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Hello Afrik-it-ers,
 
Allow me to introduce myself first. I'm Nemo Semret,
writing from PADIS, the Pan African Development Information
System, a UN agency based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I'm
here on a consultancy, but I'm normally at the Center for
Telcom. Research at Columbia University, in New York.
 
There was a recent posting headed:
 
 
About the .gh above:  does Ghana already have full TCP/IP
connectivity to the Internet? If not, then how come it has
an Internet domain? If so that is (great) news to me. I
recently saw surveys saying that SA, Zambia, Egypt and
Tunisia were the only ones that have full TCP/IP.  ould
Michael (or someone else) brief us on the state of
connectivity in Ghana? Particularly, I'm interested in what
approach people in such countries -- which are not
geographically near an IP node -- have taken (or are going
to take) to connect: dial-up, leased line, satellite, etc.
? Also, who are the access providers: government or
private?
 
Which brings me to an issue which I think merits discussion
here: that of the deregulation of Telecoms in African
countries. Deregulation in itself is in my opinion a good
thing in this context. Private  operators would ensure
better service and faster development of the information
infrastructures  than a state monopoly. The latter cannot
move fast enough, nor take the necessary risks, nor be as
sensitive to the needs of it's customers. A good example is
the various options to connect to an IP node. They vary in
terms of cost, quality, speed. Ultimately, the market would
probably be a better arbiter than a single state run body
as to what is the best combination of techniques. I also
believe "private" does not preclude cooperation. The
African pool of knowledge and experience in this field is
still shallow, and we need to share it as widely as
possible.
 
One thing I'm worried about is the positioning of
multi-nationals to jump into the African market once it
becomes open to the private sector. Is there a danger that
a deregulated African telecoms market would be immediately
taken over by foreign operators? I don't mean to be
paranoid, if I were them I would want to do just that. But
as we all realize, the dawn of the information age presents
a unique window of opportunity to Africa for *real*
development and equity. If foreign corporations were to
dominate the field, Africa would miss it's best opportunity
to break out of the current cycles of negative investment
(i.e. outflow) of people, resources and capital, of
dependence and poverty.
 
The real challenge for our governments is to find the
regulatory framework that will ensure a free and
competitive market in the information industries, one where
local and regional players have a fair chance against the
giants... and we need this framework set up yesterday. They
should work on that, and leave the actual ownership and
running of the networks to the private sector.
 
For example, XYZ, an African start-up Internet access
provider is unlikely to afford it's own link to the global
network. Say the best option would be to lease bandwidth on
AT&T's under-water fiber encircling Africa. But if AT&T
also owns a competing access provider, they could charge
XYZ much more than their subsidiary, drive them out of
business, and thus end up controlling the market. At the
same time, protectionist approaches like blocking foreign
ownership altogether is not constructive since that would
only distort the market, and encourage corrupt hidden
dealings. So we would need laws that say to AT&T: "you can
operate this cable, but you must treat all the bandwidth
buyers equally."
 
Let us hope that the national telecoms monopolies in Africa
will succesfully transform themselves from sole players
into detached, open-minded and far- sighted referees.
 
If I sound overly simplistic or naive, please forgive me,
I'm not a policy analyst, just a techie who got carried
away.
 
    -nemo-
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 > The company's full address is
 
 > Aldon Computer Systems Limited
 > P. O. Box A20
 > LA, Accra
 > Ghana
 
 > Tel:    +233-21-772491
 >         +233-27-556972
 
 > Fax:    +233-21-773094
 
 
 > I should be grateful if you could let me know if you
 > are interested in such a
 > relationship.Please forward this to anyone who might
 > be of some assistance.
 
 > Thank you for your anticipated support and
 > cooperation.
 
 > Yours faithfully
 
 
 
 > Michael K. Larbi
 > Managing Director