Sv: Re: Re: [governance] Effects of lack of electricity on the digital divide

Ann-Kristin Håkansson akigua at
Mon Jul 23 10:51:11 EDT 2007

Dear Ronda,
I agree that commercial and political pressure should not be put on scientific and technical development but i still see that the implementation of that development depend on political decisions. 
Best regards,
Ann-Kristin----Ursprungligt meddelande----Från: ronda.netizen at gmail.comDatum: Jul 23, 2007 1:47:23 PMTill: governance at, Ann-Kristin Håkansson Kopia: ronda hauben Ärende: Re: Re: [governance] Effects of lack of electricity on the digital divide
Dear Ann-Kristin
During the early development of the Internet there was an AUP - an Acceptible Use Policy.
This was a means of restricting commercial participation and political pressure. 
The scientific and technical development was possible because the commercial and political pressures were being managed and kept from impeding the scientific and technical development. 
The Information Processing Techniques Organization (IPTO) which provided the leadership for this development was also subject to political pressures and by the mid 1980s this became a serious problem which eventually led its ending. 
So there are political pressures to be sure - for science and technology to function there is a need to have an environment where the scientists and engineers can do their research and the political pressures are kept from impeding the developments. 
So Ann-Kristin I would disagree with your formulation. There's a need for science and the scientific approach to the technology to dominate, not poltiics. (I realize you could say this is political, but then the science is lost.) 
best wishes
On 7/23/07, Ann-Kristin Håkansson <akigua at> wrote: 

Dear Ronda,
Isn´t this what we tried to describe all along the WSIS process? However, I´m not sure that building infrastructure is only a scientific or commercial problem, I think it is mainly political.
Indigenous ICT tf----Ursprungligt meddelande----Från: ronda.netizen at gmail.comDatum: Jul 23, 2007 1:26:34 AM Till: governance at, yehudakatz at mailinator.comKopia: ronda hauben Ärende: Re: [governance] Effects of lack of electricity on the digital divide
Thanks for sending this article to the list. It just seems that the job of connecting Rawanda and other African
countries to the Internet and building infrastructure is a scientific problem, not a commercial problem.
The problems described remind me of the kinds of problems (though different) that the pioneers building
the Internet faced, and they figured out how to solve them as they were focusing on a scientific 
approach and using the technology they had developed to help them solve the problems.
At the UN there was a presentation by Professor Juma, a Harvard Professor originally from Kenya, 
talking about how Rwanda is a prototype for others. He didn't mention the problems being encountered
so it is good to see the real situation described.
After the WSIS meeting in Tunisia I met a government official from Tanzania who described the problems
of spreading connectivity and how the commercial efforts were to make a profit not to spread the net.
So its not that the commercial should not be part of the situation dealing with the problem, but putting
the solution in their hands is probably not going to solve the problems in itself.

On 7/22/07, yehudakatz at <yehudakatz at > wrote: 

Brilliant post Kwasi - excellentI also found this article interesting:Africa, mostly offline, struggles to get on the Internet By Ron NixonRe: The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com, July 22, 2007 On a muggy day in Kigali in 2003, some of the highest-ranking officials in theRwandan government, including President Paul Kagame, flanked an American businessman, Greg Wyler, as he boldly described how he could help turn their small country into a hub of Internet activity.Wyler, an executive based in Boston who made his fortune during the technologyboom, said he would lace Rwanda with fiber optic cables, connecting schools,government institutions and homes with low-cost, high-speed Internet service. Until that point, Wyler, 37, had never set foot in Africa - he was invited by a Rwandan government official he had met at a wedding. Wyler never expected tostart a business there; he simply wanted to try to help the war-torn country. Even so, Wyler's company, Terracom, was granted a contract to connect 300 schools to the Internet. Later, the company would buy 99 percent of the sharesin Rwandatel, the national telecommunications company, for $20 million. But after nearly four years, most of the benefits hailed by him and his company have failed to materialize, Rwandan officials say. "The bottom line is that hepromised many things and didn't deliver," Albert Butare, the Rwandan telecommunications minister, said.Wyler says he sees things differently and that he and the Rwandan officials will probably never agree on why their joint venture has been so slow to getoff the ground. But Terracom's tale is more than a story about a business dispute in Rwanda. It is also emblematic of what can happen when good intentions run into the technical, political and business realities of Africa.Attempts to bring affordable high-speed Internet service to the masses have made little headway on the continent. Less than 4 percent of the African population is connected to the Web. Most subscribers are in North Africancountries and the republic of South Africa.A lack of infrastructure is the biggest problem. In many countries, years of civil conflict destroyed communications networks, and continuing political instability deters governments or companies from investing in new systems.E-mail messages and phone calls sent from some African countries have to be routed through Britain, or even the United States, increasing expenses and delivery times. About 75 percent of African Internet traffic is routed this wayand costs African countries billions of extra dollars each year that they would not incur if their infrastructure was up to date."Most African governments haven't paid much attention to their infrastructure,"said Vincent Oria, an associate professor of computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology who is from the Ivory Coast. "In places where hunger, AIDS and poverty are rampant, they didn't see it as critical until now."Rwandan officials were especially interested in wiring schools, seeing information technology as crucial to modernizing the rural economy. But as of mid-July, only one-third of the 300 schools covered in Terracom'scontract had high-speed Internet service. All 300 were supposed to have been connected by 2006.Overall, less than 1 percent of the population is connected to the Internet. Rwandan officials say Terracom seems more interested in tapping the morelucrative cellphone market than in being an Internet service provider. In November, Wyler stepped down as chief executive of Terracom, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. He still serves on the board.Wyler said by telephone from his Boston home that he would not address the government's criticism. He said he did not want to be quoted as saying anything negative. But he said there were some things he had not anticipated,particularly the technical challenges of linking the Rwandan Internet network to the rest of the world."Terracom has done everything it can, " he said. "Because of the technical challenges, the Internet service is as good as it's going to get. But givenwhat we started from, I still think we have accomplished a lot. In the beginning there were a few people with Internet service. Now there are thousands."The Rwandan government had hoped that the number of Web surfers would be muchhigher by now. Rwanda has little industry, and its infrastructure is still being rebuilt after the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 to a million people were killed."We have almost no natural resources and no seaports in Rwanda, which leaves usonly with trying to become a knowledge-based society," said Romain Murenzi, the Rwandan minister of science, technology and scientific research. Wyler said he had not been involved in Terracom for nearly 10 months and couldnot comment on its current operations.Christopher Lundh, Terracom's new chief executive and a former executive of Gateway Communications in London, has worked in several African countries. He now lives and works full time in Rwanda, and many government officials sayTerracom's performance has improved under his leadership. Lundh said there were problems with the company's operations in the past but that the Rwandan government was responsible for some of the delays."We would get to schools that don't even have electricity or computers," he said. "That is not our fault."In addition, he said that many of the complaints about the company concernedthings beyond its ability to control. Getting adequate bandwidth remains aconstant challenge. Like most telecommunications companies in eastern Africa, Terracom depends on satellites for Internet service. Satellite service is muchslower than cable because of delays in the signals. Satellites also provideless bandwidth than cable.Adding to the problem is that most of the satellites serving Africa were launched nearly 20 years ago and are aging or going out of commission. Asatellite set to go into service last year blew up on the launching pad. Poweris also an issue, as intermittent power failures in Rwanda hamper efforts to provide a steady electricity source.Despite these limitations and earlier setbacks, Lundh said Terracom was movingahead with plans to give Rwanda the most advanced Internet infrastructure inAfrica. A nationwide wireless connection should begin operating near year-end, he said.Magnus K. Mazimpaka contributed reporting from Rwanda.____________________________________________________________
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