Recently someone mentioned seeing rural full-Internet access at the
SOS Children's Village in Mamelodi, South Africa. Intrigued, I did
a bit of digging and eventually found Patrick Beddy who explained.
Patrick wrote me from Mamelodi. Check their web site:
The key information I learned from Patrick are that Mamelodi has
direct telephone service, and they were able to purchase a leased
line of high quality (19,200 throughput). They now run a web server
and provide access to children in a lab with 30 386 machines.
For those not aware of the organization, SOS operates communities for
orphans and other children whose parents cannot care for them.
Thus the SOS Children's Village offers an exciting model of Internet
access anywhere in rural Africa where there is public electricity
and telephone line access.
Patrick also pointed me to another example of rural South Africa.
Check this web site:
The "Emailing Sisters of Mercy" have email in a quite remote area,
one with no public telephone lines or water supply, though perhaps
with electricity. They have purchased a cellular phone with modem
attachment from Siemens, and connected to the South African cellular
"wire-less" network. They use the UUCP protocol to connect to a
system at the University of Pretoria.
While driving from Gaborone to Johannesburg last February, I noted
with interest every few kilometers very tall red and white towers
serving the cellular network in South Africa. I am told there are
numerous corridors within and between major cities where access to
that network is available. Cellular is more expensive than wire
telephone access in most countries -- I do not know specific prices
in South Africa, but I suspect they are comparable to those we see in
the USA, which are about double ordinary telephone costs for average
use. I know that in Zaire, cellular access is many times more
expensive than wire telephone, with what seem to me to be
astoundingly expensive setup charges. But then in Zaire I am told
there is often no access to wire telephone even in cities. And the
cellular system in Zaire is, according to what people tell me, based
on VSATs with low capacity and high cost.
So the Emailing Sisters of Mercy offers an exciting model for access
in those parts of rural Africa served by cellular networks.
Then there's the activity of the World Food Program in Rwanda, which
uses radio modems, also discussed briefly in this forum. For most of
the rural places in Africa with which I personally am familiar, where
there are at present no public networks at all, the WFP setup strikes
me as offering the most promise in the short term. What's needed,
however, is a description of their costs and technical hurdles. I'm
told by consultants in Washington that these radio modems are
incredibly difficult to set up and operate properly, requiring
skilled (expensive) consultants from America to do assessments of
terrain and antenna configurations. True?
Jeff @ Washington, DC USA
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk