This new set of questions is intriguing. I am not sure I agree with the direction of the questions and the focus on magic bullet technologies.
First, I submit that the focus of efforts should be on policy, particularly universal access policy. IDRC's Acacia programme, DFID's CATIA programme and USAID's DOT-COM programme have all begun to focus new efforts on policy. This is where the real gains will be made. CATIA in particular is opening up opportunities to improve telecom policy across Africa in the areas of VSAT access, Internet exchange points, civil society participation in shaping telecom policy, positive policy environments for radio broadcasting (particularly community radio), and institutional strengthening for institutions that affect policy. See www.catia.ws DOT-COM is enhancing policy related synergies among its NGO, education and policy/regulatory reform initiatives - one of its programmes in southern Africa, the SADC-TRASA collaborative workshop on Rural Access and Universal Service "resulted in the first formal bonding of industry, NGOs and government in an "ICT coalition" to consider implications of a Universal Services Fund." See www.dot-com-alliance.org IDRC's Acacia II Prospectus highlights 10 lessons learned during the first phase of Acacia. Lesson number 1: "Policy is key... ICT policy development requires positive support at the highest level of political leadership, and the creation of policy frameworks - especially as regards infrastructure and rural connectivity - is key to success." See www.acacia.org.za Related to the policy dimension is the concept of "technological neutrality". I am VERY wary of efforts to promote magic bullet technologies - through policy or through project funding. Technological neutrality is central to universal access policy - policies and regulations should neither unfairly advantage nor disadvantage one technology over another. Instead, technical choices should be driven by quality of service standards, not by arbitrary technical standards or the technology flavour of the month. The market is the best mechanism to determine technological solutions - it may not always select the "best" technologies, but it is very good at selecting technologies that people are actually willing and able to pay for. The policy environment supports the market by introducing and sustaining measures to promote a competitive, multi-operator environment. As an example, according to the European Community, the goal of the "technological neutrality" principle is "not to impose, nor discriminate in favor of, the use of a particular type of technology, but to ensure that the same service is regulated in an equivalent manner, irrespective of the means by which it is delivered." Such a policy can go a long way to ensuring that consumers have access to such things as IP networks for voice, and other technological convergences which may emerge, which can significantly reduce the cost of providing universal access. With regard to funding programs that target specific technologies, I have yet to see one example of a "promising" technology emerge from such a program to achieve broad adoption. At the same time, I have seen many examples of indigenous entrepreneurs adapting themselves to the policy environment to introduce technologies that fit market conditions. If anything, we need a great deal more research directed at sharing the lessons learned and technological innovations of indigenous entrepreneurs who work in real world and real market contexts - other than policy, that's where I would put my money. US FCC Chairman Michael Powell once said, "Government [this could also read the donor community!!!] is a notoriously bad investor. It tends to buy high and sell low when it comes to predicting technology winners and losers. One lesson from all of this is that we should be careful [not] to embrace too quickly any one technology or service." In essence, policy environments and program/projects environments that favour a particular technology to the exclusion of others can delay the advance of universal access infrastructure by distorting the economics of deployment in challenging markets. For example, one need only look at the experiences of donor-driven telecentres to see examples of financially unsustainable donor entities actually competing with local entrepreneurs and their home grown cybercafes. Cheers, Don Richardson, PhD. Director TeleCommons Development Group Stantec Consulting 361 Southgate Drive Guelph, Ontario N1G 3M5 Canada Tel: 519-836-6050; Fax: 519-836-2493 Email: [EMAIL PROTECTED] Web: www.telecommons.com or www.stantec.com ------------ This DOT-COM Discussion is funded by the dot-ORG USAID Cooperative Agreement, and hosted by GKD. http://www.dot-com-alliance.org provides more information. To post a message, send it to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> To subscribe or unsubscribe, send a message to: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>. In the 1st line of the message type: subscribe gkd OR type: unsubscribe gkd For the GKD database, with past messages: http://www.GKDknowledge.org