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

2005-01-14 Thread Ian Howard
Njideka, et al.,

Just a small note that is a bit off topic. I have seen many people
describe VSAT in terms of it being one product. Moreover, many people
evaluating VSATs tend to fall into marketing hype and look only at the
bit rate (128k vs 64k) and not other important factors such as what
protocol (DVB, DVB-S, SCPC) and what the contention is (how many people
you are sharing the connection with), as well as where your POPs are
(where your internet connections are located). There are numerous VSAT
systems and technologies, so it is hard to compare apples to oranges
(small satellite receivers for internet connections).

Thus, it is important to first choose the right service. As an example,
in the implementation to which Peter refers, there is a service that has
fewer people sharing the same bandwidth (lower contention), and a better
protocol for this application was chosen (DVB/SCPC). As well, all users
are not the same. Cyber-cafe clients tend to use web mail and download
intensively, thus making them heavy consumers. Other clients tend to
have specific, regular patterns of use, which allow network managers to
accommodate them (i.e., you pair two clients with opposite high usage
hours). Often, tried and tested measures of minimizing bandwidth use are
ignored, such measures as using a local mail server, proxy server etc.

Sorry, getting a bit technical here, but my point is that you cannot
compare one VSAT to VSAT, without providing some citation of the type of
VSAT in use, i.e. VSAT (DVB-S, 128kbps, 14:1 contention) vs VSAT
(DVB/SCPC, 128kbps, 4:1 contention) etc.

Ian


On 1/11/05, Njideka Ugwuegbu Harry wrote:
 
 I enjoyed reading your post, Peter, as my organization, Youth for
 Technology Foundation, is currently exploring some of these
 possibilities.
 
 The shared bandwidth problem is never as easy as it sounds to implement.
 In Nigeria, this is the so-called revenue generating model of several
 cybercafes - rural or urban. The problem, though, is that the primary
 subscribers of the VSAT oversubscribe their service out to other
 neighboring subscribers (other internet cafe's, businesses etc). At the
 end of the day, the service of secondary subscribers is incredibly bad,
 but the primary subscriber gets the revenue at the end of the month
 regardless of the service quality.
 
 On Thursday, January 6, 2005, Peter Baldwin wrote:
 
 We are working with exactly the model that Jeff Buderer described: a
 central VSAT, with the connection shared by many through a local
 wireless network. We have found that it is economically feasible on
 paper at least, and are in the process of rolling out such systems in
 several locations in Mali. The relevant constraint is how to share the
 bandwidth with enough people (meaning, efficiently) to make it
 affordable for each one without completely bogging down transfer speeds.
 (It is a classic maximization problem: maximize number of subscribers,
 subject to a bandwidth constraint.)


-- 
Ian Howard

IESC/Geekcorps Mali les volontaires de l'informatique
coordinateur de programme
--
geekcorps http://maligeekcorps.org
[EMAIL PROTECTED]
bureau/office:  +223 221 49 43
mobile: +223 640 30 40

Porte 1085, Rue 240, Bamako, Mali




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

2005-01-14 Thread Vickram Crishna
On 1/11/05, Medard Gabel [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 A Thought experiment / Cost/benefit question:
 
 What would it cost (ball park estimate) to provide everyone in the world
 with broad band Internet access?
..snip...
 Building the high-speed wireless connection devices (or wired ones where
 appropriate and economical) will be a huge market and benefit (subsidy?)
 to the global telecommunications industry. Manufacturing the computers
 and/or Internet access devices in the developing countries where the
 products will be used would provide jobs, infrastructure, and
 technological expertise. Training the technicians for installation,
 maintenance, and upgrading of the network and its access technology
 would provide additional jobs and expertise to the developing country.
 Providing electricity for Internet access through solar cells and other
 decentralized energy production technologies would provide electricity
 for a host of other important basic human needs devices, such as
 lighting, water pumping, and refrigeration.

Please don't forget the very real cost of fixing legislation and
regulation that militates against low cost and collaborative networks in
developing countries (well, in developed countries too, but ).

The global telecom industry is geared to picking low hanging fruit, and
spends a lot of money on 'education' to ensure that local pricing
(extortionary) and competition (cartelised) remains convenient.

In India, for instance, although we have had an IX (internetworking data
exchange) in place for two years, its share of local traffic is
completely minimal due to bad policies - so ISPs pay international rates
for most emails and the local share of hosting is abysmal - and
consumers pay more. The total PC penetration remains incredibly low and
Internet usage pathetic - though most people think that India is a cyber
superpower - we are far from it.

-- 
Vickram




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

2005-01-11 Thread njideka
I enjoyed reading your post, Peter, as my organization, Youth for
Technology Foundation, is currently exploring some of these
possibilities.

The shared bandwidth problem is never as easy as it sounds to implement.
In Nigeria, this is the so-called revenue generating model of several
cybercafes - rural or urban. The problem, though, is that the primary
subscribers of the VSAT oversubscribe their service out to other
neighboring subscribers (other internet cafe's, businesses etc). At the
end of the day, the service of secondary subscribers is incredibly bad,
but the primary subscriber gets the revenue at the end of the month
regardless of the service quality.

Njideka Ugwuegbu Harry
Founder/Executive Director
Youth for Technology Foundation
email: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
phone/U.S:  425-681-3920
phone/Nigeria: 8038665843
web: http://www.youthfortechnology.org



On Thursday, January 6, 2005, Peter Baldwin wrote:

 We are working with exactly the model that Jeff Buderer described: a
 central VSAT, with the connection shared by many through a local
 wireless network. We have found that it is economically feasible on
 paper at least, and are in the process of rolling out such systems in
 several locations in Mali. The relevant constraint is how to share the
 bandwidth with enough people (meaning, efficiently) to make it
 affordable for each one without completely bogging down transfer speeds.
 (It is a classic maximization problem: maximize number of subscribers,
 subject to a bandwidth constraint.)

..snip...




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

2005-01-11 Thread Medard Gabel
Dear Colleagues,

A Thought experiment / Cost/benefit question:

What would it cost (ball park estimate) to provide everyone in the world
with broad band Internet access? Or, how much would it cost to provide
everyone over the age of 10 in the developing world who is currently
without any access with personal or village based access? (Assume all
the restrictive laws, monopolies, etc. as described by Mark Summer,
below, are gone.) How much additional wealth would accrue to the world
if everyone were on the Internet? How much additional business, etc.
would result? Does this equal or dwarf the cost?

Further thoughts: Metcalf's Law that states that the value of a network
is a function of the number of nodes connected to that network. More
precisely, the value of a network rises with the square of the number of
participants. For example, if the network has two people connected to
it, and we assign a value of 1 to each participant, the network has a
value of 4. If there are 3 participants, the value of the network is 9. 
If there are 1000 participants, the value of the network is 1 million.
If the Internet has 600 million active users or nodes (as it did in
2003), and each user is given the value of 1, then the entire network
has a value of 360,000 trillion.

Hypothesis: Connecting the entire world to the Internet, making sure
that every person over the age of 10 has easy access to the Internet and
its educational resources, will not only provide those people currently
without an Internet connection access to the vast educational richness
of the Internet, but enrich the Internet as well.

(In addition to strictly educational uses, the Internet can be/would
be/is used to link farmers to markets, patients to doctors, craft
workers to customers, suppliers to corporate buyers, parents to
children, etc. All this will accelerate local and global economic
development, increase health and well being, foster communication and
economic ties between neighbors and strangers.)

Building the high-speed wireless connection devices (or wired ones where
appropriate and economical) will be a huge market and benefit (subsidy?)
to the global telecommunications industry. Manufacturing the computers
and/or Internet access devices in the developing countries where the
products will be used would provide jobs, infrastructure, and
technological expertise. Training the technicians for installation,
maintenance, and upgrading of the network and its access technology
would provide additional jobs and expertise to the developing country.
Providing electricity for Internet access through solar cells and other
decentralized energy production technologies would provide electricity
for a host of other important basic human needs devices, such as
lighting, water pumping, and refrigeration.


Medard Gabel
BigPicture Consulting
281 Bishop Hollow Road
Media, PA 19063-4339
610-566-0156
[EMAIL PROTECTED]
http://www.bigpictureconsulting.com


The best way to understand a system is to understand the system it fits
into.


On 1/5/05, Mark Summer [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
  
 A few thoughts from me here about various points raised in this thread:
 
 The high costs of internet access, especially of high-speed, always on,
 Internet access in the remote and under-served areas of the world is due
 to many reasons in my experience.
 
 * Lower demand due to lower per capita income accounts for the higher
 operating costs of the ISP
 
 * Further distance to major Internet upstream providers increases the
 cost of developing and maintaining a decent upstream connection for ISPs
 in these regions
 
 But this is only part of the reason.

..snip...

 ... 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.

..snip...

 As long as ISPs are not free to choose their own technologies and
 business models freely Internet access will remain expensive and only
 available to a few.




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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
access.

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
WiFi.

Paula


Paula Uimonen, PhD
Executive Director
Net4Dev
Månadsvägen 64
S-177 42 Järfälla
Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)8 580 811 59
Mobile: +46 (0)768 882 663
E-mail: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Web: www.net4dev.se



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
 term.
 
 Another important factor are the restrictions placed on the use of
 technologies in many countries, usually again in support of very few
 

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
 operations.

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 

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

2005-01-06 Thread Peter Baldwin
Dear Colleagues,

This discussion may have already closed. Please forgive my tardiness; I
have been traveling in the bush, but am keenly interested in this
thread, as it pertains directly to what we are doing here in Mali.

We are working with exactly the model that Jeff Buderer described: a
central VSAT, with the connection shared by many through a local
wireless network. We have found that it is economically feasible on
paper at least, and are in the process of rolling out such systems in
several locations in Mali. The relevant constraint is how to share the
bandwidth with enough people (meaning, efficiently) to make it
affordable for each one without completely bogging down transfer speeds.
(It is a classic maximization problem: maximize number of subscribers,
subject to a bandwidth constraint.)

We have encountered a few issues. First of all, here in Mali, Yahoo has
been so successful in gaining market presence that most people think
that an email address MUST end in @yahoo.fr, which means that every
email must go through servers in France, even the ones going to the guy
in the office next door. This consumes a LOT of bandwidth. We are
encouraging the use of local systemes de messagerie (local mail
servers) that collect emails and send them out in bursts during periods
of low bandwidth usage, such as at night. Thus, while email is not as
instantaneous as we in the developed world are used to, this system is
still light-years ahead of the present system of word-of-mouth and
donkey-cart.

I must add, however, that due to on-the-ground political realities here,
we find ourselves forced to make the VSAT-and-wireless-network system
work ex post facto, and we are doing this in many areas where VSAT would
not have been our first choice, but rather is a system that has been
selected by other well-intentioned though misguided donors. I share the
concerns of many who have posted to this discussion board that all we
are doing is subsidizing market access for European satellite companies
that had previously determined that it was not otherwise economically
viable for them to provide access to these areas. It's the classic
story of the $20 bill lying on the sidewalk. If the system is not well
thought out and correctly designed, the net result will be to remove
value from rural communities for repatriation to the developed world.

As a final note to those considering VSAT systems, please note that not
all VSATs are created equal, and thus have a BIG impact on the economic
viability of a project. (For those of you who are more
technically-oriented than I, please forgive the layman's explanation to
follow.) Not only whether or not the bandwidth is shared, but also how
it is shared, makes a huge difference. It has to do with the size of
the packet that the bandwidth can handle. I just think of it as a
bottle with stones in it versus a bottle with sand in it. Since the
grains of sand are so much smaller than the stones, you can pack them
together more tightly, and can thus put more actual mass inside the
bottle. (And, to continue the analogy, the sand would flow more
smoothly out the mouth of the bottle than would the stones.) Similarly,
if a shared bandwidth can only be divided in inflexible, discrete
packets, large downloads will take a longer time than under a more
flexible system.




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

2005-01-05 Thread Mark Summer
A few thoughts from me here about various points raised in this thread:

The high costs of internet access, especially of high-speed, always on,
Internet access in the remote and under-served areas of the world is due
to many reasons in my experience.

* Lower demand due to lower per capita income accounts for the higher
operating costs of the ISP

* Further distance to major Internet upstream providers increases the
cost of developing and maintaining a decent upstream connection for ISPs
in these regions

But this is only part of the reason.

For example if I like to provide Internet access to customers in the US,
I can get a DS3 (45 Mbit) or higher bandwidth connection for $5k to
$10k per month and then can resell this using WLAN (WiFi) connections
with very little infrastructure cost involved. This combined with the
access to low cost open source software that runs on standard PCs lets
me create an ISP for very little money and offer access at fairly low
cost.

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
term.

Another important factor are the restrictions placed on the use of
technologies in many countries, usually again in support of very few
monopolies. While Internet access itself is important - often there are
other services that can be made available once an always on network is
in place. Voice over IP (VoIP) is a good example. While a villager might
have a need to find information from the Internet, often they really
NEED to contact friends in the local market town to ask about prices of
produce, talk to a doctor and many other things. But the use of VoIP is
illegal in many countries.

As long as ISPs are not free to choose their own technologies and
business models freely Internet access will remain expensive and only
available to a few.


Mark Summer
co-founder, Inveneo
web:   http://www.inveneo.org
phone: 415-867-9751
email: [EMAIL PROTECTED]




***GKD is solely supported by EDC, a Non-Profit Organization***
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Re: [GKD] Should Developed Countries Subsidize the Internet for LDCs?

2005-01-05 Thread Lee Thorn
On 12/28/04, John Dada [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 And let me also stir things up a bit more, Lee. I've heard data bandied
 about what defines an LDC, and have heard things like folks living on
 less than $1/day. I don't know where these figures come from. But one of
 my mothers (yes, in rural Nigeria, every elderly woman is my mother) is
 on welfare from our organization and she earns 100 Naira per week (this
 is less than $1/WEEK). I hope this gives a little perspective and
 reality-check on subsidies. Would you subsidize IT infrastructure and
 end-user fees for this mother of mine?

Well, it is always a pleasure to meet a fellow stir stick.

In Phon Kham the first priority of villagers was clean water. The
second was improvements at their school. The third was efficiencies in
the processes of their organic agricultural, animal and crafts
businesses. After that came communications.

I think it is important to understand that they wanted communication for
two main reasons. One was better connected extended families. The
other was to find out prices and to make trades to increase their income
without changing their lifestyles much nor their traditions at all.
There were three other reasons, too: education and fun for their kids,
making an 'insurance' deal with the local doctor for emergency phone
health care, and reporting to people like us and to carry out other
business functions ... but these were secondary. All of these things
have economic as well as social value for the village.

In Lao language there are many honorifics and 'mother' is one. People
also adopt people. One of my mothers lives in Phon Kham. She adopted
me after we shared our stories with each other for two years. It
actually happened the day after she told me her whole experience during
the American war in Laos. This took many tearful hours. She knew I was
involved in the war, too, involved with the bombing that forced all the
families in her village - or villages like hers - to leave their
ancestral homes. She is the biological mother of the co-founder of Jhai
Foundation, Bounthanh Phommasathit.

I cannot give anyone a subsidy. I am too poor. I can choose to help
people. I try to help people according to their desires. I try not to
disempower them.

So ... would I subsidize IT infrastructure and end-user fees for this
mother of yours?

All opportunities are local. In the case I know Phon Kham's business
plan is flexible. I'd guess villagers would take any subsidy or
discount or tax break they can get.

I will fight for my mother's desire in Phon Kham to get connected by
phone and internet with their children overseas. I will fight for their
children and all people in Phon Kham to help them find out the price of
rice and weaving every day. In that fight I will try to work with them
to get a good price on charges from the phone company and, if necessary,
the satellite company, if they ask me to. I also know one must choose
one's fight and we'd talk about what fight to take.

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.

I think communication is a basic element of social change for good or
for ill. It is more likely the change will be for good, if the impetus
for the change and the plan for the change comes from end-users.

I hope this is clear, John. Should MNCs or other large donors subsidize
communications? I think subsidizing internet connectivity fees could be
a nearly transparent investment, if done carefully.

I think ... ok, I know ... a major reason some of the first people
involved in personal computing wanted to communicate was to find smart
people everywhere and talk with them. Well, we won't unless the poorest
people get connected.

I think this makes a coincidence of interest.

yours, in Peace,

Lee Thorn
chair, Jhai Foundation




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

2005-01-04 Thread Edmond Gaible
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/.

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

2004-12-28 Thread John Dada
And let me also stir things up a bit more, Lee. I've heard data bandied
about what defines an LDC, and have heard things like folks living on
less than $1/day. I don't know where these figures come from. But one of
my mothers (yes, in rural Nigeria, every elderly woman is my mother) is
on welfare from our organization and she earns 100 Naira per week (this
is less than $1/WEEK). I hope this gives a little perspective and
reality-check on subsidies. Would you subsidize IT infrastructure and
end-user fees for this mother of mine?




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

2004-12-24 Thread John Dada
I think there are subsidies, and then there are 'subsidies'. There is no
way we can, as yet, sustain our monthly bandwidth subscription cost of
$1,800 without recourse to a subsidy from our own micro-finance service.
We have other pressing demands for this colossal (by our standards)
subscription fee, but we are yet to implement a technology that makes it
possible, for example, for me to partake in this discussion, from my
rural location in Nigeria. The bandwidth suppliers operate a cartel and
you cannot get much choice from them. We are exploring a WISP
alternative, and this is where we totally agree with Ken DiPietro's
observations.


John
Fantsuam Foundation
Nigeria




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

2004-12-24 Thread Lee Thorn
On 12/20/04, Darrell Owen wrote:

 ...doing without subsidies would be better than with them if the local
 economics make this possible. In many locations it simply doesn't...
  
Dear Colleagues,

Happy Holidays!

I was going to stay out of this particular thread because it is the
holidays here in the States and I am trying to take a break from Jhai
and ICT business...and, besides, I usually like the thinking of the
people I'm going to disagree with, but...I couldn't stay out. This
shows the extent of my discipline when it comes to opportunities to stir
things up. Lee's lifetime average: zero for discipline, 100% for
stirring things up. One must accept oneself as one is.

I think the question at hand - to subsidize connectivity or not to
subsidize connectivity - deserves some re-orientation.

Here is what I have noticed in Laos.

A few years back the Lao government was said to have a grand total of
one million dollars in the bank on any given day and was building debt
at the rate of off-the-charts. That particular year the 'hungry months'
stretched further than the normal two months because of weather
conditions. No expertise, no methodology, nobody could do anything
about these weather conditions. We all were in a pickle. Just about
all the families in Laos had some members somewhere with very sick kids
due to malnutrition.

The Lao government owns 50% of the telcom LaoTel and then that telecom
had a monopoly position. The other half is owned by a company
controlled by the current Prime Minister of Thailand. The Thai company,
according to the Lao Telcom folks I talked with confidentially, was
figuratively 'killing' them that year. They wanted to make a change. 
What to do?

I only know a few elements.

We were helping develop the first self-sufficient Internet learning
centers in high schools that year. We asked for a 100% discount on
charges for the phone lines and for connectivity. They granted a 50%
discount.

The government made deals with two other international Telcoms - one
French and the other from some other country. They very quickly started
to compete with LaoTel.

The Swedes, who had committed to helping communications in the country,
subsidized the laying of a large fiber optics line on the North/South
road in the country. They also subsidized and helped develop satellite
link-up for the University.

And lately the Italians have started helping with the intellectual
capital in the country around technology, science and the environment by
subsidizing the government agency in charge of this part (in cooperation
with the National University) and building a facility and subsidizing
programs there.

Finally - and this was very significant - the government ***little by
little*** loosened regulation of cell phone companies and the
distribution of cell phones, including finally used ones.

There were more elements to the plan. It was a sophisticated plan. 
Please remember: Lao PDR is a communist country with a per capita gross
national product of about $250 last time I looked. All these processes
could be considered 'letting go'.

What does this mean in relation to a decision on subsidizing or not
subsidizing connectivity?

Well, if I'm in business and I can get a subsidy on just about anything,
I'll take it. I figure the MNCs get subsidies up the ying-yang, so why
shouldn't I get one?

A subsidy on connectivity can be considered a direct gift to some of the
most creative and smart people, mostly young people, in any developing
country. What can be wrong with that? I say nothing is wrong with
that. Especially when you consider how much money is wasted by most aid
programs of any type. This connectivity subsidy could have so much
transparency it would be difficult to waste the huge amounts of money
that are wasted to build, for example, a dam. How much administration
does a subsidy take?

So I say subsidize connectivity until you drop. Sell some Landrovers,
developers, and pay for connectivity for 100 villages for 10 years. Give
connectivity scholarships to whole villages and spur an Ethiopian Bill
Gates to greatness! He'll work for MS out of gratitude! I won't. ;-)

And you know what? Smart entrepreneurs and smart poor people everywhere
are learning to split the fees every which way but loose. And some very
good techies are helping them. These best practices are what my son
would call 'sweet'.

I know that when you focus on poor end-users and walk in their shoes,
everything can look a bit different. Walking in those shoes (where
connectivity may alleviate a 20 km walk every week because folks can
find out the price of rice), I'd say, Give it to me...and I'll feel
good about our relationship. It is like subsidizing the postal service
or medicine. It is the right thing to do.

Anyway...that's my little Christmas message.

yours, in Peace,

Lee Thorn
chair, Jhai Foundation
www.jhai.org


PS: Connectivity is a running cost, not a fixed cost.  Getting better
deals on running costs, without diminishing 

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

2004-12-22 Thread Kris Dev
I fully agree with Cornelio Hopmann.

To my mind, there should be no subsidy of any kind, as it creates a
skewed society and the ultimate beneficiaries are the middlemen - the
politician, the bureaucrat, the businessman, etc., and not the real
poor. In the name of the poor, these people get the benefits. We have
seen this time and again in India, where poor farmers were given Rs. 500
billion loan (the actual amount given would have been less than 50%) and
then written off, as it was not returned by the farmers. Everybody has
to earn their daily bread and that includes ICT service providers. The
services have to become innovative and needs-based, meeting the day to
day needs of the common man.

Kris Dev
India

-- 
Kris Dev (Krishnan)
[EMAIL PROTECTED]
http://ll2b.blogspot.com




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

2004-12-20 Thread Ken DiPietro
Dear GKD Members,

As an ISP that uses alternative technologies to deliver connectivity I
believe that I can not only speak with some authority on this subject
but also offer some insight. I have opted for an in-line approach so as
to preserve continuity in the discussion.


On 12/10/04, Cornelio Hopmann wrote:

 To state it: in many cases they should not!...and not for the sake of
 avoiding spending but rather to avoid harming the Developing
 Countries.

I am not sure how a proper implementation of communications
infrastructure could harm a developing country - the key point being
proper implementation. Technology isn't an inherently good or bad thing;
it is how it is deployed and then used that determines if it is helpful
or harmful.


 Why? Investing in and operating ICT-infrastructure takes money. This
 money may be spent in 3 different ways:
 
 (a) Paying for equipment (or reducing it's price) to be donated
 (b) Subsidizing material Operation-costs (like communication lines,
 energy etc.)
 (c) Paying local personnel totally or partially
 
 Let's see now position by position:
 
 (a) Actually the money goes to vendors of equipment, not to
 beneficiaries (i.e. it gives access to a market where otherwise there
 would be no access). Moreover -due to the high operation-costs- in many
 cases recipients of these donations find themselves either obliged to
 spend where otherwise they would not have spent a cent or simply not use
 the donated equipment.

Please allow me to respectfully disagree with you. Yes, the money goes
to vendors who provide the necessary equipment and we would all like to
think this is done with a careful eye to securing the best pricing much
like would happen when a small businessman purchases equipment for his
own company. Does this directly help the local economy? No, but it does
provide the raw material that will help the recipients.

The trap you mention is when a poorly thought out plan that doesn't
properly take into account real costs or replacement costs is rolled
out. This type of inadequate  planning causes failures regardless of
where this is executed. The idea that anyone would put together a plan
that forces high costs on to anyone is a sure sign that the
administration should be replaced - not the technology.

Any plan that is suggested needs to be carefully reviewed to ensure
there is no hidden costs and that the real benefit is realized as
opposed to causing harm.


 (b) Specifically if we talk about subsidizing communication costs, the
 money again goes to the big players not the beneficiaries. Again it
 opens a market that otherwise would not be accessible. Additionally in
 many, many countries local communication costs are artificially inflated
 by a monopoly situation or by the fact that local Telco's have to feed
 so many interested parties -from corrupt executives to corrupt
 politicians- that the TELCO-business is closer to Mafia-racketeering
 than to an honest business. Foreign money would allow them to perpetuate
 this situation.

I fail to see why anyone would put additional complimentary
infrastructure in place when this type of problem is known to exist. We
are not interested in forcing international communications on someone
who doesn't know anyone in other countries. What would be the benefit to
anyone in that situation? So what would help? The ability to communicate
with the village a few miles away and access to informational resources.
As an ISP I can reliably tell you that the overwhelming portion of our
traffic stays in our borders. Anyone who wishes to make an international
call should use the existing telecommunications infrastructure, otherwise
we risk their wrath.

This type of communication infrastructure can be put in place
independent of the local telecommunications concerns and in areas where
this scenario is likely to be a problem the incumbents should be avoided
at every possible juncture. As text messaging is useless to anyone
illiterate we need to provide the ability to record a voice message and
deliver it to wherever it needs to be sent FOR FREE.

Better still, a video recording service would allow for both picture and
sound to be recorded, transmitted, received on the other end, listened
to so that an answer can be recorded and sent back. All of this can be
accomplished without touching the telephone infrastructure and more
importantly this can be done very inexpensively.

This very same infrastructure could also be used to transmit information
on any subject. In other words, someone in a remote location might need
medical information as to how to treat a burn (for example) and they
could make a request for this information, transmit the request and the
correct information could be returned back to them in a multimedia
format. Again, there would be no cost incurred utilizing a system like
this other than replacement should a device break.


 (c) Even though theoretically possible, this one is the least common
 option I've seen...and 

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

2004-12-20 Thread Darrell Owen
Dear Colleagues:

Cornelio Hopmann makes a number of correct observations, but at least in
my mind, the focus of the discussion needs to be expanded in order to
get a clearer picture as to the issue of subsidizing the Internet. As
defined, the points Cornelio makes is a bit like focusing on the
dynamics of building a road, and trying to determine its value by only
looking at those elements associated with the direct construction of the
road. The real value of building an infrastructure, be it telecom,
internet, or a road, lies not in its construction, nor even its
operation, but rather, in its use.

If these infrastructures are put into locations and settings where there
is no leveraging of the investment, then Cornelio's arguments would be
correct. But, if these investments are put into locations such that the
infrastructure is leveraged, then it doesn't hold up; at least not in my
mind. When an Internet infrastructure can expand delivery of education,
economic opportunity, expand markets, improve health care, improve
agricultural production or increase prices paid to the farms for their
crops, then the benefits will likely be such as to overcome any downside
arguments associated with subsidizations associated with building the
infrastructure.

Few would make the argument of ICT for ICT's sake, and this would extend
to there not being much of a case to be made for subsidies simply for
infrastructure's sake. But an argument for infrastructure-related
subsidies to achieve targeted value-added use, makes the equation look a
lot more promising.

And as Cornelio points out, doing without subsidies would be better than
with them if the local economics make this possible. In many locations
it simply doesn't. And for sure, any action in this arena should have a
strong focus on targeted results that focus on value-added use, not the
infrastructure itself.


Darrell Owen




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

2004-12-20 Thread Martin Klein
Dear Colleagues,

To me, it seems that subsidies are useful as a way to exploit
bifurcation points in the development of the bottom of the pyramid.

MNCs (multinational corporations) in developed countries should be
stimulated to start entrepreneurial ventures in developing countries as
well as invest in locals who wish to pursue such ventures. This means
that these MNCs invest in the ICT-structure and share in the
accompanying gains. For the MNCs it will be crucial whether they are
able to design a profitable business model.

In all these cases in which MNCs enter the BOP-countries, locals need to
play a central role. So, although developed countries may initiate the
entrepreneurial activities, locals (work and knowledge) and MNCs
(knowledge) work together to make it all work.

For MNCs, a main focus is the development of a profitable (thus
innovative) business model. The role of governments of developed
countries then depends on what MNCs need from these governments in
order for the MNCs to be able to have a profitable business model in
place.

Governments of developed countries could, for example, contribute by
subsidizing the education of locals to use the ICT that is offered.
These same locals can then again educate other locals and as the market
grows in size, locals can start their own ventures in educating the
market.

Therefore, it seems to me that some form of subsidizing isn't so bad
for as far as it fulfills certain conditions:

- The business model makes sufficient use of locals.

- Subsidizing by governments of developed countries is aimed at those
aspects of the business model in which the MNC needs help to put a
profitable business model in place (against reasonable costs).

- The initiative of the MNC helps to make use of bifurcation points in
the development of the BOP, which makes it possible for the subsidies to
be temporary.

- As you pointed out, the subsidies need to reach the locals personally.


Regards,

Martin


On 12/10/04, Cornelio Hopmann wrote:

 As it was tacitly touched upon in our recent focused discussion and is a
 hot topic for WSIS-2005, I would be interested in other opinions.
 
 To state it: in many cases they should not!...and not for the sake of
 avoiding spending but rather to avoid harming the Developing
 Countries.
 
 Why? Investing in and operating ICT-infrastructure takes money. This
 money may be spent in 3 different ways:
 
 (a) Paying for equipment (or reducing it's price) to be donated
 (b) Subsidizing material Operation-costs (like communication lines,
 energy etc.)
 (c) Paying local personnel totally or partially

..snip...




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

2004-12-10 Thread Cornelio Hopmann
Dear Colleagues,

As it was tacitly touched upon in our recent focused discussion and is a
hot topic for WSIS-2005, I would be interested in other opinions.

To state it: in many cases they should not!...and not for the sake of
avoiding spending but rather to avoid harming the Developing
Countries.

Why? Investing in and operating ICT-infrastructure takes money. This
money may be spent in 3 different ways:

(a) Paying for equipment (or reducing it's price) to be donated
(b) Subsidizing material Operation-costs (like communication lines,
energy etc.)
(c) Paying local personnel totally or partially

Let's see now position by position:

(a) Actually the money goes to vendors of equipment, not to
beneficiaries (i.e. it gives access to a market where otherwise there
would be no access). Moreover -due to the high operation-costs- in many
cases recipients of these donations find themselves either obliged to
spend where otherwise they would not have spent a cent or simply not use
the donated equipment.

(b) Specifically if we talk about subsidizing communication costs, the
money again goes to the big players not the beneficiaries. Again it
opens a market that otherwise would not be accessible. Additionally in
many, many countries local communication costs are artificially inflated
by a monopoly situation or by the fact that local Telco's have to feed
so many interested parties -from corrupt executives to corrupt
politicians- that the TELCO-business is closer to Mafia-racketeering
than to an honest business. Foreign money would allow them to perpetuate
this situation.

(c) Even though theoretically possible, this one is the least common
option I've seen...and comes with the risk that the hired personnel
looks after the interests of their employers rather than the needs of
those whom they supposedly serve.

There are arguments that without subsidies many poor could not afford
ICT-services or would not use them as being too expensive compared with
other options. Well, these seem to me similar to the arguments that by
subsidizing agro-exports below production-costs (Milk, Grains, Rice,
Sugar, etc.) the big ones -USA, European Union, others- help the poor
to get fed...yet we all know that in practice this dumping destroys
local economies and does not help develop them.

Corollary: Unless it can be shown beforehand that by using ICT-services
people are truly better off or that a specific development-objective
cannot be obtained by other more efficient (without subsidies!) and
effective means, subsidies have a tendency to deepen and not to correct
distortions.


Yours sincerely,

Cornelio




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