable directly from Africa to Australia.

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Specific waypoints and details are scarce, but the Umoja cable is slated to run from Kenya on the east coast, through Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, into Zambia, through the Google cloud region, and depart the South African coast for Western Australia.

JIM CHALMERS PRESSER
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland says a fibre optic cable between Australia and Africa is good for diversifying Australia’s connectivity. Picture: NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Perth is on one end of four international cables, namely from Oman, a major cable which lands in 30 countries across Asia and Europe, plus two more cables from Singapore.

Kenyan President William S. Ruto said cuts to subsea cables left his region of Africa disadvantaged.

“This initiative is crucial in ensuring the redundancy and resilience of our region’s connectivity to the rest of the world, especially in light of recent disruptions caused by cuts to sub-sea cables,” he said.

The global subsea cable network. Picture: Submarine Cable Map / TeleGeography
The global submarine cable network. Picture: Submarine Cable Map / TeleGeography

In February and March five major data cables which connect Africa were damaged or severed, impeding internet access including disruptions to stock exchanges.

A specific outage on March 13 significantly slowed down the internet in 13 countries, a report from the US-based Internet Society found.

“By strengthening our digital backbone, we are not only improving reliability but also paving the way for increased digital inclusion, innovation, and economic opportunities for our people and businesses,” the Kenyan President said.

Ends of a group of blue fiber optic cables
Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria are major convergence pints for international submarine fibre optic cables. Picture: iStock

The US government says access to the latest technology, with reliable and resilient digital infrastructure, is critical for economic opportunity.

“This is a meaningful moment for Kenya’s digital transformation journey and the benefits of today’s announcement will cascade across the region,” US Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman said.

Kenya had the 67th largest economy in 2022.