Riff Fullen wrote:
"Moreover, it may be just as easy to ensure a high degree of security by
concentrating on the data itself rather than the conduit; a setup where
messages are routinely encrypted, or where sensitive messages are
encrypted for example, could allow an organisation to support local
providers while maintaining control over its own information."
This is standard practice for many corporations who send sensitive
corporate information over the Internet and corporate "Intranets" that
use the Net. There are some pretty powerful security tools out there.
It is estimated that at least 80% of the Internet security risk is based
within the walls of the organization - sloppy people, passwords on
post-it notes stuck to monitors, etc. Those same security problems
exist for dedicated internal networks.
If a small portion of the MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars spent on
dedicated leased-line networks for big donors and big international NGOs
were put to use to install Internet security solutions (including basic
training for staff on how to protect passwords), then donor purchasing
power *could* be leveraged very effectively to support local ISPs.
In one example I know of, it costs the donor agency about $12,000 US per
month (not including extortionate set-up fees) to keep ONE of its
regional field offices serviced with email and web access via a
dedicated leased-line network. Meanwhile, the ISP and telecom
environment in the host country is more than capable of providing the
same level of service, with good security, at about 1/5 that cost.
The real issue here seems to involve the mis-guided, paranoid corporate
culture of some of the big donor agencies. The top decision-makers are
not typically IT users and are often "clueless" and easily swayed by
internal IT managers that want to build global leased-line IT empires
and build bigger and bigger IT budgets. For an IT manager who has
little or no training/experience in capacity building development, it is
much easier to manage their own machines and lines than to manage the
capacity building initiatives that could leverage donor purchasing power
to assist local ISPs.
Ultimately, the donor agencies separate their own internal management
functions, IT functions and dollars from their capacity building
functions and dollars. This wall of bureaucracy prevents donor
purchasing power from enhancing capacity building functions. A savvy IT
manager only has to mention the "security bogeyman" once or twice to the
decision-makers and the IT dept. gets its toys and wires.
The $1.2 million for the African Virtual University is peanuts compared
to the money the donors pump into their personal networks in Africa. To
be frank, I find this obscene.
Rural Extension Studies
University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
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