Dear Gary,

I wonder if the Indian experience may help. The Telecom Mission that was set
up in the mid-80s set up Public Call Offices (PCOs), essentially manned
phone booths where revenues were split between the PCO operator and the
telco. The experiment was so successful that by 2000, 650,000 PCOs were in
operation across the country. Around 117 billion metered calls were made
from these PCOs in 1998. These PCOs also provided self-employment
opportunities and jobs to people across the country, apart from creating a
very efficient and helpful public infrastrcuture for making phone calls.
Many people had never made a phone call and they could depend on the PCO
operator to help them. In Mumbai, I have seen that PCOs were handed over to
handicapped people to operate.

I have taken the data from the book "India's Communications Revolution: From
Bullock Carts to Cyber Marts" by Arvind Singhal and Evrett M Rogers, Sage
Publications, New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, London. ISBN 0-7619-9472-6.

Hope this helps.


Gary Garriott <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:

> Colleagues:
> I have great hopes for this discussion as the topic is as relevant today
> as ever and perhaps more so, given the recent backsliding in rural
> infrastructure as a direct result of truncated privatization processes.
> Here in Panama we have an interesting situation. I undertook a mission
> on behalf of the UNDP country office to the remote Darién region to
> learn why the public telephones (usually only one per village of 2000 or
> more inhabitants) don´t work. To my surprise, I found that the basic
> infrastructure is not only in pretty good shape but relatively
> sophisticated as well (would support up to 9.6 kbps data). The problem
> is in the last 100 meters between the rural radio tower/antenna and the
> telephone booth where situations with relatively simple solutions cause
> 80-90% of the problems (like people getting their coins and other
> objects jammed in the coin slots, short circuits in the interconnecting
> cable because of attempts to rob service, infrequent visits by
> supervisory personnel to remove full coinboxes). We are now working with
> the multinational corporation that operates the system and various
> development programs in the region to come up with a win-win project
> design that would include community education in system care, basic
> technical training, and local management.
> Meanwhile, the government has levied a stiff fine on this multinational
> for similar problems throughout the country. The company maintains that
> rural telephones are unprofitable and cannot be easily maintained, even
> though they constitute a lifeline for thousands of people. This is, of
> course, only a specific example of a more generic situation, but it was
> the inspiration behind the attached draft policy position. I would
> invite comments on it as well as ideas from the community on which
> organizations/donors might be interested in developing a regional or
> even a global program to comprehensively address rural connectivity and
> access issues.
> (More information on PFNet mentioned in the position note is available
> at

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