Hi List,

I will attempt to provide my views on the questions posed:

> 1. Are high-bandwidth connections necessary, or even important, to
> making a real impact on development? Or are the costs and problems
> inherent in establishing such connectivity too high -- and unsustainable
> -- for underserved areas?

High bandwidth connections are not a pre-requisite to impact on
development. In a country like Uganda where I happen to come from, one
of the biggest prohibiting factors to dev't is information. So many
citizens fail to take advantage of possible opportunities, corruption is
exacerbated (since officials rely on our ignorance), delivery of public
services is hindered etc. The kind of information I am talking about can
always be relayed even on the slowest links possible coz its all about
the content (even though its text based). The issue of high speed
connections in my view comes in after the society has been exposed to
the bottomline and thereafter, when they realise the need for more
information and complexity in delivery, usually these folk can even
contribute towards the sustenance of the improved system.

> 3. Can information distribution centers (e.g., public access
> telecenters) offer a viable economic solution to a community's
> information needs, by, in effect, sharing a single high-bandwidth
> connection among many users, and thus spreading the cost?

Community access centres are the way to go. In many third world
countries, there is little chance to find individual ownership of all
sorts of ICTs. Even mobile phones, I always come across scenarios in
rural Uganda where 2 or 3 people own phones and are "forced" to offer
public commercial calling services as a result of need. Tele Centres
create an agregation of ICTs and enable the general public access them
at a nominal fee and yet benefit from the advantages that they have to
offer. I have also learnt that because a number of rural folk are not
exactly financially liquid, it would be good for one to explore the
possibility of accepting payment for services using alternative methods
e.g farmer X brings a heifer to the telecentre, valued at an amount xyz
and getting the service for the equivalent.

However I would also like to add  that many times when we talk of
connectivity, we mean having probably a connection to either the
internet directly or to the telcos etc. Has some one ever thought of
creating a network of villages linked together probably through wireless
technologies, enabling these rural folk to communicate with each other
and exchange information without having to ride a bicycle for 20 kms.
Eventually, this creates a mesh of villages interconnected and one high
speed connection probably links to the ISP or Telco. I believe this kind
of aggregation would prove cheaper and more meaningful for our
societies. Why int he first case should you try and force a villager to
communicate with some one in Europe when he still has problems
communicating with his in-laws 10 kms away ?

Just my thoughts


Wire Lunghabo James
Linux Solutions / Data Networks Uganda Limited
Kagga Hse
Plot 2 Bandali Close, Bugolobi
P.O.Box 26192
Off: 256 41 505033 / 256 31 263033
Cell: 256 71 726609

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