Jeff thanks for your postings recently. I read yours and David's experiences in
Ethiopia. Private services could rescue some of the issues David explained. Many
of such problems (a week or two to set up an account, poor services, technical
difficulties) are the prices a lot of us in Africa pay for monopolistic telecom
services. In a general sense this wall cut off changes in other fields and
overall human development through communications. By the way, monopoly is not
particular problem in Ethiopia. Compare these figures for African countries.
1. Restructuring (separated postal service from telecom) = around 34 countries (
2. Deregulation "independent regulator" = around 21 countries ( 40%)
3. Privatization of telecommunication = around 10 countries ( 20%)
4. Competition in all services 1 (2%) [Ghana].
These figures however do not show qualitative differences. I just arrived from
Malawi a country that has not yet separated postal services from Telecom
(although Malawi Posts and Telecom seems more open compared to other countries,
the government put a regulatory body in place).Another good news is that Malawi
Net intends to give authorization for resale of Internet services (when? was not
clear and depends on whether local loop could support 64K or higher or whether
local service providers would like to get low bandwidth analog leased lines to
support email and other limited services - I did not have time to talk to the
MPTC that was located in Blantayre, BTW that is one of the countries that needs
networking desperately- political city, business city, academic city, etc. are
all far apart- accessible by plane or hours of drive!).
I do support Mengisteab's idea that Ethiopian Telecom has done a job to setup
Internet services. For many of us who were desperate -thanks god - if they have
not done it (with the monopoly) no one would have access to the Internet to
date! I do not however agree that they provide best services - there are rooms
for improvement. Regarding PADISnet as far as I know the service is cheap
Moreover, email only. PADIS has limited support personnel (5% of one of ECA
staff) to maintain it now that has implication on reliability. The original goal
of PAIDSnet was to create awareness and encourage private and cooperative
services to emerge - I am glad that ECA has succeeded in that!
On the skill front, there are a lot of highly skilled young men coming back to
Ethiopia after years of exile from Mengistu's regime that would like to provide
up to the minute and professional services- (We have some that have already
flown from Europe and America to load Netscape and enter IP numbers!). Many of
them are waiting for days when private Internet services are possible!
Jeff's postings on scientific collaboration and Clement's contribution are
timely. It is interesting to read other various angles from which participants
in this list approached "collaboration". Discussion is very much needed among
scientists in Africa whoever the donor or the promoter may be (the majority do
not see that there is such a possibility- awareness campaigns are still valid).
As usual there should be champions that emerge from African scientists who could
also act as moderators. Demonstration of benefits and awareness campaigns could
help in identifying champions. One problem with lists is keeping them alive!
Experience also shows that:
- the degree of collaboration using Internet and other email tools heavily
depends on the nature of research, commitment of researchers, incentives, social
contacts between their counterparts than the technology. We put up link in
Addis Ababa University and found out that the Chemistry and Biology departments
uses it effectively compared to others - these two departments have
committed professors, active research groups etc.
-less costly and simple tools such as email and file transfer could make a
difference as much as elaborate and costly tools - due to resource limitation
and sustainability requirement. Research on implications of the Internet, which
tool, what technology, degree of use, etc. is timely.
- communication could fight the so-called "exploitation" if any. I have not
experienced that and a two year qualitative study we conducted in the area of
ICT impact does not show adequate signs that all donors and/or collaborative
projects are for setting their own agenda, etc..;-).