Dear AFRIK-IT List
re: ISP viability in Africa. I think Jeff Cochrane has a point. The point of
any new technology is either to enable organisations or people to do things
that they cannot do before, or to do what they do already more cheaply. The
Internet offers both. And any African institution that spends money on
international contact is a potential customer.
I have a small business in Poland and we sell bar code technologies. For
sure not every shop, warehouse, factory, electricity company, government
body in Poland can afford them, but the ones that can cut their costs, and
Surely the Internet also offers productivity gains. People who are faxing at
the moment, and any trading company will be do that a lot, can save a lot of
money by using email.I am trying to get a business similar to the one I have
here going in Ghana, and it is a real benefit to be able to send email.
Faxing from Poland to Ghana costs something like US$20 minimum, and I have
to wait several hours for Polish Telecom to get me the connection. Thus
email is cheaper, quicker, and helping (possibly) to small business people
introduce a new technology.
Even if the Internet is only helping the people with money already, it will
help them raise their productivity, the growth rate, and mean that with
increasing competition, the amount of time the average person has to work to
get something falls (IE real incomes rise). Before the market reforms in
Poland, an average person might work for two days to buy an orange. Now it
is about 15 minutes.
But the most important point to note is that it is not an issue of
government policy at all, if some private individual or business decides to
risk his own capital on setting up an internet service. We can sit at
different places on the planet predicting success or failure, but in the end
it is not our business. It is that person's and their customers. If it
fails, well it has not cost the country a cent. I guess if someone set up an
email->fax link in New York, and had a sales pitch in Lagos, "one page fax
to New York for a dollar" there might just be a queue. But I could be wrong.
It is an issue of government policy if government money is being used to
subsidize it, because then there is the issue of whether the money could not
be better spent elsewhere. It is also an issue if the telecom laws stop
people going into this business.
The immediate lack of benefits for the ordinary person is not a reason to be
against the Internet in Africa, or against most new technologies at most
times. A few entrepreneurs taking risks can often be a quicker way to get
something started than a government plan, with feasibility studies, and the
need for certainty, in a world which is rapidly changing and uncertain.
regards to all readers of the list