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AFRIK-IT  February 1996

AFRIK-IT February 1996

Subject:

Private firms and rural areas

From:

Jeff Cochrane USAID AfricaLink <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Mon, 12 Feb 1996 13:41:11 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (68 lines)

The good Dr. Lisse remarks:
 
> It is also important because it starts from a wrong assumption,
> that free enterprise is the way, always.
 
I asked around the office, but failed to find anyone at USAID that
believes that "free enterprise is the way, always."  But I'll keep
checking... ;*)
 
Dr. Lisse continues:
 
> none of the commercial Internet efforts outside of South Africa
> are viable and it is highly debatable if they will be.
 
I presume Dr. Lisse means that none of the private sector TCP/IP
international service providers outside of South Africa are viable.
I agree that the jury is still out for them.  (There are, however,
quite a few email-only providers in the private sector that are quite
viable.)
 
Uganda and Ghana are certainly the most interesting test cases for
three TCP/IP systems that started in the private sector.  Zambia is
an interesting test case for a system that started in the public
sector and then was privatized.  The true test will be whether any of
the four are operating with a positive cash flow in a year's time.
 
And Dr. Lisse complains:
 
> What is downright annoying is that those commercial ISPs will of
> course not go into the rural, deprived areas.
 
Why "of course"?  Is there no penetration of private sector ISPs in
South Africa in rural areas?  Rather, I think the private ISPs in
South Africa provide service anywhere in South Africa where there is
a phone for a SLIP/PPP connection, plus a bit of cash to cover a
subscription.
 
Further, ISPs in South Africa provide full Internet access in
Botswana to anyone who can afford the US$0.65 per minute
telecommunication charge paid to Botswana Telecomms.  The reason
there is no local dialup in Gaborone for these services is not
because firms do not wish to provide the service. Rather, Botswana
Telecomms will not permit it.
 
And for those who for some reason have a strong dislike for private
sector ISPs, there is always Rhodes and SANGONet.  But those
services aren't free.  Even if the end user pays low or no fees,
someone is paying for the facility, utilities, equipment
maintenance, technical support, the telephone charges...
 
The key question for "rural, deprived areas" is how shall their
access be paid?  Is the public sector somehow better able than the
private sector to provide such areas with access?  What about some
blending of the two? Should public funds be funneled through public
service providers, or should those funds subsidize public
subscriptions to private service providers?  Or a bit of both,
depending on the context?
 
A related question for "rural, deprived areas" is how shall their
access be organized.  I notice in ZamNet's fee structure a provision
for "walk-in" service.  That is, someone without a computer or a
telephone can walk into ZamNet's office and have access to a
terminal.  Some people call this a "kiosk" service.  I know that
something similar is offered by the service in Freetown.
 
Cheers!
Jeff @ Gaborone, Botswana

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