Dear GKD Members, I guess like everyone else, I've been watching the tragic events unfold on television with a sense of sadness and powerlessness. Not much that one can do from so far away except at this point to make a donation and to make the kinds of noises that get governments to move away from inactivity. Fortunately my family and I weren't personally impacted so far as we know, but the events took on a very direct force when we saw what seemed to be video from a resort in Thailand where we had stayed 3 years ago and which indicated that the bungalow where we were staying would have been completely inundated by the wave. And thinking of it and scanning the Net for information and for stories I'm struck by a couple of things concerning the role (and lack of role) of the Net in these events. The Net appears to be playing a very significant part in responding to the needs of those at a distance--the on-lookers for information, stories, ways of contributing and so on; families and friends of those possibly impacted with attempts at creating listings of the found and the lost and for those on the ground to manage the concerns and queries of those farther away; and one expects that behind the scenes much of the co-ordination and planning that is being done by aid organizations is being done in ways that are pushing the boundaries of Computer Mediated Communication and managing at a distance. But I guess I'm a bit surprised that the Net wasn't able (yet?) to bridge the information divides between those who had some idea about what might be coming (the scientists and those immediately impacted) and those who might have been able to make some use of that information in the places where the impact took appreciable time to be realized. The problem here was not, I think, a Digital Divide, rather than perhaps it is another example of what I've referred to elsewhere as the gap between access and effective use http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue8_12/gurstein/index.html. From what I can gather most if not all of the communities impacted had Internet access in one form or another. What they (and here I would include those with the knowledge who couldn't use it as well as those without knowledge) lacked, rather, was the social, organizational, informational, and applications infrastructure which could have turned Internet access into an effectively usable early warning system. Those who had the information couldn't use it, and those who needed the information couldn't/didn't get it. The degrees of separation imposed by nationality, language and perhaps most important, domains of knowledge and profession (and the related social linkages, network based trust relationships, communication pathways and so on), just weren't there--and one wonders whether that was simply a matter of it still being early days in our Internetted world or something more profound and permanent. It seems likely that some sort of Tsunami Early Warning System will be set up in the region probably with an ICT base (I seem to recall something similar being in place for the Pacific Islands, for hurricanes as well as Tsunami's I would assume), but given the infrequency of these events, how useful it will be seems questionable. So I'm wondering now whether rather than spending a huge amount of money creating a dedicated Tsunami Early Warning System, the governments in the region (or better yet the effected communities) wouldn't be better advised to think about how to use the access that they have available to them in ways that will allow them to have some warning. This would mean that they develop local means for scanning the information universe and then ways of linking the knowledge that results into local social and institutional structures that can translate that knowledge into effective uses such as early warnings. Here I'm not thinking just of what are almost singular events like Tsunamis, but also of more recurrent weather events and even more common social, economic and political events in the larger world that will have a potential impact, sometimes negative, but also potentially positive, on community well-being. From a Community Informatics perspective, I'm also wondering whether there shouldn't be a significant future role. Certainly, the Community side of the equation will be of immense importance as much of the reconstruction will be done of and through existing local communities. But what of the Informatics side. Some skepticism has been expressed concerning the value of ICTs in this context where the need for water, shelter and food are so pressing. Certainly, there is a need for Management/Organizational Informatics at least from the perspective of managing aid and a considerable degree of infrastructure reconstruction. But what of Community Informatics...Is this something to be left to a later stage when other matters have been dealt with and as has been suggested, there is some resources and time available for what some
Dear Colleagues, A quick set of numbers about a specific situation with regard to VSAT connectivity: As of September 2004, secondary schools in Uganda were able to purchase new KU-band VSAT terminals for US $2800 from the Ugandan offices of AFSAT. Monthly connection costs under volume-based pricing (1GB total traffic per month) is about $230. Recognizing the realities of school funding cycles, AFSAT bills schools at the beginning of each term, when school fees are collected. Roughly 45 rural secondary schools now have VSATs under this program, which was launched in the spring of 2003. A few of these schools serve very disadvantaged communities, and have received upfront capital in the form of grants. Most of the 14 that we've looked at are covering their recurrent costs via combinations of school fees and community-focused operations. AFSAT representatives say that their company is approaching the school market aggressively, and fairly, because they believe that schools are credit-worthy, in contrast to many cybercafes and other private operators in rural areas. They also understand, rightly, that as technology penetrates schools, schools will serve the largest installed base of computer and Internet users in Uganda's agriculture-based rural areas. This arrangement is far from perfect. In particular, some schools have more than 1GB of traffic per month, which results in increased costs for AFSAT and radical slow-downs in connectivity speeds at those schools. But the situation is interesting because it's arisen out of market demand and opportunities, which are being met by a largely responsible private-sector provider. In mid-2005, the Uganda Communications Act will expire. Intended, in part, to shelter Ugandan telecommunications companies during the emergence of the telecommunications sector country-wide, the Act has kept potential competitors from entering the VSAT market. One effect of its expiration MAY be a further lowering of prices. Bushnet, another private-sector provider, is also offering wireless connectivity in rural Uganda via -- I think -- microwave hubs. Cost of each hub is I believe upwards of $6K U.S., but these are intended to provide service to clusters of communities using 802.11 technologies. As of my latest information, there are over 30 hubs located in urban and rural areas. I'm offering these numbers in part to add to the general storehouse of information that this discussion has built up. I'm also concerned that private-sector successes in providing Internet access not be overlooked. The possibility of a social enterprise providing Internet connectivity to multiple communities, as Jeff has proposed, is intriguing. To be successful, however, an enterprise of this sort would need to compete against private-sector providers. The organization would itself be, in essence, a private-sector provider, yes? Best wishes to all for the New Year! Ed Gaible ADDENDUM: Has it already been pointed out that from 1995 to 2000 there was a huge subsidy (of a sort) of first-mile Internet connectivity? With the ballooning of the US stock market, literally billions of dollars were invested in vast fiber-optic networks that were laid across North America and Europe, and in satellite and Internet backbone companies such as Global Crossing that were operating internationally. When those companies went belly up, the wealth that drove that infrastructure expansion vanished. But all the infrastructure remains in place, subsidized by the investors whose stocks lost value. The question is (imho) what are the factors that keep that stuff -- huge webs of fibre and galaxies of satellites that are ready and waiting -- from being used at an affordable price? On 12/31/04, Jeff Buderer [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote: ..snip... The reality of these extremely high ICT costs causes many to think twice about the ICT sensation among aid and development gurus and to look critically at these programs. I am encouraged by discussions here and plan to look more deeply and carefully at the economic logic beyond ICT augmented development programs. I think this is particularly important because the potential of ICT to transform lives, if properly and effectively applied, is extremely high. I was wondering what other experiences there are in this group with relation to satellite in terms of costs, reliability and how they compare with the other forms of Internet connectivity. In an off list discussion with Lee Thorn and several others, we have begun to explore some of the issues associated with ICT and particularly in relation to the high cost of satellite. This led me to do research to actually explore the costs. One of the concepts that my org OVF is exploring is the idea of developing a satellite system that would share the cost of the satellite with surrounding communities through a wireless system using similar technology as developed by Tim Pozar for the BARWN project http://www.barwn.org/.
In addition to David Sawe's noting that shortcuts can occur in technological development, and that there is not only one linear path of progress that all must doggedly follow, his posting contains another interesting point that should perhaps be emphasised. The 'death of distance' means that those talented, and sometimes more fortunate folks from poorer world regions who are educated and live abroad indeed can now contribute to the development of their 'very own countries'. There are several ways in which this can be done, especially with new ICTs, but one is the UNDP Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) Program (see for example the call to the Somalia Diaspora to engage in rebuilding that country) at http://www.so.undp.org/Home.htm John Lawrence UNDP consultant, and Adjunct Professor, SIPA Columbia University. On 12/30/04, David Sawe [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote: Well it seems that this particular chicken-and-egg problem is rather multi-dimensional. Hence there is need to include, in addition to crawl, walk, run, fly, some provision for leap-frog and indeed even cheetah-polevault where that may be possible. In this case, Nigeria's Government has decided to move boldly. It is an inescapable fact that people in developing countries are going to be receiving training in basic -AND- advanced sciences, either in their home countries or abroad. This is not necessarily from the government's funding, but also from scholarships, private resources, and all kinds of other sources. However, such people will not be able to contribute meaningfully to their own country's development if compelled to live and work abroad where they'll be helping solve the problems of developed countries instead of those of their very own countries. Additionally, one of the key advantages of ICT -- that of the death of distance -- offers opportunities for development activities, training and education, access to capital, etc. that far out-reach anything that would have been imaginable just twenty years ago. In the context of developing countries, this is significant because all too often our populations are spread out thinly across a large geographical area, but are entitled to consistent services wherever they are. They constitute the engine of growth that is being revved up by establishing centres of excellence which will focus on listening to and addressing their needs, by harnessing those technologies that can best deliver the most affordable and sustainable solutions to their problems. ..snip... ***GKD is solely supported by EDC, a Non-Profit Organization*** 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 Archives of previous GKD messages can be found at: http://www.edc.org/GLG/gkd/
This is an interesting conversation and I see the points from both sides. I think Ken is right in questioning the idea that you cannot as Tim says skip the first three stages and go straight to flying. I want to make an important distinction here between infrastructure approach and readiness and mental/organizational capacity/readiness. There are preconditions to take off such as outlined by former Kennedy/Johnson advisor Walter Rostow: http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:RcpyDDw_J4wJ:www.duke.edu/~jcd10/SO C126/Devolop1.doc+stages+to+take-offhl=enlr=lang_en I feel also that these preconditions to nation-state development critical mass also apply today. Because what Rostow is talking about applies not just to nation states but to all aspects of human development. His stages to take-off are a generalized set of criteria relating to developing momentum towards a critical mass within a particular system towards rapid growth and replication. From my perspective we are talking about a rule of physics that applies to human phenomena and relates specifically to a core area of interest to the group here: growth and modernization (and preferably fitting the triple bottom line criteria of ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development). I see ICT as an augmentation tool that can rapidly change the dynamics and characteristics of the growth curve that Rostow described. The concept of disruptive technologies offers another new concept to the mix. When disruptive technologies as well as approaches are applied effectively as part of a comprehensive package of solutions to address not only development, but world urgent issues like global warming, AIDS and loss of biodiversity, we start to see that the old rules of development don't always apply. Now I want to emphasize I am not talking about rejecting Rostow's assumptions because to me to reject those preconditions he is talking about is sort of like saying the law of conservation of energy does not apply. However what we see is many assumptions that conventional development policymakers and economists make about the best way to develop a society not only are increasingly irrelevant, but are counterproductive to the stated goals and intentions. What many of us are seeing materialize is something that is truly a bittersweet experience for us, because we see the potential of disruptive technologies and approaches to totally transform human reality like never before. However, the human network readiness on a global level is still not in place to properly execute this. Therefore, it is very frustrating for many of us to visualize the integration of these various disruptive technologies and approaches into a comprehensive and whole systems approach to sustainable development. We see the potential is there but the capacity to effectively implement (so that the effectiveness of ICT as an augmentation tool is obvious and unchallenged) is still missing. The central component of this thesis relates not only to ICT/wireless. What we are seeing is that new technologies in every aspect of human existence are rapidly making the old technologies and centralized infrastructure systems obsolete. This has important implications on the very way in which economies grow because: 1) It impacts ROI, primarily by significantly reducing the infrastructure costs of development. 2) We are at a unique point in history. Those previously marginalized by highly hierarchical systems of command and control suddenly have access to tools to disrupt the conventional order/status quo of contemporary society. The technologies are there and ready to be applied, what is needed now is the effective ICT augmented global network. However, this is not just an issue of organization but mental and organizational readiness: right attitude and right mindset. There has to be a basic level of educational aptitude, strong social networks, effective governance, financial backing, a general economic justification for developing an integrated ICT infrastructure and network and finally a firm resolve to do so, and maybe that is what Tim is getting at. You can have all the innovative ideas about wireless networks and disruptive and sustainable technologies, but if there is not the right execution or implementation, it has limited value... as theory that seems plausible but is not proven to be true on a practical level. To effectively address the unprecedented challenges that humanity now faces (which extend far beyond issues of development to embrace the very nature of modernity and human existence) we need to get many of us (including me) who spend a lot of time on the computers talking, more fully engaged in implementation in the field. Jeff Buderer | [EMAIL PROTECTED] Sustainable Design/Project Development oneVillage Foundation USA | http://www.onevillagefoundation.org oneVillage.biz | www.onevillage.biz 102 Ballatore Ct. San Jose CA 95134 Cell 408.813.5135 Yahoo IM: jefbuder