The good Dr. Lisse politely points out:
> By the way, there is currently no UN Internet effort in Africa
> that is even remotely concerned about sustainability...
My sense from discussions in Malawi late last year was that the UN
staff there were genuinely concerned about the problem of
sustainability. Whether their effort in Malawi and elsewhere proves
to be sustainable remains to be seen. But reports reaching me
suggest they are now at a stage where they are listening to a lot of
people and perhaps rethinking their strategy with an eye toward
What seems missing in most debates is a clear idea of how donors
with investment funds can apply their capital sustainably. Suppose a
donor has, say, US$600,000 to "provide full Internet access" in a
country. How should these funds be spent to "provide" the access?
I was recently with a colleague reviewing a World Bank report (while
seated in their coffee shop -- good cofee, by the way, and reasonably
priced) that suggests recurring costs of about US$130,000 a year from
a 64kbps VSAT hub. Those figures seem about right to me. In a demand
assessment I wrote for Niger, I worked with the proprietor of a local
computer firm to draw up a business plan, and calculated recurring
costs of about $160,000, but that included a roughly US$40,000
allowance for capital depreciation.
As an aside, I reworked the figures on a VSAT full-Internet
business to compare with a Fido or UUCP dial-up email/document
exchange business, providing full international email and local
html/ftp document access to about 40 computers in a country,
requiring a revenue of only about US$20,000 a year to break even.
You can have a look at my numbers for this type of enterprise on
The figures on a VSAT business are in a USAID printed report entitled
THREE-YEAR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT PLAN Prepared for the United States
Agency for International Development, Division of Information
Resource Management, Consulting and Information Services
USAID PROJECT (969-0100) INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER, MARKETING
INTERNET SERVICES IN NIGER
by Jeffrey A. Cochrane and Issaka Idrissa-Mossi, June 9, 1995
In a place like Niger, is there US$160,000 worth of demand for
full-Internet access? I think so. The issue is not so much one of
demand but of supply. How shall supply be organized. Or, to put it
another way, how will supply organize itself? And in that process,
if a donor steps up with US$600,000, what shall we say?
Jeff @ Washington, DC USA