Have you seen the CD rom titled " We`re not on the Internet. SO WHAT."
It pictures four "bushmen" infront of an all-terrain Land rover?
This article`s title is a take off from that and I`m going to question
the issue of "teledensity" in African telecommunications development.
For a healthy dose of teledensity, pick up a copy of "Telephone
density: The World Telephone" or simply go through International
Telecommunications Union reports concerned with Africa.
Here is one synopsis of developing nations grouped according to
teledensity within a 1983 CIDA telecommunication and development
document. Teledensity - Telephones per 100 population (1979)
Group 1 countries: starts with Tunisia at 2.9 and ends with Cyprus
scoring 16.9. No sub-Saharan African country within this category
Group 2 countries: starts with India at 0.4 and ends with
Syria 2.7. African countries included Ghana (0.6), Madagascar(0.4),
and Tanzania (0.4)
Group 3 countries: starts with Rwanda, Chad, Burkina Faso and Zaire at
0.1 and ends with Sudan and Uganda at 0.3 each. The other African
countries included Nigeria and Ethopia at 0.2 each.
Teledensity is a quantitative telecommunication development indicator.
Gaston Zongo of the Senegal based African Telecommunication
Observatory has this to say about such indicators in the observatory`s
"Most Conventional anaylsis view telecommunications in Africa mainly
from a quantitative technological angle and hence, often not in a
favourable light. Expect in specific studies carried out for
investment projects, is rarely analysed from an economic stand point"
This brings me back to the telecentre argument. If the emphasis is on
the number of ICT gadgets that finds it way into the telecentre rather
than on the supportive role (economic wise) to a business and
community, then Africa will continue to record relative low values on
the quantiative telecommunications development indicator.
I also don`t think we must conceptualize, measure and rate African ICT
development interms of oversimplified indicators (e.g teledensity). If
we do we would still be selling ICT development as evovling the
developing nation Chad from a teledensity of 0.1 (1 per 100 person) to
that of developed America (average of 78 per 100 person) or developed
Europe (average of 50 per 100 person).
Perharps it is time to overhaul some of those coventional indicators
and analysis to take into account the diverse and expident use of ICT
equipments in Africa.
Dakar`s fishing community (Sembemdoiune) is about a 100metres away
from one of the City`s artisan community (Village Artisan) and both
are on one of Dakar`s coastal route leading downtown. Both communities
have several private telecentres around their locations to serve them.
For argument sake, let us say they have 4 telecentre each. They can
make a call and receive one at all four, send and receive a fax two
telecentres, surf the internet and maintain email accounts at only
one. Note that to receive a call at a telecenter you`ll need an
arrangement in place with the owner of telecentre.
It is possible that the many artists in NewYork`s artist village
(Greenwhich) in lower Manhattan may have on average one phone fax, and
one computer with internet access.
Picture this: Both Dakar`communities (artisan and fishing communities)
of 100 persons each would be scoring 0.4 for telephone density, 0.2
for telefax density, O.1 for email and internet density. The Geenwhich
New York artist community of a 100 person would score 100 for all
these density. Assuming service quality (subjective) is the same in
Dakar and New York, which of these community is underdeveloped interms
of ICT Use?. The communication needs of both group are met.
Try this: Any member of the 100 New York artist can add WebTV to his
collection of existng ICT equipment. The Dakar artist may have to wait
for local telecom to finalize the radio frequency issue for wireless
services to expand and for one of those telecentre to add WebTV to
their service if the owner perceives the demand. There will be an
apparent lag in introducing WebTV and a host of Multimedia to the
Dakar fishing and artisan communities. Does this make them
underdeveloped in terms of ICT as compared to Greenwich?
Adrian Q. Labor