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AFRIK-IT  February 1996

AFRIK-IT February 1996

Subject:

Update on Botswana

From:

Jeff Cochrane <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 18 Feb 1996 18:51:12 -5

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (68 lines)

Greetings All!
 
I was lead to believe Botswana was a rather dry, arid place.  It's
rained almost every day I've been here.  When it's not raining, it's
a sunny and crisp 25 C degrees or so.  Perfect weather for assessing
Internet possibilities...
 
As in so many of the places I've visited, there is much happening
here.  The government is presently debating with itself what to do
about the Internet, with officials in various departments arguing the
merits.  Recently a local company decided to defy the telephone
company's ban on operating a commercial email service, and the phone
company reportedly cut (physically, with clippers) all their lines.
 
I did not speak to the telephone company while I was here, since that
was not in my official mission statement of work.  But according to
others, the telephone company has refused to allow any third-party
traffic on its lines, and it has been slow to provide services that
might be used in conjunction with Internet access.  According to one
agency, the phone company was asked for a leased line to South
Africa, and the leased line was promised, but the phone company has
not provided it.
 
There is an active interest in many circles in acquiring TCP/IP
access to the Internet here, and there appears to be a willingness on
the part of several parties to pay the bills.  Sprint is reportedly
offering to provide a 128kbps link via satellite for $20,000 per
month.  The government will of course have to grant some kind of
operating license.  Some with whom I have spoken are confident that
it will be granted.  I hear parliament may also soon pass legislation
to loosen things up a bit.  If that happens, there are reportedly
several companies waiting in the wings to provide full Internet
access immediately.
 
I've been told that $20,000 is very expensive for such a link.  I
know in Uganda they pay much less.  I'm told that a 64k link to UNZA
is a fifth of that price.  I do not know why Sprint is charging so
much.  I believe they are offering a link using a C-band satellite
system, which I'm told is unusual.  (I don't know much about
satellites.)
 
Meanwhile, the only alternative is dialup access to South Africa.
There are many organizations and individuals that do this.  By
African standards, the international phone charges to South Africa
are quite inexpensive: about US$0.50 per minute.  So you can "surf"
the web over a SLIP link for $30 an hour.  That seems a bit
expensive, but a Fido or CC:Mail or UUCP link for the quick exchange
of mail is quite feasible, with good data connections.
 
To overcome the government ban on operating a local node, many
organizations operate in-house systems, running CC:Mail or UUCP and
distributing mail within their office.  This limited networking
appears to be legal, but for one office to communicate with another,
the mail must generally pass through South Africa.  SADC runs a UUCP
system to SANGONet, for example, and we discussed the possibility of
linking SADC to SACCAR (both offices in Gaborone) using the same
technology.
 
That's the update on Botswana.  Interesting place.  Every country
should have so many diamonds.  I thought about spending $700 to fly
up to Chobe and look at crocodiles, but I'm told there's too much
water and too many leaves on the trees blocking the view (and I
don't have $700).
 
Cheers!
 
Jeff @ Johannesburg

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