Tanzania has installed high-speed internet services on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, allowing anyone with a smartphone to tweet, Instagram or WhatsApp their ascent up Africa’s highest mountain.
State-owned Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation set up the broadband network on Tuesday at an altitude of 3,720m (12,200ft), with the country’s information minister, Nape Nnauye, calling the event historic.
“Previously, it was a bit dangerous for visitors and porters who had to operate without internet,” Nnauye said at the launch of the service, flanked by government officials and tourists.
“All visitors will get connected … [up to] this point of the mountain,” he said at the Horombo Huts, one of the camps en route to the peak.
He said the summit of the 5,895m (19,300ft) mountain would have internet connectivity by the end of the year.
Last year, the Tanzanian government announced plans to build a cable car on the southern side of Kilimanjaro, triggering uproar among climbers, expedition companies and environmentalists.
Mount Kilimanjaro is an important source of tourism revenue in Tanzania and neighbouring Kenya, with around 35,000 people attempting to reach the peak each year.
Immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the mountain is part of a national park as well as being a Unesco world heritage site.
Technology has increasingly infiltrated the world of mountaineering, with climbers on Mount Everest enjoying easy access to wifi, power generators and smartphones that make it possible to share photos and make SOS calls in the event of an accident.
In contrast, when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of the world’s tallest mountain on 29 May, 1953, the news did not reach the outside world until 2 June, just in time for the Queen’s coronation.