> 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?

1. High bandwidth: I think enough to do Yahoo! mail or Hotmail is needed
for a public service. Even slow web is really essential I think. I am
speaking as someone who helped to run a large FIDOnet e-mail only node
in Ethiopia in the early nineties and I regret that a lot of really
clever and efficient stuff (Zmodem compression, least-cost routing etc)
has been thrown out as we standardise on TCP/IP. But that's how it is
these days.


> 2. Are there cases that demonstrate the value of low-bandwidth (e.g.,
> store-and-forward email, packet radio) solutions to provide critical
> information access to under-served communities? How successful have they
> been?

2. I work in southern Sudan and there are many low bandwidth solutions
in place, but they are not for public use. These include data (e-mail)
over Mini-M phone, PTC-II HF radio, Codan HF modems, data over Thuraya,
even BGAN or M4 satellite toys and others. All are painful either in
cost or speed.  But if you need it bad enough, and you have the money,
you can do e-mail anywhere. None of these are used in a telecentre
context.


> 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?

3. Telecentres: yes, of course they are all about sharing a connection.
Breaking even on the $400-500 per month for a 64K VSAT bill is the
challenge. The other major challenge we face in two remote telecentres
UNICEF supports in southern Sudan (at least two days from the nearest
telephone) is the generators. These need lots of fuel and oil and are
prone to breakdown. Regular desktops are much too greedy for solar power
as far as I understand, but I would be interested if anyone can share
experiences on solar-powered VSAT?


> 4. Are there new protocols that make more efficient use of the bandwidth
> that is available? For example, what role can the newer wireless
> technologies (e.g. Wi-Fi, MESH networks) play in bringing sufficient
> connectivity to underserved communities? Are the costs and maintenance
> demands of these technologies sustainable?

4. Wireless: yes, it's potentially a good revenue stream for the
telecentres. In theory, they can offer a "business class" service to
fixed locations beyond the telecentre and charge a healthy monthly
subscription without using up seats in the centre. If the client will
pay enough, they can up their VSAT bandwidth. This is what we are
looking into but high street Wi-Fi kit does not go far enough and
expertise in souped-up Wi-Fi is limited.


Ben Parker





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