Re: [GKD] Should Developed Countries Subsidize the Internet for LDCs?

2005-01-07 Thread Paula Uimonen
Thanks, Mark, for clarifying important aspects of the reality of access
costs. African countries show the results of taxation and monopolies
very clearly. I have been working with a college in Tanzania that is an
hour away from Dar es Salaam, which in this case means 'remote', at
least in terms of access. The college has to pay USD 400/month for a
dedicated line of 128 Kbs from the national telecom. You can compare
this cost to the USD 40/month that I pay for a 2 Mbs connection in
Stockholm. Lack of open and free competition is one of the main reasons
behind high access costs in Tanzania. Even alternative providers (VSAT
operators) take advantage of the situation and price themselves at
similar levels. Africa also suffers from excessive tariffs for overseas
connections, which is not only a local/regional issue but also related
to agreements with overseas (European and American) operators.

In many countries, indirect subsidies already exist, using external
funding. Inflated access costs are often borne by foreign organizations
(private companies or aid organizations) and donor-funded agents and
projects. While these initiatives provide access to some users, they
also perpetuate a situation where it is very difficult for local
companies to operate. Mark is absolutely right to point out that
subsidies will support monopolies, while preventing local entrepreneurs
from creating sustainable business models. Meanwhile, local actors, like
the aforemenioned college, have to struggle to foot the bill for

Although new access solutions like WiFi could go a long way in spreading
access, the issues involved are not just regulatory. In most cases,
there is no (or very little) local technical capacity to set up and
maintain the smart system that Mark describes. User-friendly interfaces
and hands-on training are key to make the system viable in a local
context. I have heard of these systems being tried out in all kinds of
places, very successfully. But we also need to think of a way of
upscaling/replicating them to make a real difference. Meanwhile, value
added services like VoIP would make a big difference in people's lives
(just look at the mobile phone revolution to get an idea of how valuable
communication is perceived to be, even for poor people). Again we are
back to regulatory issues -- VoIP is illegal in countries like Tanzania.

So rather than talking subsidies, let's look at the regulatory regimes,
and work towards adjusting them. It was not long ago that Internet
access was rather costly in Euorpe as well, something that deregulation
has taken care of by now. Meanwhile, let's also focus on building local
capacity so that entrepreneurs can learn how to use smart solutions like


Paula Uimonen, PhD
Executive Director
Månadsvägen 64
S-177 42 Järfälla
Tel: +46 (0)8 580 811 59
Mobile: +46 (0)768 882 663

On 1/5/05, Mark Summer [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 But when we now look at places in the developing world and examine the
 situation there it's very easy to see why costs are so high: For example
 it is not legal to use WiFi as a distribution medium in many countries
 due to legal restrictions (e.g. India). In many countries the government
 requires ISPs to obtain very costly licenses and they will only issue a
 very limited number of licenses to selected people (see Laos where the
 daughter of the prime minister runs the in-country ISP). In other places
 the government requires that it own parts of ISPs (in Thailand the
 government used to require a 50% government stake in ISPs) but of course
 that does not mean that they will be taking part in the investments to
 setup the ISPs, take a share of the profits. In other places ISPs are
 not free to buy connectivity from upstream providers they choose, rather
 they are required to buy their bandwidth at inflated costs from the
 local telcos / universities or the government. Internet access is often
 seen in the same way long distance phone calls have been treated in
 Europe and other places until about 15 years ago, as something only the
 wealthy and foreigners use and therefore can be taxed as much as desired
 by the governments.
 If we now subsidize Internet access we just support these kinds of
 taxation and control systems and hinder the development of free
 enterprises in the country, adding more wealth to the already rich. When
 we talk about sustainable solutions on the community level we need to as
 well think about how to create sustainable opportunities for
 entrepreneurs in these places. I don't think that supporting monopolies
 through subsidies is a good thing; this will prevent more people from
 gaining access to ICTs rather then enabling them to use them in the long
 Another important factor are the restrictions placed on the use of
 technologies in many countries, usually again in support of very few

[GKD] RFI: WiMax Utilization

2005-01-07 Thread Keith Birkhold
Dear GKD Members,

I was reading though the message submitted by Lee Thorn and was
particularly interested in his use of WiMax technology. Lee could you
exaborate on how far you have been able to progress with the WiMax
technology? If there are any others in our group with WiMax experience,
I would appreciate your comments. We are in the process of building a
hybrid e-school to be regionalized around Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA. 
Even though we do not have the last mile connectivity issues that many
participants in the GKD group face, we too are limited in the type of
education we employ by the lowest connectivity speed. I did some
reasearch on using this technology to create a metropolitan area
network, and with the potential for a 30 mile coverage radius from one
tower a lot of headaches could be eliminated, but the feedback I
received was that it is still several years off, and that the hardware
is not yet small enough to fit into a notebook computer. If any of you
have additional info, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Keith Birkhold
The Web Education Academy

On 1/5/05, Lee Thorn [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 As you know, villagers in Phon Kham have not been able to get permission
 to connect yet. We're working on a new idea using WiMax that might
 overcome the main barrier. We are proceeding with the process of
 developing a POC of the Jhai PC and communication system on the Navajo
 reservation and betas in several other countries, including Laos.

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Re: [GKD] Nigeria: Silicon Valley Transplant

2005-01-07 Thread Jeff Buderer
Dear GKD Members,

Its been a while since this was originally posted but in relation to
current discussions, I wanted to add this response to the original
comments by Femi Oyesanya.

The comments relate to the Interesting parallel between this Nigerian
government proposal and the Unity Center concept that we
have developed through OVF, explaining how if it was done a little
differently, the Nigerians might just be able to pull it off.

These comments also relate to the recent post I made in relation to
Walter Rostow's Stages to Take-off.

On 12/03/2004, Femi Oyesanya [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 A recent Nigerian Newspaper article cited the Nigerian Minister of the
 Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nasir El-Rufai, as saying that the
 Nigerian Government has given the approval for the building of a
 Technology Village. Nigeria will be building its own Silicon Valley on a
 650 hectare property, located in a suburb of the Federal Capital city,
 The Newspaper article quoted El-Rufai as saying, we want to create a
 city of knowledge in Abuja. And on the way to the airport, we have got
 about 650 hectares of land we have reserved out of the Abuja
 master-plan. What we hope to do with the technology village, which is
 going to cost us between $300 to $400 million is to have the highest
 quality infrastructure attracting the best brains in information and
 bio-technology, pharmaceutical and Information Technology (IT) research
 to work in Abuja. (1)


Silicon Valley Story

The determination of such a center's success is not so much the
technology or the planning but the building of a framework of governance
from which financial, technological and social infrastructure can emerge
in a climate of trust and transparency.

Such a realization of a grand vision, necessarily involves the social
and cultural components of storytelling and myth-making. Silicon Valley
at its essence is a replaying of the modern American mythology of rugged
individualism. The story of Apple Computer being started in Steve Jobs'
garage is repeated again and again, so that it has become the classic
Silicon Valley success story. It is the story of hard working, highly
intelligent people who identify innovations and know how to make them
happen by working with other, often underappreciated innovators.

Ironically, though, the very necessary ingredients which led to America's
Silicon Valley success (and its overall success in modern times) are
being weakened from the pressures of a ruling class that eshews
accountability and transparency.


Pre-conditions to Take-off:

1. Such a center would ideally be organized to avoid any of the
transparency and corruption issues that plaque Nigerian civil society.
In this way it could be a model for a more decentralized model of
governance as an alternative to the nation-state model and therefore
putting Africa on the leading edge of post-industrial development.

2. Rather than seek to create one massive center it might be more
realistic to develop several prototype nodes that could experiment with
leading ICT as well as other leading sector innovations and then
integrate them to create new models of living that are suitable for
emerging markets. These nodes would be designed to be rapidly replicated
into surrounding regions, eventually forming a decentralized,
distributed grid that would facilitate sustainable commerce. This would
include communications, food production, consulting as well as ICT
related services.

3. Emphasis would be on an open source, community scaled and ICT
augmented development paradigm rather than a top-down proprietary model
that reinforces elite-periphery dynamics.


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[GKD] Tsunami Disaster and Business Response to the Crisis

2005-01-07 Thread Peter Burgess
Dear Colleagues,

I was pleased to see the message from Robert Davies, Chief Executive
Officer, International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) and the material
prepared by IBLF and the International Tourism Partnership in response
to the coastal disaster in Asia. I like the clarity of their paper in
identifying the three phases of the crisis: (1) Rescue (2) Relief, and
(3) Recovery. I think this is a good way to think about the crisis and

But there is something sadly missing, something wrong. I cannot put my
finger on exactly what it is. Maybe it is because tourism often
flourishes in beautiful places in little enclaves surrounded by grinding
poverty. Maybe it is because the business model for tourism success is
high prices, high profits and leave very little of value in the local
economy and the host country. Maybe it is because tourism is often
associated with a certain level of sexual entertainment that we don't
often talk about. Somehow, something is missing.

So while I am glad to see leaders in the international business
community and the tourism industry writing about the crisis, I have a
concern which is not easy to explain.

Rescue and relief has been done very well. Not perfect, but an
impressive local and international response. From my perspective, I see
a level of expertise and commitment in the international emergency
response community that is very encouraging. The large international
NGOs have a lot of experience and good people. Organizations like UNHCR
do a wonderful job in crisis situations. Local organizations and
ordinary people in a crisis do quite extraordinary things. And when the
military is used for emergency logistics instead of dropping bombs and
doing destruction, they also are amazing. In fact, its almost worth
having the military budget bill just so that they can perform in these
emergency situations. On balance I have to say that local and
international response to handle rescue and relief has been

But recovery is another matter. How does the tsunami crisis rank in the
global development arena? How does one go about having success in
development around the world and success in the long term post tsunami
recovery phase? I am an optimist about what is possible, but very
pessimistic about what will actually happen. Already there are the first
reports of scams, rip-offs and obscene profiteering that usually emerge
quite quickly in any crisis, and this is no exception.

In terms of obscene profiteering, the reports of child abductions are
most sickening. To maximize profit from exploitation of children, free
children is about as good as it gets! Sick. But exploiting children is
big business. Scams and rip-offs will happen, and most organizations are
not well equipped for transparency and accountability that would make it
much more difficult for scammers and rip-off artists to operate.

As the recovery phase begins, there are a lot of questions, and few easy

What is the impact of the SE Asia's tsunami crisis on the rest of the
world? Will resources for recovery in the tsunami crisis be incremental
or will they merely be diversions of resources from other critical
programs. What is the impact going to be, for example, on the global
health and HIV-AIDS crisis. We are not seeing many images of the AIDS
crisis in the world media at the moment, yet the death toll in three
weeks related to AIDS is numerically about the scale of the tsunami
deaths to date. Again ... in three weeks, death from AIDS related causes
is estimated to be around 150,000.

Will the tsunami crisis sensitize the world to the plight of poor
people? Will it get more people to ask questions about poverty and the
failure of world leadership and the development community to make
progress in the elimination of abject poverty. Around the world, maybe
half of the population is terribly poor ... some 3 billion people.
Around the world, a lot of countries and their governments are
essentially bankrupt and therefore unable to deliver any services that
rich countries now routinely expect governments to provide. It really is
a mess. In many parts of the world, poor people can more easily get hold
of a gun than a good meal!

What the rescue and relief performance does show is that amazing things
can be done, and done very quickly.

It would be wonderful if the tsunami recovery process was done in a way
to demonstrate that recovery and development can be successful. The
tsunami recovery can be done well. But history suggests that the
recovery or development phase will be either excessively overfunded or
underfunded, and the priorities determined in the worst possible way.
This need not be. It can be done well, but it requires a different
approach from what has usually been done. Success in development is
unlikely to be best when it is driven by the prevailing development
mindset of the international donors with government the driver of
recovery implementation, or the international welfare model 

Re: [GKD] Should Developed Countries Subsidize the Internet for LDCs?

2005-01-07 Thread Ken DiPietro
Dear Colleagues,

I took the liberty of answering in-line and editing the message,
hopefully without disturbing the context.

On 1/4/05, Edmond Gaible [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 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

Wow, so $10,350/month is being drained out of these 45 communities we
are trying to help. I won't even comment on the new KU-band VSAT
terminals for US $2800 but I suspect someone made an awful lot of money
on that sale. This equipment sells in Asia (where most of this equipment
is manufactured) for a few hundred dollars each.

 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.

Actually, for the $10,350/month that is being spent this service doesn't
even cover the requirements of some of the schools. Let me give you a
breakdown in English as to what we are really providing these schools. A
one Gigabyte transfer cap (as it is called in this business) divides
down to just over 30 megabytes per day (assuming we use the 30-31 day
month equally) For comparison's sake, a 56Kbps dialup modem (which most
people will agree is obsolete) has a theoretical transfer rate of 17
Megabytes per hour (going from memory)

As a habit I meter my internet connection and I routinely exceed 30
Megabytes in a day of web surfing. This does not include any kind of
multimedia files (movies, etc) but only takes into consideration reading
the international news, viewing any associated pictures provided by the
news sources and other typical browsing.

This level of service is not suitable for the needs of a school and the
typical argument I am used to hearing that this is better than nothing
equates to me as We had no water until we counted the morning dew.

 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.

Yes, for that amount of money I am sure that some private sector
provider would jump in.

 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.

As someone in the business of employing 802.11 to deliver connectivity I
can safely say this is also a wildly profitable endeavor for Bushnet. If
they are charging upwards of $6K for their client installations they are
making roughly that much for a day or two of work. We buy the client
side of these radios for well under $200/each. May I ask why there isn't
an outrage at this kind of profiteering?

This leads to a far deeper question about why this is happening. I am
quite sure that we all agree there simply isn't enough money to do
everything we would like to accomplish - yet incredibly expensive
solutions are being applied without any apparent understanding of what
the real cost should be. From a businessperson's standpoint, this is
beyond wasteful and borders on complete incompetence.

 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.

Private area successes? I look at this as a fleecing of every single
customer and the people who are financing these projects. I am even more
concerned that this information isn't causing an outcry from anyone who
understands value and loathes outright profiteering.

 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?

Compete? At these prices they should be able to retire in very short
order! I understand that this list in not necessarily technically
oriented but the prices that have been introduced in this message are
nothing short of obscene. I am sorry but I don't think I could live with
myself if I was gouging people this badly.

When we look at the