Jeff and Nemo
I`ll add a couple of observation on the ISP access and costs on
Senegal from Senegal to keep the discussion real.
The first thing I did upon arriving in Senegal was to ask where the
ISP and other non TCP /IP providers gather to talk solutions and
potential services. The IDRC-WARO MIS person, who is behind one of
Senegal`s 64Kbps Internet connection, admits nobody talks. Every
capable organization (or body) simply bought a 64Kbps from SONATEL and
did their own thing. Sonatel, the telecom, gets Internet access via
MCI (USA). Senegal`s nine existing internet connections are used for a
wide range of things; institutional, commercial, entertainment,
cooperative and even Government tourism. (Browse the info on them at
The ninth and lastest connection was that established by Cyber
Businees Center and from my understanding, it is owned by a consortium
of interested Senegalese business persons (Http://www.cyg.sn). It is
located downtown (Centre Ville as we say here) and across from the
I`ll say that competitive Internet services in Senegal began when
Cyber Business Center stepped into the scene. Before that, Senegal
Telecom`s Internet business, Telecom-Plus, set the pace with the
Cybercafe, Metissicana as the default competitor.
"Tendenance Informatique Internationale" is Senegal`s only and
struggling ICT magazine that keeps track and offers opinion on these
types of development and other related developments. In its February
1997 issue, the second of three issue since the first one in October
1997, it record the status of this competition. Cyber Business Center
prices are HALF that of Telecom Plus and this is so for every
comparative service (subscription, remote access, onsite accounts
Telecom Plus has the outlook of a robust business with visible outlets
(with one by the university), cars, uniformed personnels and
affiliated with the telecom and the telecom`s french
Nemo Semret`s suggestion on reducing the cost through the
establishment of one hub instead of leasing overseas lines and
including inter-connection among ISPs is an apt suggestion. It
seems like one of the things to do to cut cost in Senegal for the
number of ISP access providers and service providers to grow beyond 9.
Earlier on, I had discussed the idea of inter-connection for the
purpose of providing Web-based email within telecentres around
Senegal. The Question, why are these solution not as obvious to all as
is it to the observers (mostly on Afrik-It)? The same question could
be asked about most of the points Nemo argues in his article
"Unleashing Ethopia`s Potential: The Technological Reasons for Open
and competitive Cybercommunications".
Jeffery Cochranes call for "appropriate costing for connection" by the
African Government telecoms and there after by all providers. This is
the simplest solution and easiest to advocate for. The Question is why
will the bigger ISP`s not advocate this to the government telecom
along with a comprehensive suggestion on how to achieve low access and
service costs and see the ISP access and services grow.? Is it that
the higher capital to establish and run an ISP can easily be recouped
within the small set of high
paying clients? Who own the Big ISPs? Who are the high paying
clinets?. From an economic & profit point of view it is O.K.
However from a development point of view it is NOT O.K.
I did raised the issue here in Senegal by stating the observation that
most Internet connections were (are) virutally foreign financed (at
least the initial connection) and from within the ISP/Private Sector
Coterie that promote Internet business. Somebody used Coporate. I
prefer Coterie to imply that a local and common interest does exist
beyond the pursuit of Internet profits.
I also recalled the days of the Fidonet/NGO Sector Coterie when the
gateway costs were financed by the northern NGOs. I am not opposed to
partnership. I endorse it and believe it is necessary. However it is
the form it takes that ends up always breeding dependency that scares
me. When interest changes as they always do, the dependencies will
surface as always.
If this is a necessary evil, then we should be thinking off how to
buffer the side effects or guage the appropriate point (after a bit of
infrastuctural developements for example) to tip the scale in favour
of the small providers.
Jeff you`ve done extensive work on the disparity in cost and costing
among the nonTCP/IP and ISP providers in Africa. Your paper with Jake
Brunner "Africa and the Internet: Superhighway Checkpoints " goes into
details about the origin and effects of high cost as barriers
and protection by African Governments in Internet Development. I`ll
label it a must read.
However, some of us feel that even if African Governments where to
throw caution to the wind and open up, the current practice and
partnership formed to provide Internet Access and Services in Africa
suggests that Big ISP (ie ISP/Private sector Coterie or those owned by
Foreign-based Coporate ISP) will not take seriously, a development
route. They`ll go the profit route...as they seem to be doing.
In the case of Senegal, I rest my hopes on key decentralisation policy
(or side effects thereof); the profileration of telecentres; the
pioneering work of Gaston Zongo at the Observatorir Economique des
Telecommunications within EMST; the occasional tracking done by the
tendenance International group, and the entrepenurship of Cbyer
Business Center group. Collectively, they can steer Internet
developments in Senegal.
Adrian Q. Labor
Intern. Acacia Initiative