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AFRIK-IT  January 1996

AFRIK-IT January 1996

Subject:

Re: Internet in Rwanda

From:

Dr Eberhard W Lisse <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Tue, 30 Jan 1996 21:08:00 GMT+0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (133 lines)

Jeff,
 
At 7:01 PM 27/1/96, Jeff Cochrane USAID AfricaLink wrote:
[...]
>Yes I myself tend to prefer the word "facilitate" or "encourage", for precisely
>the reason Dr. Lisse notes.  But I do see the word "provide" in a lot of donor documents.
>
>I offered the following address as the location for a budget I worked out for a
>small business offering an electronic mail service:
>> >http://www.info.usaid.gov:80/alnk/budget.html
 
[...] This is me now :-)-O
 
>> Anyway, I have downloaded the file and had a look at the numbers, they
>> don't make much sense other to prove my point, that you can not do it
>> other than on a non profit basis.
>
>The growing number of commercial telematics enterprises in Africa seems to
>suggest that for-profits may in many contexts be able to offer quality service
>at competitive prices.  Indeed, there are firms that make a "profit" but cost
>less than agencies supported with large infusions of cash from donors.
 
Where are these commercial telematics enterprises? All Internet efforts in Africa
with the exception of South Africa, Egypt and Namibia (as the only developing
country) are fully funded from the outside. This was raised with great concern
at AFRISTECH in Dakar by a Kenyan NGO.
 
>The subsidy that a university offers, for example, in donating staff time, a
>facility, utilities, etc. should be considered in the equation.  We economists do
>have rather funny ways of looking at these things, I will admit!
 
There is your mistake. You say you must put it into into the equation, but
you also say you make a loss and that's why it can't be done...
 
At least in the beginning, you don't *NEED* these things.
 
 
>Dr. Lisse appears to quarrel with quite a few of my numbers.  I do look forward
>to a review of his alternative budget.  That was, after all, the reason I published
>mine.  I'm hoping those with actual experience will step forward and offer their
>own numbers for comparison.
 
Actual experience, hmm, how am I to understand that?
 
1990 I started emain in Namibia with a 286 and uuPC/extended via
2400 modem to Grahamstown.
 
1992 I got me a 14400 modem and changed to linux. Two other individuals
dialled Grahamstown that year.
 
1993 the University of Namibia's Computer Science Department started a
System V Release 4 which they abandoned for linux after 6 month because
of the bugs in the ttymon which is acknowledged by the reference port :-)-O.
UNam then dialled Grahamstown for the three of us and some 10 researchers
and any student wishing to use the facility.
 
1994 we tried twice to popularize email/Internet and founded NAMIDEF in August.
No budget was drawn up. Unam still dialled the long distance calls for us as
part of their Community Service (and of course for the many Rhodes Scholars).
UNHCR, FAO, UNICEF and WFP joined as members not as donors. Businesses,
small NGOs and Individuals joined (everyone, no exepetion pays at least six months
in advance, the individuals for 12 months).  We moved to new premises rented for
1 $ a year. The company there supported NAMIDEF in kind (secretarial, hardware
as interest free loan) and made a ton of selling "turnkey" systems. Government
joined as member (!).  Other companies provided intrest free loans to buy the
CISCO router which is nowbalanced against their monthly membership fee...
 
1995 we had an AGM in August, we still didn't have a budget, but our books were
audited and in order. We had enough in the bank by now to order the leased line
which came up in September.
 
To date we still don't have a budget, we still don't pay for our premises, we have
paif off all our equipment (2 486s, 12 modems, the CISCO router) and we have
money for two years operating expenses in the bank in addition to the monthly
subscriptions which are more then the expenses. A leased line to the coast is being
ordered (another first in developing Africa) and once that works well a line to the
rural north will be established at a total loss to NAMIDEF.
 
 
We have hired two students to do the menial work of adding users and the like and
of course gain experience with the Internet.
 
None of the office bearers have made a penny off NAMIDEF (as far as I can tell).
 
However we notice that keeping it up (and expanding)  is more difficult then
bringing it up. The "support" is clearly the problem because once you are
established many jump onto the running train who don't really mind how
it works as the enthusiasts in the beginning did.
 
We can afford now to hire a technical person (system maintenance and callout).
 
And we are now working on a budget :-)-O.
 
 
Is this what you meant by actual experience? :-)-O
 
>My own reaction was rather the opposite of Dr. Lisse's.  The fact that a viable
>(fiscally sustainable) electronic mail system requires only $20,000 per year to
>operate strikes me as "nothing but remarkable".
 
This so true.
 
Two points though, it does not "require" 20000, it requires less then half,
the rest is profit, if in disguise :-)-O.
 
Secondly 10000 US Dollars might not be much in the US but it is in Namibia
and certainly in Mali, Niger, Burkina Fasso or Mozambique.
In Namibia  90%  have an average income of 1500 US Dollars per year and
10% (virtually all white) have an average of 15000 US Dollars per  year.
 
I agree with John Quarterman (of whose opinons I have the highest regard)
that there is nothing wrong with commercialism especially if you have
competition. I don't want to have Internet freely for the masses, well,
actually I do, but that is unrealistic. I just don't want to pay for the Porsche
of the owner of the ISP, especially not under the disguise of "development".
 
I am not against profit per se, however I don't agree that in order to do
something there *MUST* be a profit in it for someone. This then connected
to the sustainability issue makes me make the conclusions in my previous
posting.
 
 
el
 
 
--
Dr. Eberhard W. Lisse   \         /              Swakopmund State Hospital
<[log in to unmask]>            *        |               Resident Medical Officer
Private Bag 5004          \      /      +264 64  461503 (pager) 461005 (home) 461004 (fax)
Swakopmund, Namibia        ;____/ Zone/Domain Contact for the NA-DOM
Vice-Chairman, Board of Trustees, Namibian Internet Development Foundation,
an Association not for Gain. NAMIDEF is the Namibian Internet Service Provider.

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