Preface The emergence of modern Information and Communication technologies from radio and telephones to wireless Internet applications

has helped people all over the world. In industrialized countries these tools have played an integral part in economic, social and political development providing means for communication, information and knowledge sharing. In developing countries the ability to communicate is more important now than ever. The divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots is widening and information and communication technologies have the power to turn this development around to the benefit of millions. The United Nations Information and Communication Task Force is a multistakeholder body put together by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to forge linkages and partnerships to use ICTs for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In spite of the many challenges faced by people in the developing world, their need for communication and empowerment through information is so large that innovation has spurred many interesting solutions. The local demand for information services has created many interesting solutions. This publication is an effort to highlight some of these initiatives to change the gloomy view that is currently being perpetuated in the world. I hope that the essays you will find in the following pages will provide you with inspiration and hope for the future. Finally I would like to extend my gratitude to all those people that have contributed to this publication, the authors, the members of the UN ICT Working Group on Low Cost Access and Connectivity, the UN ICT Task Force secretariat and our editor Catherine J. Steele. Astrid Dufborg UN ICT Task Force


Low Cost Access and Connectivity
Local Solutions
A UN ICT Task Force Working Group Paper Series


GHANA “Demand and Supply for Access and Connectivity: The Case of Ghana” By Professor Clement Dzidonu……………………………………….p. 1-20 UGANDA “Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET): ICTs as tools for information access among women in Uganda” By Dorothy Okello, Coordinator, WOUGNET………………………p. 21-37


III. INDIA “Connectivity and Access in India” By Vickram Crishna and Arun Mehta……………………………….p. 38-57 IV. LAOS “Low Cost Access and Connectivity for Laos” By: Vorasone Dengkayaphichith …………………………………..p. 58-74 V. MOZAMBIQUE “The Long Road to Universal Access in Mozambique” By Americo Muchanga and Björn Pehrson……………………….p. 75-88

VI. BENIN “Quelles technologies, quelles actions et quels bénéficiaires pour mettre les NTIC au service du développement au Nord du Bénin ?” By Thomas Baboni et Javier Simó………………………………..p. 89-95 VII. CAMEROON “Stratégies d’intégration du Cameroun à la société de l’information et de la communication“ By Jean Lucien Ewangue…………………………………………p. 96-103


Professor Clement Dzidonu Senior Research Fellow International Institute for Information Technology (INIIT) Accra, Ghana E-mail:

Table of Contents 1.0 A Review of the Policy and Regulatory Framework for Facilitating Access and Connectivity in Ghana 1.1 Establishing the Regulatory Agency 1.2 Liberalization of the Communications Sector 2.0 The Landscape of ‘Access and Connectivity’ in Ghana: Examining Some Key Indicators of Demand and Supply 2.1 On the Provision of Telephone Services 2.2 On Regional Distribution of Demand for Access: Fixed and Payphones 2.3 On the Provision of Mobile Services 2.4 Meeting Public Demand for Access: The Communications Centers 2.5 On the Level and Spread of Internet Access and Connectivity 3.0 Examining the Supply-Side of ‘Access and Connectivity’: The Landscape of the Ghana’s Communications Backbone and Internet Connectivity Infrastructure 3.1 On the Nation’s Communications Network Backbone 3.2 Exploring the Landscape of Internet Access Infrastructure 4.0 Sectorial Analysis of the Demand Side of Access and Connectivity 4.1 On Ownership of Computers 4.2 The Degree of Internet Access, Usage and Presence 5.0 Analyzing the Limiting Factors to the Growth and Spread of Access and Connectivity in Ghana


Abstracts In this paper the term ‘access and connectivity’ is used to broadly examine a number of issues relating to access to communications infrastructure and services with specific reference to access to telecommunication services (fixed and mobile) and to the Internet and its resources by subscribers; namely, individuals and organizations in Ghana. A review of regulatory framework guiding the development of the communications sector in Ghana is provided as well as the details of the landscape of communications sector. Also examined are issues relating to demand and supply of services as they relate to the much broader issue of access and connectivity. The paper examined the rural and urban disparity of access and connectivity in quantitative and qualitative terms and also considers the access and connectivity question in terms of specific target sectors; namely: education, public and private sectors as well as the ICT sector. Also addressed are issues relating to the affordability and sustainability of access as well as some of the factors limiting access and connectivity in Ghana with specific reference to the Internet.

1.0 A Review of the Policy and Regulatory Framework for Facilitating Access and Connectivity in Ghana Ghana has been one of the African countries who in the late 1990’s was in the forefront of the liberalization of the telecommunications sector to attract investments and improve competition within the sector. The communications sector was deregulated in 1994 when the Government initiated the implementation of the Accelerated Development Program 1994-2000 (ADP 2000) -- a five year program for restructuring of the communication industry. This reform program has brought about a number of significant changes in the communications sector, including the introduction of cellular phones, FM radios, cable TV and the Internet. The emergence of these communications services on the Ghanaian scene gave rise to a number of institutional and regulatory initiatives including: • • • • the separation of posts and telecommunication (P&T) into different corporations the separation of regulatory responsibilities from operational and service provision functions the diversification of sources of telecommunication services and the creation of a new Ministry of Communication

On the whole the aim of the ADP was to create a national communications agency, increase the teledensity of the country, allow private participation in some sectors of the industry and permit other network operators to have the same rights and privileges to compete with the national operator, Ghana Telecom Ltd., as a step towards introducing competition at all operational levels of the telecommunications market place. The ADP Program ended in 2000 with the realization of a number of its objectives including increasing the teledensity from 0.34 lines for 1000 inhabitants in 1994 to 1.16 lines in 2000; increasing the number of public phones per 1000 inhabitants from 0.001 in 1994 to 0.16 in 2000; the creation of the National Communications Authority (NCA) in 1996; the licensing of a second national operator; the partial privatization of Ghana Telecom with Government maintaining a 70% share; and the liberalization of the communication sector.


1.1 Establishing the Regulatory Agency The National Communications Authority (NCA) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1996 to regulate communications sector. The specific objectives of the Authority are to: • • • • • • • • ensure that communications services are provided throughout Ghana, as far as they are practicable and reasonably necessary to satisfy demand for the services; ensure that communications system operators achieve the highest level of efficiency in the provision of communications services and are responsive to customer and community needs; promote fair competition among persons engaged in the provision of communications services; protect operators and consumers from unfair conduct of other operators with regard to quality of communications services and payment of tariffs in respect to the services; protect the interest of consumers; facilitate the availability of quality equipment to consumers and operators; promote research into and the development of technologies and use of new techniques by providers of communications services and to develop adequate human resources in collaboration with such other government departments and agencies, as the Authority considers appropriate

1.2 Liberalization of the Communications Sector The liberalization of the communications sector was a key component of the ADP. As part of its policy to liberalize the sector and open it up for competition, the Government granted a second national operating license (the "SNO License") for the provision of telecommunications services to Westel Telesystems. As with the license issued to Ghana Telecom (GT) the SNO License permits Westel Telesystems to provide domestic and international telecommunications services within Ghana including voice telephony, leased lines, public pay phones, telegraph and telex, data, mobile and value added communication services. The GT License and the SNO License allows each of the licensees to: • develop, own and operate a fixed telecommunications service system, • develop, own and operate a wireless system; • develop, own and operate transmission, reception, switching and any other associated equipment for the exchange of wireline and wireless communications; • develop, own and operate earth stations to be connected to other public and private satellite communication systems; • connect to other licensed public and private systems in Ghana and to public and private telecommunications systems abroad; • procure, distribute, sell, rent, install and maintain customer equipment; and • offer any other related activities under the scope of the license The GT License and the SNO License were each granted for an initial period of 20 years, with the possibility of renewal at the expiration of the initial term as long as the licensee is in compliance with the material provisions of its license. During the first five-year period of each license, the SNO and GT will be the exclusive operators of fixed telecommunications services in Ghana. This exclusivity period ended in February 2002. The liberalization of the communication sector also resulted in licensing Capital Telecom to provide telecommunications services to the rural areas.


The Mobile Sector

The liberalization also brought about the introduction of mobile services into Ghana. Currently Ghana has four cellular phone operators: Millicom (Ghana), Celltel Ltd, Scancom Ltd and Ghana Telecom. They are all operating a GSM 900 based fully digital mobile telephone service covering voice and data (SMS) service. Millicom, the first cellular network operator, started its operations 1991. Celltel Ltd. was licensed in 1993, and became operational in 1995. Scancom Ltd. was licensed in 1994 and became operational in 1996, and Ghana Telecom started its mobile services in 2001. On the use of mobile services, according to the findings reported in the CTO and Gamos Ltd Study [1], the use of mobile phones in Ghana is a long way behind the use of fixed line phones 80% of those who participated in the study do not use mobiles (compared with only 13% not using fixed line phones). Of those who do not use mobile phones, 98% regard themselves as having no access to a mobile phone. • Internet and Connectivity Service Providers

The explosion of Internet access partly due to the licensing of a number of ISPs is often regarded as one of the key impacts of the liberalization of the communication sector in Ghana. The Internet service market is one of the dynamic and competitive areas of Ghana’s information and communication sector. Currently over one hundred ISPs have been registered by the National Communications Authority to provide Internet services in Ghana. The majority of these provide standard dial-up services of up to 56K modem speed to their customers. A number provides corporate link services via lease line links, wireless link and through VSAT connections. The major ISPs operating in the country include: Network Computer Systems Ltd (NCS), Internet Ghana Ltd. and Africa Online (GH) Ltd, Some of the Universities and the Research Institutes also provide Internet services to their staff and students and to the public on a limited scale. A number of the larger ISPs like the NCS and Internet Ghana also serve as connectivity and gateway service providers to large corporations and the smaller ISPs. Ghana now has over 2.5MB long-haul link to the international Internet backbone via these gateway service providers. The services provided by the ISPs in Ghana include: • • • • • • • • Dial-up access to the Internet Leased line Connectivity for corporate bodies National Backbone connectivity services Wireless connectivity for SMEs, as well as corporate bodies and institutions. Web hosting and Publishing Services Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) services Web broadcasting services Electronic Commerce (e-commerce) services


Table 1: Major Communications Service Providers Telecom Operators [Fixed Line] National operator Ghana Telecom SNO Westel Telesystems Regional Telecom operators Capital Telecom Ltd Mobile Operators Mobile operator 1 Ghana Telecom Limited Mobile operator 2 Milicom Ghana Limited Mobile operator 3 Scancom Ghana Limited Mobile operator 4 CelTel Ghana VSAT Service Providers Provider 1 Westel Telesystems Provider 2 Ghana Telecom Major Internet Service Providers Provider 1 Network Computer Systems Provider 2 Africa Online Provider 3 Internet Ghana Provider 4 Africa Express Comms. Ltd Provider 5 Ghana Telecom Major Backbone Access Providers Provider 1 Volta Comms Ltd (VoltaCom) Provider 2 Ghana Telecom Major Public/Corporate Data Network Service Providers Provider 1 Data Telecom Ltd Provider 2 Volta Comms Ltd (VoltaCom) Provider 3 GS Telecom Ltd Provider 4 Afripa Telecom Group Provider 5 Satellite Connexions Source: National Communications Authority, Ghana

2.0 The Landscape of ‘Access and Connectivity’ in Ghana: Examining Some Key Indicators of Demand and Supply 2.1 On the Provision of Telephone Services Despite the achievements of the Accelerated Development Program targeted at reforming and liberalizing the communications sector, Ghana still faces a huge unmet demand for access to basic telephone services and to other communications services including those relating to connectivity to the Internet. For example, by 2002, Ghana had only 242,100 lines; 455,000 fixed line and mobile subscribers; a teledensity of 1.16; a waiting list for main telephone lines estimated at close to 15,567; and a public telephones (per 1000 inhabitants) estimate at 0.16. Table 2 below provides details of some of the key basic telecommunication indicators as a measure of level of access and connectivity in Ghana.


Table 2: Basic Telecommunications Indicators (2002) Level of Access and Connectivity Total No. of Tel. Subscribes (fixed line + mobile) Total Fixed Line Subscribers Mobile System Subscribers Total Number of Subscriber (per 100 inhabitants) Main Telephone lines Teledensity Main Tel. Line Capacity Used Main Telephone Line (Residential %) Total Residential Main Line Residential Main Lines (per 100 inhabitants) Digital main lines (%) Waiting list for main lines Public telephones Public Telephones (per 1000 inhabitants) Public Telephones as % of Main Lines Mobile subscribers Mobile subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Mobile Subscriber as % total Tel Subscribers

455,000 225,000 230,000 2.08 242100 1.16 82.2% 42.0% 99,600 2.4 100% 15,567 4180 0.17 1.35 19,3800 0.93 44.5

Source: ITU World Telecom Indicators (2002) and National Communications Authority, Ghana

On the usage of telephone services; the findings of the study [1], reported in [2] shows that the vast majority of the respondents regularly use the fixed line telephone as a means of communication and that usage is lower where there is no telephone coverage; in other words, coverage of the telephone network is an important determinant of level of usage of the service. The study also shows that about 79% of respondents in what could be described as ‘no service’ areas regularly access telephones -- an indication that there is a huge demand for telephone access in these areas. This in effect points to the fact that there is a substantial un-met demand for telephone connectivity within the country. On the whole, these findings show that there is a huge gap between supply and demand for fixed telephone line services and that the local telecommunication sector has the potential to grow if the necessary financial and technological investments are made to develop and expand the telecommunication infrastructure to increase capacity to satisfy the documented unmet demand for services. Also raised in [2] are issues relating to poor quality of service (QoS), unreliability of services, poor customer services and relations and problems relating to non-competitive fixed line phone access pricing structure. On Access and Affordability of Telephone Services On the question of access and affordability, telephone access tariffs in Ghana are still high even by African standards. For example, telephone connection charges for both residential and business users are about $75 with a 3 minutes local call of close to $1. Details of various access charges for both fixed-line and mobile services are provided in Table 3 below.


Table 3: Measuring Affordability of Access Telephone Tariffs: Residential Connection (US$) Monthly Subscription rate (US$) Telephone Tariffs: Business Connection (US$) Monthly Subscription rate (US$) Telephone Tariffs: 3 minutes Local Call (US$) Telephone Tariffs: Subscription as % GDP per capita Mobile Telephone Tariffs: Connection (US$) Monthly Subscription rate (US$) 3 minutes local call (US4)

75 0.50 75 0.50 0.09 3.9 50 10 0.81

Source: ITU World Telecom Indicators (2002) and National Communications Authority, Ghana

On Payphone Services According to [2], since the majority of Ghanaians cannot afford to own phones at home; public payphone booths provide an effective way to address problems relating to providing universal access to telecommunication services in rural areas and in most deprived urban centers of the major cities of the country. The findings of the CTO and Gamos Study show that pay phone booths are the cheapest way for most people to get access to telephone services. It also indicates that in remote rural communities, the only means of making and receiving phone calls is via public telephone booths. It was also discovered that for all regions, the use of public payphones increases with the level of service coverage and intensive use of booths is only possible where services exist. 2.2 On Regional Distribution of Demand for Access: Fixed and Payphones Ghana is made up of nine regions with the majority of them based in the rural areas. Greater Accra has a predominantly urban population, while regions like Ashanti, Western, Central and to some extent Brong Ahafo and Eastern regions have between a quarter to a half of their population in urban areas. The regions of Upper West, Upper East, Northern, and to some extent the Volta region are predominantly rural.


Regional Distribution of Access to Telephone Services
Upper West Upper East Northern Volta Brong Ahafo Central Eastern Western Ashanti Greater Accra

1% 1% 2% 2% 3% 3% 4% 6% 12% 66%
Upper West Brong Ahafo Volta Upper East Northern Central Eastern Western Ashanti Greater Accra 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%

Fixed Telephone Subscriber Base

Public Payphones (2001)

The regional distribution of the fixed line telephone subscriber base and the public payphones as illustrated above shows that the predominantly urban regions like Greater Accra and to some extent the Ashanti and the Western regions, have close to 80% of the access to telephone services. The rural areas on the whole have a considerably low telephone subscriber base as well as a low density of public payphone access. The urban-rural disparity of access and connectivity is in effect very pronounced in the case of Ghana.

Comparing Regional Population Distribution with Fixed and Payphone Distribution
100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0%
Ac cr a As ha nt i W es te rn Ea ste rn Ce nt Br ra on l g Ah af o Vo lta No rth er Up n pe rE as Up t pe rW es t

100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
Ac cr a As ha nt i W es te rn Ea ste rn Ce nt ra l No rth er Up n pe rE as t Vo Br lta on g Ah af Up o pe rW es t

at er

Fixed Tel. Line Population

Gr ea

Gr e

te r



Comparing the regional distribution of population with access defined in terms of access to fixed telephone lines and payphones, shows that the population in the urban based regions like Greater Accra, Ashanti and the Western regions has disproportionate access to telephone services compared to the population in those regions that are predominantly rural based. Also given that access to Internet services in most cases depends on access to telephone network services, it could be argued that the rural populations are also considerably disadvantaged in terms of Internet access and connectivity. In fact, evidence shows that there is a huge disparity between the urban and rural areas in terms of Internet access and connectivity.


2.3 On the Provision of Mobile Services In relation to the demand and supply of mobile services, although there has been an explosion in services, the over-subscribed nature of most of the mobile networks has given rise to poor interconnectivity and quality of service (QoS). According to [2], because of the limited coverage of the fixed line telecommunication infrastructure, the long waiting time (of close to a year or more) to get a fixed line phone connection and in some cases the poor quality of services of the fixed telephone operators, the use of mobile phones as an alternative means of communications is rapidly developing in Ghana. However the geographical coverage of the mobile phone services is on the whole still limited --- with some mobile operators having services in just some of the main urban centers and cities. Although mobile phones offer the convenience of mobility and time saving as per the findings of the CTO and Gamos Study [1], the cost of acquisition and ownership (including usage cost) of mobile phone services is comparatively much higher than in the case of fixed line phone services. In effect only a small section of the population can afford mobile phones and services. In fact it has been discovered that in the case of Ghana, the availability of mobile services in a particular community does not necessary translate into a high acquisition of mobile phones and the usage of mobile phone services. According to [2] a major barrier to the use of mobile services is the cost of acquisition, ownership and the cost of usage of the service. Affordability, it is pointed out, is a major barrier to the use of mobile phone services in Ghana. The point is also made in [2] to the effect that subscribers of mobile services in Ghana are also experiencing problems associated with poor quality of service (QoS) resulting from, among other things: poor interconnection between the mobile phone networks and between the mobile networks and the fixed telephone networks; poor call completion rates mainly due to the oversubscription of the existing capacity of the networks of the mobile service providers; and the unfair pricing structure for the use of mobile phone services. Competition in the mobile sector has not contributed to addressing a number of the poor QoS issues facing the sector. 2.4 Meeting Public Demand for Access: The Communications Centers In Ghana, communication centers no doubt serve as the most popular telephone and other basic communications service access points in most parts of the country. Because of their availability and easy reach within most neighborhoods and communities, communications centers are the preferred means of access to telephone, fax and Internet services for most households in Ghana --- Customers according to the findings of the CTO and Gamos Study [1] prefer these centers over public payphone booths. According to [3], most communities in both the urban centers and rural areas have a number of strategically located communication centers serving on average 5 to 10 households in a given neighborhood. The use of these centers is popular in communities in which the majority of the households do not have telephones at home. Most of these types of neighborhood are inhabited by low income households. The communication centers therefore play a key role in facilitating universal access to communication services for a large section of the Ghanaian society. Most of these centers provide local telephone access with some providing IDD, fax services and cyber café services. A key observation is that; the majority of Ghanaian without Internet access at home or work places makes use of the cyber café facilities of the communications centers to gain access to the Internet. As pointed out in [2], it could be argued that the overwhelming popularity of communication centers is yet further evidence of the large pool of unmet demand for telecommunication systems in the communities. The potential for growth in the telecommunications services sector does therefore exist. In other words, there is no doubt that the popularity of the communications centers apart from demonstrating the public’s need to have access is also an indication of the


huge gap that now exists between the demand and supply of alternative means of affordable access. 2.5 On the Level and Spread of Internet Access and Connectivity With the availability of a reasonably adequate national communication backbone and various Internet connectivity infrastructure options and solutions, Ghana, like most African countries, now has full Internet connectivity, with long-haul connection to the international backbone of the Internet at rates above 2.5MB. In fact, Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country (outside South Africa) to have full Internet connectivity, in 1995 [4]. Prior to this there were a number of email systems, based primarily on Fidonet and UUCP. Table 4: Other ICT Indicators PC (Per 1000 persons) Internet Hosts Long-Haul Internet Bandwidth Internet Users (per 1,000 persons) Radios (per 1000 persons) [2000] TVs (per 1000 persons) [2000]

3 235 2.5+ MB 40,500 710 118

Source: ITU World Telecom Indicators (2002) and National Communications Authority, Ghana

With over a dozen major ISPs currently operating in Ghana, a number of organizations in the public and private sector have at least a dial-up link to the Internet. These include the large private sector businesses like financial institutions, the National Utilities, the mining companies and small and medium size (SMEs) businesses, the universities, colleges and research institutions as well as a dozens of secondary schools; the Government Ministries and other Public Sector Organizations (PSOs); International Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and hundreds of thousands of individual subscribers. Most of the connected organizations and private individuals with access use the Internet mainly for e-mail and for browsing the Web. The larger organizations especially those in the private sector have some presence on the Web, but most of the SMEs do not have websites. Although the Internet subscriber base has increased in the last couple of years, the majority of those with access are based in main urban centers, with the rural areas grossly underserved. Basic telephone coverage in the rural areas is limited, with a large section of the country, either having limited connectivity to the Internet or extremely low speed connectivity. In effect the Internet has yet to spread to the rural areas of Ghana. In fact, one of the greatest challenges of providing Internet services in Ghana relates to what is normally referred to as the 'last mile' problem; that is, how to extend the services to the remote centers to spread the use of the technology. There are three main reasons for this lack of rural connectivity: (i) lack of adequate telecommunications infrastructure in these areas to support the connectivity, (ii) the affordability of the service and (iii) lack of awareness by potential users of the Internet in some cases and ignorance about what it can be use for.


3.0 Examining the Supply-Side of ‘Access and Connectivity’: The Landscape of the Ghana’s Communications Backbone and Internet Connectivity Infrastructure We examine in this section the broad issues relating to the basic infrastructure for supporting access and connectivity with specific reference to the components of the communications backbone of the country and the specific types of infrastructure for supporting Internet access and connectivity nation-wide. 3.1 On the Nation’s Communications Network Backbone Ghana’s communications network backbone for supporting domestic and international data and voice services is made up of a number of separate (not-integrated) networks owned by different operators. These include: (i) a partial national fibre backbone network, consisting of the fibre networks of Voltacom, made up of about 900km of fibre covering a major session of Southern portion of the country; the Ghana Telecom’s Metro Fibre Network covering sections of Accra, the capital city; and the 28,800 km SAT-3/WASC submarine fibre cable network (partly owned by Ghana Telecom and a dozen other Telecom Operators of a number of African countries including, South Africa, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Senegal etc); (ii) a satellite network with VSAT facilities, made up of components invariably owned by Ghana Telecom and other private corporate bandwidth access service providers like ISPs and Internet Gateway and Bandwidth Service Providers and (iii) Microwave Network, comprising of various inter-city microwave links owned mainly by Ghana Telecom. In addition some of the mobile service providers have installed there own network covering some section of the country. 3.2 Exploring the Landscape of Internet Access Infrastructure Internet access in Ghana is based on a variety of connectivity infrastructures. Generally, these can be classified in terms of types of (i) long-haul and short-haul connectivity to the Internet backbone being deployed by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Bandwidth or Gateway Service Providers, (ii) connectivity options available to subscribers, namely individuals and organizations; and (iii) client access systems and platforms used by subscribers to access the Internet. We examine each of these below. Types of Long-haul and Short-haul connectivity to the Internet Backbone The majority of ISPs and Bandwidth or Gateway Service providers in Ghana connect their systems to the Internet backbone mainly via a long-haul satellite/VSAT link with downlink facilities in either North America (mainly USA) or Europe. A number of these providers do have a nationwide VSAT network that connects their POPs (points of presence) in key regional capitals and major towns to the Internet backbone via a central VSAT base/hub or gateway facility in the capital city, Accra. Some of these providers connect sections of their national networks via leased- landline and/or wireless links that provide a short-haul connectivity of their POPs and in some cases their major corporate subscribers to their central system/hub at their headquarters which then connects to the Internet backbone over a long-haul link. The bandwidth of the long-haul connectivity to the Internet backbone by local ISPs and Internet Gateway Service Providers is on overage above 2.5MBits/sec.


Short-haul Connectivity Options Available to Subscribers Subscribers including individuals and organizations connect to the Internet through their local ISPs through a variety of means. These include: dial-up connectivity (landline); dial-up connectivity (wireless/cellular); leased landline connectivity; wireless [non-dial up] link (2.4GHz, 3.4GHz etc), and direct VSAT link (C-band. Ku-band). Dial-up connectivity which is popular with households and some SMEs is mainly via land-line telephone links using standard 56K modem access to local ISPs with or without a POP in the locality of the subscriber. Most ISPs have POPs in the major cities of Ghana but subscribers in a large section of the country, especially those in the rural areas and the northern parts of the country still have to link to the nearest POP of their ISPs by making trunk calls. A number of the ISPs also provide dial-up wireless access but this type of connectivity is not common. Some local ISPs are also providing a non-dialup wireless link (2.4GHz, 3.4GHz etc), services to subscribers like the schools, telecenters, Internet Cafés, and SMEs as a faster alternative to dial-up connections. Direct VSAT connection to the Internet via either a local ISP or via an international bandwidth provider with a local agent is increasingly becoming a faster and more affordable alternative to the Internet for a number of Universities and corporate subscribers. Types of Client Access Systems and Platforms Subscribers including individuals and corporate subscribers to the Internet use a variety of access systems and platforms including: stand-alone computers, wiredline local area networks, wireless local area networks (WLANs), wiredline campus networks (spread-over a number of buildings on the same campus), wireless campus networks (spread-over a number of buildings on the same campus), corporate backbone networks (wiredline, wireless or combination) and national backbone networks (wiredline, wireless or combination). The vast majority of dial-up household-based subscribers use stand-alone computers (desktop or laptops), while organizations and institutions mainly connect their users via computer networkbased systems with a common Internet gateway access. Most of the organizations connects via a LAN (wiredline or wireless LAN), with only a limited number of organizations having campus or corporate backbone network connectivity to the Internet. A number of the Banks and some of the very large corporations with national branches have a nation-wide backbone network through which their employees connect to the Internet via a gateway facility at corporate headquarters. On the question of types of usage of Internet access, on the whole, subscribers (including individuals, households and corporate subscribers) use their Internet access mainly for e-mail, web access and browsing and in some cases for information distribution, publicity and marketing, and for access to research, learning and teaching materials, etc.

4.0 Sectorial Analysis of the Demand Side of Access and Connectivity We present below some of the relevant findings of the Scan-ICT study [5] on the deployment and exploitation of ICTs within key sectors of the Ghanaian economy. Specific emphasis is laid on those aspects of the findings of the study which relate to the broader issue of ‘access and connectivity’ within key sectors like the ICT Sector, the public and private sectors as well as the educational sector. For each of these sectors we examine issues relating to (ii) the spread of ownership of computers (specifically home ownership) as a measure of the degree of spread of a key access and connectivity device --- the personal computer; and (ii) the degree of Internet access, usage and presence (web presence).


4.1 On Ownership of Computers • The ICT Sector

The findings of the Scan-ICT study show that the staff of the majority of the ICT companies has and uses computers at home. About 86% of the companies surveyed indicated that some proportion of their staff do have computers at home. Of these 53% stated that less than 10% of their staff has computers at home with only about 2% indicating that all their staff (100%) has computers at home.
Distribution of Home Ownership of Computers
About 75 % About 50% About 100%

Below 10%

About 25%

Source: The Ghana Scan-ICT Survey, 2002, © 2002, INIIT On the whole, the majority of the companies (80%) surveyed have less than a quarter of their staff with computers at home. This figure, coupled with the fact that about 14% of the companies report having none of their staff with computers at home, indicates a relatively low prevalence of home ownership of computers among the staff of ICT companies in Ghana. • The Public and Private Sector

The results of the nationwide Scan-ICT survey on the home ownership of computers by employees of public and private sector organizations and establishments show that: a high 81% of organizations have some proportion of their staff that own and use computers at home. Sectorially, about 68% of the public sector organizations have staff with computers at home. The corresponding figures for the private sector and the NGO sector are: 81% and 93% respectively.
Home Ownership of Computers
Yes 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Yes Yes Yes 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%

Distribution of Home Computer Ownership

About 100% About 75 % About 50% About 25% Below 10% All Sectors Public Sector Private Sector NGOs

No No No No

All Sectors

Public Sector Private Sector


Looking at the findings on a sectorial basis, while as high as 95% of the public sector organizations reported having less than 10% of their staff having computers at home, the private


sector organizations recorded just about 67% with the NGO figure at 31%. Only 3% of the public sector organizations have about a quarter of their staff with computers at home; the corresponding figures for the private sector and the NGOs are: 22% and 46% respectively. • The Education Sector

The Schools A number of Ghanaian schools, especially the secondary schools have computers. About 79% of the schools reported having computers, with the average number of computers per school estimated at 19. Of the schools with computers, about 53% reported using computers to support school administrative work, with a high 97% reporting using the computers to support teaching and only 16% indicated using their computers to access the Internet. This survey shows that not a high proportion of schools with computers use the computers for access to the Internet.

Type of Computer Usage in Schools

Access the Internet To support Teaching To Support School Admin. work 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

On the issue of home ownership of computers, the Scan-ICT survey shows that home ownership of computers by teachers is not widespread in Ghanaian school, only about 25% of the schools reported having staff that have computers at home. Close to 63% of the schools reported that their staff do not have computers at home. Of those schools with staff who are home owners of computers, the majority reported that below 10% of their staff have computers at home. Only 2% of the schools reported that close to a quarter of their staff have computers at home. The Universities and Colleges A high percentage of university staff indicated having computers at home. Of all the University and College departments surveyed close to 82% of the departments indicated having some percentage of their staff with computers at home. The corresponding figure for the Engineering, Computing and Computer Science departments is 74%. 4.2 The Degree of Internet Access, Usage and Presence • The ICT Sector

About 86% of the ICT companies that were surveyed have Internet connectivity; the majority of these have a dial-up access through a local ISP. Some of the medium to large-scale ones do have leased line access (fixed, wireless) to the Internet via an ISP. Of the companies with access to the Internet, 28% reported using it for e-mail, 25% for access to the Web and just 11% indicated using the Internet for advertising the marketing of their services while only 12% reported using the Internet for providing information and publicity about their organization. With most of the companies reporting using the Internet for a number of purposes, the majority are involved in using it for e-mail and Web browsing rather than for the promoting or marketing of their services


Types of Internet Usage

On the question of Web presence, about 65% of the ICT companies surveyed do not have a presence on the Internet. In other words, only 35% of the companies reported having a Web site on the Internet. Relating to electronic commerce, the vast majority (84%) of the companies reported no involvement in e-commerce. Although a relatively high percentage of Ghanaian ICT companies have access to the Internet, most of them use it for e-mail and web browsing, with very few using it for facilitating, promoting or selling their products and services. The resources of the Internet, as a tool for business and commerce, have yet to make their mark on the Ghanaian ICT sector and industry.

Internet Access, Web Presence and E-commerce Involvement
100% 80% 60% Yes 40% 20% 0% Internet Access Web Presence E-Commerce No Yes

Yes No


The Public and Private Sector

The Scan-ICT survey on the level of Internet connectivity within the public and private sector shows that: close to 81% of the public and private sector organizations including the NGOs have access to the Internet. Sectorially, 69% of the public sector organization have Internet access compared to 90% of the private sector establishment and 100% in the case of the NGOs.


Advertising/mar keting

Access to the Web

Downloading Materials


Providing info/publicity

Internet Access
Yes 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Yes Yes

60% 50% 40%

Spread of Internet Usage within Organizations

0% (none) below 10% About 25% About 50% About 75 %

No No No No

30% 20% 10% 0% All Sectors Public Sector Private Sector NGOs

All Sectors

Public Sector Private Sector


Of the organizations with Internet access, 44% reported that below 10% of their staff uses the Internet; while about 14% reported that about a quarter of their staff uses the Internet. On the whole, although close to 81% of public and private sector organizations have Internet access, the vast majority of them reported less than half of their staff that using the Internet. Examining the results in terms of the spread of usage of the Internet within each sector, about 54% of the connected public sector organizations reported that less than 10% of their staff uses the Internet. The corresponding figures for the private sector and the NGO sector are: 45% and 31% respectively. In relation to the type of usage of the resources of the Internet, about 30% of the organizations use the Internet for e-mail while 26% use it for Web browsing and 24% for downloading materials, among other things. Only 14% use the Internet for providing information or publicity material about their organizations. A much lower percentage of 7% use the Internet for advertising or marketing their products or services. On the whole the majority of the public and private sector organizations do not use the Internet to promote or inform their prospective clients or the public at large about what they do or the services they offer.
Types of Internet Usage
35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% All Sectors Public Sector Private Sector NGOs Downloading Materials Providing info/publicity about the organization Advertising and/or marketing E-mail Access to the Web

In relation to Web presence, just about 48% of the organizations indicated that they have their own web site. On the whole a higher proportion of private sector organizations (about 58%) have web-sites compared to 41% of public sector companies and 54% of NGOs. By comparing the sectors in terms of the degree of Internet access and the level of web presence of the organizations within each of the sectors, we see that for all sectors only a small proportion of those with Internet access have Web sites. The relatively low level of Web presence of these organizations implies that Ghanaian organizations are weak on content development in relation to the Internet.


Comparing Internet Access and Web Presence

Internet Access, Web Presence and Involvement in E-Commerce
100% 80% 60% 40% 20%

100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% All Sectors Public Sector Private Sector NGOs


All Sectors

Public Sector Private Sector Web Presence


Interne Access

Web Presence

Internet Access

E-Commerce Involvement

Across all sectors, the proportion of organizations with Web presence is relatively lower than the proportion with Internet access, and the proportion involved in e-commerce is considerably lower than those with Web presence. Also, for all sectors there is a huge disparity between the percentages of organization with Internet access compared to those involved in e-commerce. Very few Ghanaian establishments across all sectors are using the Internet to promote their organization and to do business. • The Education Sector

The Schools A high percentage of Ghanaian schools don’t have access to the Internet. Of the schools surveyed nationally 81% of them reported not having connectivity to the Internet. Most of the schools with access to the Internet use it for e-mail, Web browsing and for downloading teaching learning materials. Of the schools with Internet connectivity, 29% reported that access is available to staff only with 14% having access to their students only. About 86% of the schools reported making the access available to both their students and staff. On the duration of access, the vast majority of the Ghanaian schools with access to the Internet had connectivity for less than a year. About 43% of the schools reported having access for less than a year, while 29% reported having access for 1 to 2 years. About 14% indicated having connectivity to the Internet in the last 2 to 3 years. None of the schools surveyed have had access for more than 4 years. About 14% of the schools reported having Internet access in the past, but not the present. In other words their connectivity was terminated for one reason or another.
Duration of Access to the Internet (To-Date)

50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% less than 1- 2 years, 2- 3 years, 3-4 years a year, 4-5 years more than 5 years


Of the schools with access to the Internet, only 14% indicated having free access, where the schools does not pay for the service from its own resources. As high as 43% of the schools indicated paying for their Internet connectivity and usage from their own resources, with another 43% reporting paying for some of the cost. • Universities and Colleges

Close to about 42% of all the Department and Units within the Universities and Colleges surveyed have access to the Internet. The corresponding figure for the Engineering, Computing and Computer Science (Eng. & CS) departments is slightly higher at 48%. Of those departments with access to the Internet, 41% indicated that access is available to only the academic and administrative staff, with none reporting access to students only. About 59% of those departments with Internet access reported making the access available to both their staff and students. The corresponding figures for those Engineering, Computing and Computer Science departments with Internet access show that 47% of them have access available to only their staff while 53% indicate that both staff and students of their departments have access to the Internet On the duration of access, most of the departments and units within the universities and colleges had access to the Internet for less than 3 years. Of the departments and units surveyed about 42% had access for less than one year with 21% of them having access between 1 and 2 years, and 17% indicating that they had their Internet access between 2- 3 years. Of all the university departments surveyed, only 1% reported having access to the Internet for more than 5 years. In relation to what the Universities and Colleges use their Internet access for, about 38% of those departments with Internet access indicated using it for e-mail, with 33% indicating using the Internet for Web access and browsing, and with 29% reporting using it for downloading materials. The corresponding figures for the Engineering, Computing and Computer Science (Eng. & CS) departments are: a high 93% reported using their Internet access for e-mail, 87% indicating using it also for Web access and 80% for downloading materials.
What Depts/Units use the Internet for
100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% E-mail Access to the Web Downloading materials

All Departments

Eng & CS

In relation to meeting the cost of Internet access, only 2% of the departments indicated that they have free access to the Internet. In other words, some other agency pays for the cost of access. Of all the departments surveyed within the universities, a high 81% indicated that they meet the cost of their Internet access from their own resources, while 17% reported that they meet part of the cost. The corresponding figures for Engineering, Computing and Computer Science (Eng. & CS) departments are: 60% meeting all cost and 7% meeting part of the cost.


Paying for Cost of Internet Access
100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Free Access Pay for all Access Cost Pay part of Access Cost

All Departments

Eng & CS

5.0 Analyzing the Limiting Factors to the Growth and Spread of Access and Connectivity in Ghana Despite the modest achievements in Internet access and connectivity in Ghana, there are still a number of technological (infrastructural), environmental, operational and financial bottlenecks inhibiting the spread of access and connectivity throughout the country. A key limiting factor as pointed out earlier is the poor telecommunication infrastructure in some parts of the country. The coverage of the Internet in a given country can only go as far as the telecommunications infrastructure extends. For example, the findings of the CTO and Gamos Study [1] established a link between the level and the availability of telecommunication services and the level of use of the Internet. In other words the availability of the necessary communications infrastructure to support access to the Internet is essential for promoting the growth and the use of the Internet and its resources within the society at large. Some of the telecommunication bottlenecks that is inhibiting access and connectivity in the case of Ghana are: the non-existence or the inadequacy of telecommunication infrastructure in some parts of the country, especially in the rural areas. low-speed lines for dial-up connectivity to the systems of the ISPs poor quality of connections, especially in the case of subscribers residing outside the cities narrow- bandwidth of links to the Internet limited coverage of telecommunications infrastructure limited number of lines at the ISPs end of the connection high Internet connectivity charges and usage cost high cost of equipment (e.g. computers modems etc)

Other Limiting Factors to the Spread of Access and Connectivity in Ghana According to [3] some of the other limiting factors to the growth and the spread of the Internet in Ghana include: The high cost of connectivity to Internet backbones: The high cost of the available long-haul link to the high-speed Internet backbones (in mainly North America and Europe) is one of the key obstacles to Internet growth in Ghana. As should be expected, this high long-haul connectivity cost usually translates into high subscription and connection charges to the ordinary subscribers and as such raises the issue of service affordability from the point of view of end-users and service sustainability from the point of view of the ISPs. The cost to subscribers: Cost to subscribers is another limiting factor. Most organizations and individual subscribers cannot afford the running cost of access to the Internet through the local ISPs. In fact, the user-base of some of the ISPs is very limited as a result.


Limited financial resources: Most of the small to medium-sized ISPs in Ghana have problems raising the necessary financial resources needed to get a viable operation off the ground and to sustain it. Some of these start-up ISPs are by local entrepreneurs, most of whom lack the necessary credit track record to raise finance from the banks and local or foreign investors. In fact, some of the local ISP initiatives have not expanded after years of operation simply because they lack the capital to benefit from economics of scale and revenues from a wider user-base. Organizational bottlenecks: These include: (i) lack of motivation at both management and staff level in relation to the need for Internet connectivity to support organizational activities and operations; (ii) lack of a dedicated technology champion or a group of champions to establish the case for the for connectivity, (iii) lack of management support and appreciation of the value of the Internet technology to support the operations of the organization; (iv) lack of awareness and appreciation amongst staff and availability of human resources to implement the use of the technology at the organizational level Shortage of technical skill: One other key factor that is constraining the growth of access and connectivity to the Internet in Ghana is the acute shortage of technical staff to design, install, operate, troubleshoot, support and maintain Internet nodes/hosts and backbone networks as well as provide technical support for end-users. Numerous Internet initiatives and projects are seriously constrained to the extent of being delayed, postponed or poorly implemented technically simply because there is not enough technical expertise with the requisite computer networking and Internet node installation and operation skill to go around. Internet Service Providers as well as large corporations, organizations, colleges and universities and large research institutions implementing their own organizational or campus-based Internet systems are forced to rely on a handful of local technical experts that are difficult to recruit and retain. Lack of awareness: Although the Internet is now a household word in most parts of the world, there is still a large proportion of the Ghanaian population who are not aware of what it is all about. This lack of awareness, especially in relation to the value of access to the Internet to support the operations and activities of organizations and institutions in the private and the public setup, is one of the reasons for the slow take off and growth of the Internet in the country. References 1. The CTO and Gamos Ltd Study: E-mail and Internet; Fixed, Mobile and Public Phones; Telephone Shops: Current and Prospective Use, Ghana, The Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization (CTO) and Gamos 2003 2. Dzidonu C.K (2003) An Analysis of the Policy Development and Business Strategy Implications of the Findings of the Study on the Use of Communication Services in Rural and Low-Income Communities in Africa: The Case of Ghana, Commonwealth Telecommunication Organization (CTO), 2003 3. Dzidonu C.K and Adeya C.N, (2000); The ICT Policy Environment and the Impact of the Emerging Educational Technologies on the Education and Training Delivery System in Ghana, International Labour Organization (ILO), Geneva, August, 2000 4. Tevie W., Quaynor N. and Bulley A. [1995), Development of the Internet in Ghana, Proceeding of INET 95 5. Dzidonu C.K (2002) An Empirical Study of the Development, Deployment and the Exploitation of ICTs in Ghana: The Ghana Scan-ICT Report, IDRC/ECA, 2002


Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET): ICTs as tools for information access among women in Uganda
By Dorothy Okello, Coordinator, WOUGNET E-mail:

Table of Contents 1.0 Introduction

2.0 Situational overview of communications in Uganda 2.1 Communication policies in Uganda 2.2 Pricing for telecommunication services 3.0 ICTs as tools for information access among women in Uganda 3.1 Overview of WOUGNET activities

4.0 Challenges in using ICTs for communication among women in Uganda 4.1 Information access for rural women 5.0 ALFA Rural Information and Communication Centre (ALFA-RICC) 5.1 Information needs served by the ALFA-RICC 5.2 ALFA-RICC: The technology 5.2.1 Management of the ICT infrastructure 5.3 Planning for information demand within the community 6.0 Concluding remarks List of Acronyms ANNEX I: WOUGNET Organization Members (July 2003)


1.0 Introduction Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is a non-governmental organization established in May 2000 by several women organizations in Uganda to develop the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) among women as tools to share information and address issues collectively. We define ICTs to include email, the web, radio, television and print media. However, WOUGNET’s emphasis is directed towards email and the web, and how these technologies can be integrated with the traditional means of information exchange and dissemination for maximum outreach. WOUGNET’s vision is to improve the living conditions of Ugandan women by enhancing their capacities and opportunities to exchange and share information, and to collaborate. Currently, WOUGNET operates primarily online and most members are based in Kampala, where it is relatively easier to gain Internet access in comparison to other places in Uganda. However, there are a few members who are based in rural areas or areas that otherwise lack Internet access. Typically, such members have colleagues or other contacts who do have internet access and who are able to serve as “information conduits”. In addition, members can interact with WOUGNET by alternative means such as by telephone, fax, post, or at the WOUGNET office. This discussion paper presents the operation of WOUGNET as an example of a local initiative facilitating information access among women in Uganda. The paper also presents an in-depth profile of a WOUGNET member with operations based in rural Uganda. 2.0 Situational Overview of Communications in Uganda Access to accurate and timely information by women in Uganda can result in enhanced economic activity, e.g., increased food production, better hygiene and disease prevention as well as increased participation in local economic and social development initiatives. At the national level, the Government of Uganda recognizes that timely and relevant information is required in order to implement the long-term development programs such as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) and the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA).1 However, information is of limited use unless it is appropriately packaged and communicated. The packaging aspect relates to issues such as local languages, culturally sensitive material, literacy, etc. The communication aspect, on the other hand, relates to information and communication technologies that are fast, comprehensive, diverse and cost effective. The range of ICTs includes radio, telephones, fax, video, print, computers, CD-ROMs, email and the web. While Uganda’s communication infrastructure has developed significantly during the 1990s, most of this development has occurred in urban areas benefiting only a small percentage of Ugandans. For example, the draft ICT policy reveals that while MTN Uganda (one of the two national telecommunication operators) provides 65% coverage, 93% is urban coverage. In addition, by February 2002 there were 17 licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) but most of them are based in Kampala. Table 1 presents the Uganda communications sector comparative figures for the period December 1996 to Dec 2002.2

Draft National Information and Communication Technology Policy. July 2002. Communications Sector Comparative Figures for Period Dec 1996 to Dec 2002. Uganda Communications Commission. Accessed July 21, 2003, from



Table 1: Communications Sector Comparative Figures for 1996 - 2002 Service Dec 1996 Oct 1998 Dec 1999 Jul 2001 Fixed Telephone Lines 45,145 56,196 58,261 56,149 Mobile Cellular Subscribers 3,000 12,000 72,602 276,034 Internet/Email Subscribers 504 1,308 4,248 5,999 National Telecom. Operators 1 2 2 2 Mobile Cellular Operators 1 2 2 3 VSAT International Data Gateways 2 3 7 8 Internet Service Providers 2 7 9 11 Private FM Radio Stations 14 28 37 112 Private Television Stations 4 8 11 20 Private Radio Comm. Licenses 453 530 688 800 National Postal Operator 1 1 1 1 Courier Service Providers 2 7 11 10

Dec 2002 59,472 505,627 6,500 2 3 8 17 117 22 1,225 1 11

The following subsections highlight key communication policies in Uganda and present the tariffs for a variety of communication services. 2.1 Communication policies in Uganda Uganda’s vision for ICT development is “a Uganda where national development, especially human development and good governance, are sustainably enhanced, promoted and accelerated by efficient application and use of ICT, including timely access to information.”3 The current status of ICTs in Uganda is influenced by various policies and regulations, including, the Press and Journalist Statute 1995, the Electronic Media Statute 1996, the Uganda Communications Act 1997, the Rural Communications Development Policy 2001, and the Draft National ICT Policy 2002. The primary objective of the Uganda Communications Act is to increase the penetration and level of telecommunication services in Uganda through private sector investment rather than through government intervention. The Communications Act provided for two national telephone operators for a period of five years effective from July 2000. The two national operators are Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) and MTN Uganda. UTL was formed in 1995 from the national telecom provider, Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (UP&TC). In 1996, UTL was privatized with the government of Uganda retaining 49% shares and 51% shares being held by a consortium comprising Telecel (Switzerland), Detecon (Germany) and Orascom (Egypt). The two national operators are licensed to provide a whole range of communications services including landline, mobile, data and internet services. For example, as a result of the Communications Act, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) stopped issuing new International Data Gateway licenses in July 2000. However, there are minor licenses that can be provided to other operators for services such as paging, store and forward messaging, and private telecommunications services. Taking into account both mobile and fixed services lines, Uganda’s teledensity has grown to about 1 line per 100 people from 0.21 per hundred people at the end of 1996.4 On average, Uganda’s Working Document for the Second Preparatory Meeting for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Geneva, Switzerland, February 2003. Accessed July 21, 2003, from Rural Communications Development Policy for Uganda. Uganda Communications Commission. July 2001.
4 3


however, communication services are limited to within a 10 km radius from district headquarters or major towns. In 2001, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) developed the Rural Communications Development Policy with three general objectives: (a) to provide access to basic communication services within a reasonable distance to all people in Uganda, (b) to ensure effective utilization of the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) to leverage investment in rural communication development, and (c) to promote ICT usage in Uganda. The RCD policy defines basic services as “a package of essential, supported services. The package shall be defined to initially include voice grade access to public telephony networks and public access to where stamps can be bought, and where letters can be posted and collected.” The RCDF is managed and administered by the UCC, and its major sources of funding are UCC budgetary allocations, donations and grants from development partners, specifically targeted donations, government inputs and contributions from all service providers. 2.2 Pricing for telecommunication services As noted earlier, UTL and MTN Uganda have licenses to provide landline, mobile, data and internet services. A sample of the tariffs for a variety of services is provided in the following tables based on UTL’s pricing structure. a) Basic landline service UTL has two basic landline services - Classic (post-paid) and Telesaver (pre-paid). Table 2 presents UTL landline tariffs for the classic landline.5 An exchange rate of 1 US$ = 2,000 Uganda Shillings is used in the table. Table 2: Tariffs in US$ for telephone calls from UTL landline Classic Landline installation (VAT exclusive) Connection fee ISDN monthly rental Optional telephone set 60 10 (per channel) 32.50 (and above)

Telephone charges per minute (VAT exclusive) Standard rate Local calls 0.06 Internet countrywide 0.05 National calls 0.09 Mango (UTL mobile service) 0.09 MTN (Second national operator) 0.14 Celtel (Mobile service provider) 0.16 East Africa, Burundi, Rwanda 0.33 UK, South Africa, North America 0.65 India, United Arab Emirates 0.80 Europe 0.73 Middle East, South/Central 0.90 America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa Special countries (27 countries) 1.50

Relax (night) rate 0.04 0.04 0.06 0.06 0.11 0.14 0.30

Family Sunday rate 0.03 0.03 0.05 0.05 0.11 0.14 0.30 0.45 0.70 0.50 0.70 1.50

UTL Classic Landline Tariffs (VAT exclusive). Accessed July 7, 2003, from


b) Dial-up internet service Table 3 presents the tariffs for UTL’s dial-up internet service.6 The dial-up connection provides speeds of at least 14.4 Kbps and all categories include a 10 MB mailbox for each subscriber. Table 3: Tariffs in US$ for Internet/email dial-up services from UTL Category Description of service Installation fee Diamond E-mail and Internet, unlimited 30 Platinum E-mail and Internet, up to 30 hours/month 30 Gold E-mail, up to 20 MB 30 Silver E-mail, up to 10 MB 30 Moonlighters E-mail and Internet, 7:00pm + all day weekends 30 Monthly fee 45 30 20 10 35

While most ISPs are based within Kampala, UTL does provide a national number that can be used to make “local calls” to connect to an ISP from any part of the country (where UTL has service). The major ISPs in Uganda include Africa Online (2-3000 subscribers), Infocom (2-4000), UTL (2,500), Spacenet (500) and One2Net (500). 7 In May 2003, the Uganda Internet Exchange Point (UIXP) was setup and five ISPs are currently linked to the exchange. It is expected that the UIXP will result in cost savings on international bandwidth as local traffic stays local. There are two costs for ISPs involved with the UIXP: a capital cost of US$ 1,500 for a router and an operational monthly cost of US$1,000. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has been instrumental in the UIXP’s development and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) provided the initial start-up capital. c) High-speed data service UTL has a high-speed data network that uses xDSL technology over copper wires and that has data nodes in Kampala and 18 towns in Uganda. Within the Kampala area, UTL also provides a wireless local loop. Table 4 presents the UTL monthly tariffs for leased line (point-to-point) dedicated bandwidth circuits.8 A one-time installation fee and hardware charges are extra. Table 4: Monthly tariffs in US$ for dedicated bandwidth circuits (VAT exclusive) Speed 0-50 51-100 101151201251301351(Kbps) km km 150 200 250 300 350 400 64 188 343 499 654 809 964 1,120 1,275 128 273 498 723 948 1,173 1,398 1,623 1,849 256 395 721 1,047 1,373 1,699 2,025 2,351 2,677 512 687 1,254 1,820 2,387 2,953 3,520 4,087 4,653 768 847 1,546 2,244 2,943 3,641 4,340 5,038 5,737 1,024 1,111 2,026 2,942 3,858 4,774 5,690 6,606 7,522 1,536 1,148 2,095 3,042 3,989 4,936 5,883 6,830 7,776 2,048 1,261 2,301 3,341 4,381 5,421 6,461 7,501 8,501

Over 400 km 1,430 2,074 3,003 5,220 6,435 8,437 8,723 9,581

UTL Internet Services – Dial-up Tariffs. Accessed July 7, 2003, from 7 Uganda’s Internet Exchange Point opens after a long gestation, Balancing Act's News Update 162 (22 June 2003). 8 UTL Data Services Tariffs. Accessed July 7, 2003, from



3.0 ICTs as Tools for Information Access Among Women in Uganda Challenges to ICT use and access in Uganda are many and well documented. ICT access is out of reach for many; in terms of availability as well as cost of service. Women in Uganda face major barriers to accessing telecommunication services since 80% of them live in rural areas. Further, a 1998 UNESCO survey on the available sources of information for development in Uganda revealed that most of the available sources of information are either out of reach of rural women or fall short of their information needs.9 This is a finding that still holds true today. However, obstacles should not be perceived as deterrents, and indeed a number of women organizations have had a long interest in the use of the internet to share news and announcements, as well as tips on computer and Internet usage. Until 2000, there were no organizations in Uganda facilitating information exchange from within and abroad. Consultations with several women organizations led to a consensus that a network should be formed and that WOUGNET, upon formation, should establish a companion website on which to profile the work of women organizations as well as an electronic mailing list to facilitate information sharing and dissemination. Thus, WOUGNET emerged to fill the need for information sharing and dissemination by capitalizing on the opportunities available with email and the Internet. Annex 1 presents a current list of women organizations in Uganda that are WOUGNET members. Today, the WOUGNET website and mailing lists remain key sources of information about and for women organizations in Uganda, and are a key resource for members and interested partners. The website was launched in May 2000 and can be accessed at 3.1 Overview of WOUGNET activities WOUGNET activities can be categorized as email-based, web-based and on-ground. Emailbased activities include administration of the WOUGNET general mailing list as a space for women and women organizations to exchange and disseminate information. Information posted has included conferences and workshops being conducted, requests for information (RFIs) on current developments in various fields such as gender, agriculture, technology, health, etc., as well as postings by potential volunteers for various activities. As of July 2003, there are over 200 subscribers on the WOUGNET mailing list, up from 50 subscribers at the end of 2000. WOUGNET also produces a monthly electronic WOUGNET Update Newsletter that provides details on activities of women organizations in Uganda, upcoming conferences, workshops, training programs, funding opportunities and tips on computer/internet usage. The newsletter is sent out to the WOUGNET mailing list, an additional 300 newsletter subscribers, and mailing lists with an ICT and/or gender focus. Furthermore, WOUGNET has hosted the following online discussions: In June 2002, WOUGNET hosted a 3-week email-based conference Information Access for Rural Women10 to facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences on enhancing access to information for rural women. A report of the online conference was presented during deliberations on Rural Women and Telecenters at the July 2002 Kampala Know How


R. O. Ochieng. Rural Women and Information in Uganda, Presentation at the FAO High Level Consultation on Rural Women and Information, Rome, Italy, October 4-6, 1999. 10 Information Access for Rural Women. (2002). Accessed July 21, 2003, from


Conference.11 The Know How Conference is an international conference of specialists in the collection and dissemination of information relevant to women. In April 2003, WOUGNET hosted an email-based online forum on An Information Society for Uganda to facilitate contributions to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) working documents and Uganda’s input.12 The WOUGNET website is the core web-based activity. The website profiles Ugandan women organizations and their activities. In addition, the website contains practical information and documentation on topics of interest to women organizations and the general public, and links to national and international projects. In May 2003, the WOUGNET website was selected as winner of the 2003 African Information Society Initiative (AISI) Media Awards in the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) Local Content Applications category.13 As stated on the Awards website, “The judges selected the website of the Women of Uganda's Network (WOUGNET) as a winner for this year's IICD Award on Local Content Applications. The site is a good source of information, knowledge, best practices and lessons learned on women's issues, and a variety of socio-economic issues. The collection of information and web resources on ICT policies, for example, informs the audience of key ICT for development issues, such as open source and the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) Gender Caucus. It also serves as an entry point and hub for their engagements and participation." Another web-based activity is the WebDesign program, which was started in April 2001 in collaboration with, to develop websites for WOUGNET members.14 To-date, five members have had websites developed under this program. WOUGNET’s on-ground activities support and strengthen the online activities. On-ground activities include: • sourcing relevant information (from women organizations, newspapers, the Internet, etc.) for posting on the WOUGNET website and/or mailing list; • conducting research (online or otherwise) pertinent to WOUGNET staff, members and partners; • contacting WOUGNET members for news and reports on their projects to be added to their profiles on the WOUGNET website; and • promoting WOUGNET membership to women organizations in Uganda. While the majority of WOUGNET’s current activities make use of the WOUGNET website and mailing lists to support information sharing and dissemination, the WorldSpace Satellite Radio Program (WSRP15) is an example of an activity that is not Internet-based. The WSRP was initiated in August 2002 to make the WorldSpace radio available to members with difficulties accessing the Internet. The WorldSpace radios when connected to a computer help users to access web based information without having to use the usual method of accessing information from the Internet (e.g., dial-up, wireless or cable connections). The bulk of WOUGNET’s services are availed to members free-of-cost. For example, for members to have their information profiled on the WOUGNET website, they simply need to forward the information to WOUGNET via email or via alternative means such as by post or

Kampala Know How Conference 2002: A safari into the cross-cultural world of women’s knowledge exchange. (2002). Accessed July 21, 2003, from 12 An Information Society for Uganda. (2003). Accessed July 21, 2003, from 13 2003 AISI Media Awards. Accessed July 21, 2003, from 14 WebDesign. Accessed April 26, 2003, from 15 WorldSpace Satellite Radio Program (WSRP). Accessed April 26, 2003, from


telephone. The exception to the no-charge policy is with the WorldSpace Satellite Radio Program for which a nominal charge is levied for equipment maintenance, transport and installation. WOUGNET relies primarily on volunteer support, resources provided in-kind, and donations from members and partners. Donor and in-kind support includes: Low cost web and email hosting provided by Kabissa – Space for Change in Africa. Collaboration with who avail virtual volunteers to develop the websites under the WebDesign program Virtual volunteers sourced via and who have assisted in organising WOUGNET online discussions. Support from the APC Women’s Networking Support Program (WNSP) to conduct an evaluation of WOUGNET activities using the Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM) toolkit. A 2003 grant from the Global Fund for Women (GFW) to strengthen and broaden WOUGNET's capacity to support networking and information sharing among Ugandan women and women organizations. 4.0 Challenges in Using ICTs for Communication Among Women in Uganda Feedback from WOUGNET members reveals that the information shared and exchanged has been beneficial to their projects and/or research programs. For example, Lungujja Women’s Association (LWA) responded to an email about Keys to Information Technology and Education (KITE), a US-based organization providing computer grants, including one-year internet access to organizations in developing countries.16 LWA became the first international KITE partner receiving its computer grant in March 2002. With this grant, LWA is able to calculate the interest payments of its micro-credit scheme electronically, research business strategies online and network with other organizations. In August 2002, a WOUGNET member was selected as a finalist for BITSAfrica, a program sponsored by the World Economic Forum Global Leaders for Tomorrow and the Africa Technology Forum. The purpose of the BITSAfrica initiative is to assist African technology entrepreneurs in building and growing a sustainable venture that will have an impact on the society around them. The member learnt of this program via the WOUGNET mailing list. And another member had this to say: “I thank you for your work. I am beginning to feel that I have hope after reading your mail showing openings for some of us who would never know where to source such wealth of information.” In spite of these success stories, WOUGNET continues to experience challenges in the delivery of services, including: • limited outreach due to primarily operating online; • availability/access to relevant information for members’ development needs; • creating awareness on the benefits of ICTs as tools for information exchange and dissemination that produces results; • training on the usage and application of ICTs; and • increased need for face-to-face collaboration to complement online networking. In January 2003, participants at a WOUGNET meeting in Kampala identified the following challenges in the application of ICTs and in being WOUGNET members17: i) Language is a constraint to information access. This is due to the fact that all of WOUGNET information is in English and not available in local languages. ii) Lack of access to ICT equipment and services. A number of women organizations lack equipment to enable them access information online. Typically, organizations will have a

Lungujja Women’s Association. Accessed April 26, 2003, from 17 Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) Meeting: Information Sharing on the Application of ICTs. (2003). Accessed April 26, 2003, from


iii) iv) v) vi)

single computer that is stationed on the Secretary’s desk, who is responsible for downloading information. This affects timely response to issues and ends up leaving a number of women missing out on opportunities. Lack of ICT skills. WOUGNET information is available through new ICTs like the Internet as opposed to traditional ICTs such as radio. This tends to marginalize those that lack the access and skills to use computers. Technophobia especially among women and girls. Gender roles also impact effective participation. In some communities, men do not give women a chance to visit telecenters because they think that women’s roles are only in the homes. Information overload and inadequate content. For example, apart from the website, WOUGNET runs various mailing lists hence leading to large amounts of information. At times the information given may not be relevant to the needs of a particular group of women.

A key issue highlighted by the WOUGNET online conference: Information Access for Rural Women was as one participant put it: ”There is an important aspect in terms of access to information at the rural level: WHICH information – For WHICH purpose – To serve WHICH needs? At the urban level these components do not need the same type of control, the space is larger, the media are broader but at the rural level there is a need to tailor the medium AND the message with more details”. For rural communities to be active participants in the information society there needs to be a concerted, multi-sectoral approach to information technology with a focus on rural populations as communicators and contributors to information and knowledge, rather than as passive consumers.18 Rather than look at technology and ask “What can we do with this?” we need to ask the question, “Which technology might help here?” in response to people’s information needs. 4.1 Information access for rural women Information and communication are as critical for rural living as they are for urban living, and indeed there is increasing demand for information and communication equipment and services in rural areas. It is widely recognized that ICTs offer potential in rural development by opening up communication channels for the exchange of new and indigenous knowledge and information with and among rural communities. However, major challenges exist in terms of available means of information access and dissemination in addition to operating the ICT equipment. The realization is that the major inequities of access that exist for the disadvantaged populations—the poor, rural, female and aged—are not all due to high costs alone, but a result of other well-documented problems. These include: limited resources resulting in poor infrastructure, lack of basic facilities, poverty, low levels of literacy particularly among women, cultural perceptions of women’s roles, little or no government support, the urban bias in development which marginalizes rural communities, lack of ICT skills, lack of electricity in most rural areas, and war, instability and conflict. At the national level, Uganda's Telecommunications Policy seeks to increase the penetration and level of telecommunication services in the country.19 This is to be achieved primarily through private sector investment rather than government intervention. Also in place is a policy to ensure that basic communication services of acceptable quality are accessible, at affordable prices, and at reasonable distances, by all people in Uganda.20

SD Dimensions. Special: The first mile of connectivity – Advancing telecommunications for rural development through participatory communication. Accessed April 3, 2003, from 19 The Uganda Communications Act. 1997. 20 The Rural Communications Development Policy. 2001.


At the organizational level, while information access by rural women remains a great challenge for WOUGNET, we believe that it is important that their information needs and access are addressed – either directly or via intermediaries. A number of WOUGNET members already have programs addressing information access for rural women. WOUGNET’s services enable these members to disseminate and exchange information about their programs locally and abroad. For organizations based in rural areas, radio remains an essential tool for information sharing and dissemination. Even then, there is still need to pay attention to the role gender plays in the access and utilization of this medium. For example, in an August 2002 meeting between the Regional Women Program Officer for AMARC-Africa21, the WOUGNET Coordinator, and women in the community served by Radio Apac22, the following issues were identified: Women need to have their own radios since the men travel with theirs whenever they leave the house. Women lack transport to travel to the station and participate in radio programs. There is need for peace and conflict radio programs, given the threat of rebels who abduct women and children. There is need for additional women programming addressing topics such as good farming practices and HIV-AIDS. There is need for tape recorders so that the women can prepare their own programs to be aired by the community station. There is need to address low literacy levels among women in the community by providing basic reading and writing skills. The following section is an in-depth profile of a WOUGNET member operating in a rural area in Uganda. 5.0 ALFA Rural Information and Communication Centre (ALFA-RICC)23 Based in Mpigi District, Abundant Life For All (ALFA) Ministries was established in 2000 as a practical response to the realization that past successive wars, illiteracy, poverty, diseases (such as HIV/AIDS) and other calamities had left the rural women and children powerless, orphaned, destitute and displaced. In order to confront the odds of these rural communities, ALFA Ministries (in collaboration with six community-based organizations24) initiated the ALFA Information and Communication Centre (ALFA-RICC). Community information and communication is an empowering tool for any rural community that is often ignored or insufficiently catered for by national and commercial radio and television services. The ALFA-RICC was established in 2000 to facilitate and create awareness on issues such as the position of women in society play a role in improving literacy and education, and provide information on health, the environment, agriculture, democracy as well as on issues such as land inheritance and HIV/AIDS. The centre has a collection of study materials and serves to improve the quality and effectiveness of training programs in rural communities. The centre


AMARC-Africa, World Association of community radio broadcasters – Africa region. Accessed July 21, 2003, from 22 Radio Apac, a community radio station in northern Uganda, was established in 1999 with support from the Commonwealth of Learning (COL). Accessed July 21, 2003, from 23 Profile of ALFA Rural Information and Communication Centre (ALFA-RICC) compiled in collaboration with Revd. James Ssemakula, Founder member, ALFA Ministries, 24 ALFA Women’s Groups. Accessed July 21, 2003, from


supports and increases the rural inhabitants’ desire to learn and collectively help each other to gain more knowledge. In order to achieve the objective of achieving social change, the Centre applies “Open Flexible Learning” using the Study Circles Methodology as a democratic forum and means of empowering the rural communities inhabitants to discuss and influence what happens in their environment. The ‘Study Circles Methodology’ is used to encourage the rural people to exchange ideas and knowledge in order to help each other. The ALFA-RICC has become an empowering tool for these rural communities. The AFLA-RICC is housed in a permanent building that was built by ALFA Ministries. The building currently includes the computer centre, a store, an office, activities room, and has electricity. 5.1 Information needs served by the ALFA-RICC The social and economic objectives of the rural communities in Mpigi District were the driving force behind the initiation of the ALFA-RICC. The center’s main goal is to enhance community participation in democracy, encourage free speech, promote cultural knowledge and assist communities to work together for their own social and economic well-being. Issues and information addressed by the centre include: How to raise healthy children Basic nutrition facts Creating balanced meals using local food products Basic hygiene practices - water purification, safe food handling and preparation, basic sanitation, etc. Methods of growing, harvesting and storing food to ensure a sufficient food supply through all seasons Methods of attaining self-sufficiency in meat and poultry products to meet the protein needs of the family Ideas for income-generating projects such as handicrafts and animal raising Civic education - active participation in civic/political activity at the village level and beyond; Women's rights and their role in society How to legally and traditionally deal with abusive husbands Ownership of property and money and power sharing in the home Prior to the establishment of the ALFA-RICC, the channels used to access and share information included: messenger (word of mouth), letters, music, dance, drama, newspapers, and radio. It is worth noting that newspapers are very expensive to the rural community, in addition to the challenge of low levels of literacy. The most prevalent ICT in these rural communities is the radio – although not every home owns one. Presently, there are about 1,500 people from six different rural communities who benefit from the centre. Future plans for the centre include the set up of a community radio station. Once this is established, the centre’s target group will grow to over 500,000 people. The centre incorporates a gender-sensitive policy of operation -- 60% of the services are targeted to women and children. The centre does face a number of challenges in getting more people, in particular women, to use its services. These challenges include: The socio-economic dimensions of rural community inhabitants. Limited resources resulting in poor infrastructure, lack of basic amenities, etc. Little or no government support. The problems of political dimensions and administrative structures within the target group. These include criticisms against initiatives that appear to give visibility to government efforts in promoting rural development community. Cultural perceptions of women's roles


Low levels of literacy, particularly among women Heavy workload and the limited time women can set aside for other activities. Rural husbands do not allow their wives to participate in community development activities. There is a great challenge in maintaining the centre itself since it is established within rural communities that are under-developed and lack resources. However, to support the centre’s operations, the Management Board has devised membership fees, in-kind contributions, service fees, and other local fund-raising activities. In order to become self-sustaining, the centre is currently seeking donor funding. 5.2 ALFA-RICC: The technology Prior to establishing the ALFA-RICC, research indicated that many issues related to managing the growth of the ICT infrastructure needed to be addressed. In selecting the center’s technology and infrastructure, the rural area’s background played an important role. The prevailing situation in the community was of no running water, no land telephone lines, no reliable mobile phone access, and frequent electricity blackouts. Following is a description of six key technologies in use at the ALFA-RICC. WorldSpace satellite radio system Since August 2002, when the WorldSpace satellite radio system was first connected under the WOUGNET WSRP program, the centre has been able to make use of the Africa Learning Channel audio and data program. The centre found the system to be very beneficial in availing educational material and has now acquired its own WorldSpace system. The Africa Learning Channel program provides access to both local and international FM radio stations with news and educational/developmental related material about health, education, agriculture and animal husbandry. Information from the ALC is downloaded, printed out and translated into the local language to benefit the communities served by the centre. Computer Lab At present, the ALFA-RICC has thirteen computers, four printers, one photocopier, and one digital camera. The computers include two Pentium III, ten Pentium II, one Macintosh. The Pentium II computers were obtained as low-cost computer grant from Computers For Africa (CFA25). The computers, printers and photocopier have helped the centre write, print and duplicate educational material that is distributed to clients and is also available to the centre’s visitors. In addition, the centre’s clients have the opportunity to gain computer literacy. Educational videos The ALFA-RICC has one television. Educational videos are presented to the community to create awareness on various issues such as HIV/AIDS. The videos are purchased locally in Uganda, and are available in the local language. Internet access Email is used to correspond with donors and partner organizations. Via email, members at the centre were also able to participate in the WOUGNET online conference “Information Access for Rural Women” hosted in June 2002. MTN Uganda is the centre’s internet service provider (ISP),

Computers for Africa. Accessed July 20, 2003, from


and the centre accesses the internet via a mobile phone. However, this option is very expensive and hence not available for use by the public without permission. ALFA-RICC spends US$23 per month on internet access charges, in addition to the US$0.175 per minute for the mobile call to access the ISP (exchange rate 1US$ = 2,000 Uganda Shillings). Currently, the centre is only subscribed for email service. However, funding is currently being sought in order to acquire full internet access via the “iWay Ku-band VSAT Solution” supplied by Afsat Communications Ltd. The costs for this service are US$4,000 for the start-up equipment and thereafter US$300 per month for internet access. Public telephone access The center has three mobile phones and a public telephone booth that are connected to the MTN Uganda cellular network. Power supplies Due to the frequent electricity blackouts in the community, the centre is seeking a generator to provide power backup for the centre. Currently, the centre’s operations depend on the availability of electricity as there is no backup power supply in place.

5.2.1 Management of the ICT infrastructure Now that the centre has been established, management of the ICT infrastructure is an ongoing process. Some of the key issues to be addressed on a regular basis are: Investigating and anticipating developments in the appropriate technology to be applied. Investigating and anticipating developments in software and hardware. Constantly monitoring the security aspects of the ICT infrastructure, including both physical equipment and virus protection. Balancing ICT infrastructure maintenance and development with content and professional development requirements for the range of technicians, teachers and others that access the centre. Budgeting for equipment upgrades to cater for the increased demand on resources as the technology becomes more ubiquitous in the centre. Technical support for the center’s users. In addition, experience obtained so far shows that the level of awareness of the rural communities for the potential of ICTs is an important consideration in successful establishment of collective access to ICTs. As rural people who are both poor and illiterate, there are some ICTs that they dare not approach for fear of their capability to learn how to use them. There are young people who use the centre and are very quick in learning; these also proved an obstacle to the older ones to come forward and try to learn to use them. Nevertheless, with the help of ICTs, the ALFA-RICC has provided a means for cultural exchange and expression, community discussion, and debate. It has supplied news and information relevant to rural communities and facilitated political engagement between men and women in the rural communities.


5.3 Planning for information demand within the community Tomorrow’s rural society should also be described as a society of knowledge. Hence, appropriate information and communication technology will be of growing importance in such a society, as also emphasized by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). With the ICTs available at the ALFA-RICC, more rural people are eager to learn how to use these technologies and acquire knowledge from different parts of the world for the purpose of using and disseminating it to others. Indeed, it is expected that future information and communication demands in the rural communities of Mpigi district will increase greatly due to the presence of the ALFA-RICC. The centre attempts to influence public opinion, create awareness and consensus, strengthen democracy and above all, create a tangible sense of community. The centre is available to community residents so that they can participate, express their needs and wants or discuss issues of interest to their own community. It allows people to exercise their right to communicate through a non-discriminatory and participatory manner. It is also accessible so that all community members can easily participate and benefit from it through the utilization of local languages. The ALFA-RICC is acceptable to the rural communities as a cultural medium and tool for development. It responds to the rural communities’ expressed needs and priorities and is an integral part of the communities that it serves. Furthermore, the centre is accountable to the rural communities it serves, through an ongoing process of interaction and consultation. It is about communities doing something for themselves by owning and controlling their own means of communication. The centre is affordable to the rural communities it serves and is not for profit. Within the next 2-3 years, the ALFA-RICC expects to start a broadcasting service in order to meet the information demand already shown by the clients. This will save rural people from travelling long distances (say to the city) to place radio announcements. And, as most people are nonliterate, the broadcasting of messages via radio will be of great advantage. In general, ALFA-RICC makes a number of recommendations on how the information demand within rural communities should be addressed and planned for: Sensitise rural community development co-workers about the importance of information access for rural communities. Encourage the establishment of Rural Information and Communication Centres that aim at using appropriate ICTs. Governments should make electricity available and affordable to rural households. Governments should establish a conducive policy environment, such as regulations of tax and tariffs on electricity, energy and telecommunications such as satellite, phone, fax, etc. Obtain support from local government officials to utilise and strengthen local infrastructure (radio broadcasting, buildings, etc.). Government should facilitate improved literacy in all rural communities. Stakeholders should be committed. Stakeholders include policy makers, researchers, information providers, community members, NGOs, women groups, etc. Promote dialogue among information professionals and researchers in search of ways to systematically produce knowledge, with due consideration of the social context of the local community. Obtain support from leadership of women and men committed to the cause of enhancing information access for rural women. Strengthen the element of information dissemination in community development projects in general. These projects, if successfully implemented and arouse local community's interests around the communication initiatives, can serve as a catalyst for RIC-related initiatives. Establish community radio stations for maximum outreach within rural communities. Donor organizations should partner with efforts such as ALFA-RICC by providing grants to facilitate increased outreach within the target communities.


In conclusion, the opportunity to make ICTs available in a collective fashion by the ALFA-RICC has enabled many within the target rural communities to reap the benefits of using ICTs. The communities that have access to the ALFA-RICC have started getting enlightened through exposure to information accessed through the variety of ICTs at the centre. 6.0 Concluding Remarks As defined by Michiels et al., the local appropriation of ICTs is about “communities and groups selecting and adopting communication tools according to the different information and communication needs identified by them and then adapting the technologies so that they become rooted in their own social, economic and cultural processes.”26 Furthermore, local appropriation of ICTs is important because it can: • Contribute to reducing the digital divide (as well as rural-urban, wealth and gender divides) at individual, group and community levels. • Give a voice to the voiceless (at household, community, national, regional and global levels). For example, communication processes can give rural women a voice to advocate changes in policies, attitudes and social behavior or customs that negatively affect them. • Foster and facilitate community decision-making and action and empower them to take control of local development processes. • Advance community ownership of ICTs for development, empowering communities to take charge of all aspects of ICT initiatives, including deciding priority applications, content, training, technical management and even financing. • Ensure that ICTs serve the purposes of local communities. Through appropriation, communities select and transform the technologies and content to fit their needs, rather than reflect the interests of external groups. This discussion paper has presented the operations of WOUGNET and WOUGNET member, ALFA Ministries, as examples of local initiatives enabling low-cost access to ICTs by their target communities. In both cases, the ICT infrastructure was established in response to the information needs of their target communities.


Sabine I. Michiels and L. Van Crowder. Discovering the “Magic Box”: Local appropriation of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Accessed on April 3, 2003, from


List of Acronyms AISI ALFA AMARC APC DFID GEM GFW ICT IICD ISP KITE LWA MTN NGO PEAP PMA RCDF RICC UCC UIXP UPTC UTL WNSP WOUGNET WSIS WSRP xDSL African Information Society Initiative Abundant Life for All Ministries World Association of community radio broadcasters Association for Progressive Communications Department for International Development Gender Evaluation Methodology Global Fund for Women Information and Communication Technology International Institute for Communication and Development Internet Service Provider Keys to Information Technology and Education Lungujja Women’s Association Mobile Telephone Networks Non-governmental organization Poverty Eradication Action Plan Plan for Modernization of Agriculture Rural Communications Development Fund Rural Information Communication Centre Uganda Communications Commission Uganda Internet Exchange Point Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation Uganda Telecom Limited Women’s Networking Support Program Women of Uganda Network World Summit on the Information Society WorldSpace Satellite Radio Program Digital Subscriber Line protocol


ANNEX I: WOUGNET Organization Members (As of July 2003) (Member profiles accessible at Akina Mama wa Afrika-Uganda (AMwA-U) ALFA Women's Groups Association of Uganda Women Lawyers (FIDA (U)) Association of Uganda Women Medical Doctors (AUWMD) Coalition on Violence Against Women (CVAW) Council for Economic Empowerment for Women in Africa - Uganda (CEEWA-UGANDA) Crisis Pregnancy & Counseling Center (CPCC) Disabled Women in Development (DIWODE) Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) Forum for African Women Educationalists - Uganda (FAWEU) Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) Gender Advisory Board - Africa Region Secretariat Hope After Rape (HAR) Isis-Women's International Cross-Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE) Kassanda Development Initiative Kyakabadiima Women's Group Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda (LAW-U) Lungujja Women's Association (L.W.A) The Mifumi Project Nakaseke Women Development Association (NAWODA) Nakazadde Ward Women Development Association (NAWDA) Namalemba Bugweri Association (NABA) National Association of Women Organizations in Uganda (NAWOU) National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda (NACWOLA) Ntulume Village Women's Development Association (NVIWODA) Pan African Women Liberation Organization (PAWLO) Rurama Women's Handicraft Society (RWHS) Safe Motherhood Initiative in Uganda (SMIU) Slum Aid Project (SAP) Uganda Gender Resource Center (UGRC) Uganda Media Women's Association (UMWA) Uganda Muslim Women’s Vision (UMWV) Uganda Private Midwives Association (UPMA) Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association (UWEAL) Uganda Women's Network (UWONET) Uganda Women Tree Planting Movement (UWTPM) Uganda Women Writers Association (FEMRITE) Women and Children's Crisis Center (WCC) Women Engineers, Technicians and Scientists in Uganda (WETSU) Women in Law and Development in Africa - Uganda Chapter (WiLDAF - U) Women's Organization for Development and Conflict Resolution (WODREC)


By: Vickram Crishna and Arun Mehta

Table of Contents 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 Introduction Access and penetration of telecommunications Audio: the first Step Using audio effectively: low power FM Demonstration and proof of concept Design and development of suitable technology 6.1 Construction Cost 6.2 Production Cost 6.3 User Cost Legal issues 7.1 Some pertinent excerpts Access for the disabled e-Locutor: The Hawking Project

7.0 8.0 9.0

10.0 Wireless data access - the next step 11.0 Models of deployment 11.1 Community Networking 12.0 Conclusion APPENDIX A APPENDIX B APPENDIX C


1.0 Introduction While technophiles and advanced economy consumers around the world buy into the wonders of gadgetry with advanced features (at cunningly attractive prices!), ordinary people in the Third World find ways to leverage older technologies at affordable costs. For instance, a newspaper 1 articlei reports how daily wage carpenters and masons rely on the humble telephone (POTS ) to get them business in Mumbai. Yet, for most of India, access to even simple telecommunications is a distant and unattainable concept with very little hope of fulfillment. This paper seeks to provide an overview of the telecom situation in India, the problems in bringing its benefits to the disenfranchised, and how innovative solutions can be used to address the needs of two large sections that are particularly hard to reach – the poor illiterate, and the physically challenged. We also attempt to look a little into the future, in particular at the benefits of 2 using WiFi in bringing connectivity to India’s villages. Although there has been a long and furious debate about the real cost of wireline POTS and the 3 wireless alternatives currently being commercially implemented in India (GSM based cellular 4 5 telephony and CDMA based WiLL ), it seems clear that the per capita rate of growth of telecommunication networks is, to all intents and purposes, so low as to be meaningless in the social context of transforming the lives of rural and poverty stricken Indians. There are different categories of services now defined by the regulatory authorities, depending on the technology applied. They have different license fees and different rules regarding the rental and call charges applicable. There are also rules regarding the fees which may be levied on interconnect between the local and trunk services. All this is apparently in an attempt to overcome the legacy of the technology related regime imposed when liberalization of services first began in the mid-'90s. It is hoped that there will be consumer rates harmonization, so that they can make their choices freely, based on the basket of services made available. As of this writing, the situation is very much in flux, with new rates being sought and applied, the legacy of a shortsighted technology based pricing policy being sloughed off. This is in turn the legacy of a centralized system of technology management imposed in colonial years, one that sixty years of democratic independence has not yet overcome.

1 2

Plain Old Telephone Service, meaning a circuit switched physical, usually copper pair, line WiFi is the popular term for the IEEE 802.11x set of standards for wireless data exchange, fast gaining popularity worldwide 3 Groupe Service Mobile, a digital cellular telephone technology 4 Code Division Multiple Access, a newer digital wireless telephone technology 5 Wireless in Local Loop, a term that implies wireless substitution for wireline circuits. With improvements in technology, CDMA now has features close to those of more expensive cellular services.


2.0 Access and Penetration of Telecommunications The wireline services were initially favored over cellular connectivity, and this resulted in high costs and very slow growth through the previous decade. At the end of this period, wireless in local loop technology based services were also permitted, and this led immediately to a domain quarrel, since it appeared that the new wireless services were being allowed to compete with cellular, though the costs (particularly the license fees) were not comparable. By May 2003, almost all consumer-facing costs have been drastically reduced, for any kind of telephony service. It is too early to say whether this policy will result in rapid growth in telecom penetration. However, if one looks at the actual figures more closely, it is clear that the bulk of this change is taking place only in the richer urban sector. There were a total of 10,480,430 GSM phones accumulatively installed across the country until Apr '03 by private license holders. The much older infrastructure of the government till Apr '02, before the private basic service operators began introducing services, totaled 33,218,000. We do not have reported government figures for the year ending Apr '03, but the private operators added 2,122,006 circuits by Mar '03. A simple linear progression, based on the roughly 22 percent annual growth from 1999 to 2001 (2002 had an abrupt falloff, to just 2 percent) indicates that the total installed base of government service operators should have touched 40,526,000 in Apr '03. This assumes that the private service installations were stimulating growth of the total market and not just cannibalizing consumers from the government services (an oftvoiced suspicion). The percentage of rural phones in this equation, however, has remained abysmally low. Again, figures for the government sector are not available, but it is not unreasonable to believe that the pattern for basic (defined as a combination of wireline and CDMA) services is not much better than it is for cellular wireless. For cellular wireless, rural consumption (defined in reporting systems as 'C' circle, where 'A' and 'B' circles cover the largest cities and most economically forward states) is just 3 percent of the total, till April 2003. Given an estimated total of less than 54 million installed phones in April 2003, this amounts to only 1.6 million phones serving rural India (a population of 500 million people). This achievement deplorably fails to realize the potential value of communications for social and economic development. Furthermore, the government completely failed to exploit the technology of shared telephone access, known colloquially as the ‘party-line’ system in the US, where it originated. It is now permitted, but banned in urban areas where it could still benefit the urban poor. As long as this remains the case, the developmental benefits of access, for rural people and for the poverty-stricken, shall be, for the larger part, unattainable. Unless there is a movement to spur demand, it is hard to see traditional business models apply, resulting in increased investment and penetration. Why should demand for access remain so low? We (the authors, who have also promoted and run a privately funded company in India, Radiophony, to further the objectives enshrined in the concept of universal access) believe that it is for a very large part due to the historical lack of access to information for the average Indian, and more so for the rural Indian. Most developing economies suffer from a historically feudal attitude to learning and information dissemination. The situation has improved in the last couple of years, aidedii in part by burgeoning privatization of the telecom sector and reprioritizing of investments and revenues. In the context of rural


telecommunications, nothing much has changed since 1999, when one of the authors put together an appreciation of the telecom scene in the South Asian region.iii There is still a long way to go. How can people find out for themselves that they can access information? In most parts of the world, and historically, conventional wisdom says that literacy spawns the desire for knowledge. Unfortunately, in India (except in a few regions), widespread literacy is about as rare as telecom penetration, which does tend to beg the question. To accept the fact of information accessibility, it helps to have a pervasive media presence. In India, this is usually taken to mean a healthy, widely available and widely accessed print media. Without literacy, however, print media can only be only accessed by a small fraction of the local population, who therefore control access for the others. When there is excessive control, invariably the desire for firsthand information slackens. Thus, despite the apparent success of print in India, which has many thousands of publications (the fourth largest in the world), and for which the level of central control is relatively minor, very few are privileged to get firsthand information. The authors have been working to open up a different, older, media form in order to help transform this situation. As we see it, the end-user device in the communications chain is the most important link. Clearly, this must be affordable by the poor, and easy for illiterate people to use, not just for consumption of information, but also for the production and dissemination.

3.0 Audio: The First Step We approached this problem from first principles. India is a heterogeneous country with 14 legally recognized indigenous languages, plus English, which is not only a legally constituted language, but indeed serves as a lingua franca across different regions. In actual fact, there are many hundreds of independent languages more, but it is not possible to accord them all legal recognition, and in a significant number of cases, these languages lack an independent script. In some cases, they also share common roots with languages that have a wider user base, and thus may be considered dialects, although it is quite often difficult for speakers of one language to understand or communicate with those of another. This leads most interventions to confusion between the conflicting needs of communication and literacy. Our focus is on creating effective forms of communication, since literacy follows communication flow as a process. We therefore have a focus on audio communication. Now intercommunication of any kind has four basic forms: one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one and many-to-many. Verbal communication, without electronic enhancement, tends to be restricted to the first form. We concede that it is possible for one person to address communication to a gathering of people, but it is necessary for that gathering to be very small in size if the communication is to be clearly audible. It is also necessary for this to be organized in advance, as it is difficult to get people to gather spontaneously when something needs to be communicated. The first form is classically enabled electronically with half duplex citizen’s band radio technology, freely licensed for use in the 27 MHz band. This technology is scarcely known in India, since it is very expensive to buy and use. The second form is broadcast radio, extremely familiar to most Indians, very cheap for users, but hugely capital intensive for producers. Low power radio is a composite solution, delivering the benefits of low production costs with existing cost-effective user-side technology. It blends ownership between producers and


consumers, thus synthesizing a content production and management system that is potentially a very powerful media transformation.

4.0 Using Audio Effectively: Low Power FM We are developing FM (frequency modulated public broadcasting) as a medium to kick start local accessible forms of telecommunications. Radio, which till the early ‘80s was phenomenally popular in India, has been hard hitiv by the introduction of satellite television and commercial FM broadcasting, yet it retains some significant values. FM is a stable and, appropriately deployed, extremely inexpensive technology. We have found that it is possible to approach the information needs of a typical small, poor community (poor in the sense that it does not transact with the cash economy) at costs that are affordable (see Appendix A). There is an international model for doing this: it is called community radio. The accepted definition for this form of broadcasting is a community owned and supported broadcast service aimed principally at and for the community itself. Unfortunately, this form of radio is not legally provided for in many of the world's developing (and largely but not only) post-colonial socio-economic entities. Specifically, in India there is no provision for community radio, as the term is generally understood (see Appendix B). Aside from community radio, which has an implicit political element, in that it has to be community owned and driven, low power radio is so cheap that it needs to be freed up in order to develop the medium to efficiently utilize the airwaves in spectrum-starved areas. Low power FM also lends itself excellently to frequency reuse, in areas where spectrum is badly or completely underutilized. Most of India falls into this category. A circle of 10 km diameter has an area of about 78.5 sq km. India has an area of about 2,973,190 6 sq km of usable land : the result gives about 38,000 circles. Each one has about 100 channels at a separation of 200 KHz per channel, which gives a clear capacity of 3,800,000 channels available for use. Discount this by ten per cent to account for the existing and future urban commercial radio channels, including knocking off another area of 5 x 14,100, or 70,500 sq km, to avoid any of our land borders with neighboring countries. This leaves spectrum for about 3,400,000 channels available for local use, free from the specter of international border security concerns. If a station has a reach of around 5 km radius, it will need a transmission output (with an efficient antenna) of about 1 watt. Such a transmitter will cost less than Rs 10,000 (around $200) if assembled in India, see below for the cost of other essential inputs. At such low setup costs, there is plenty of scope for both community-owned and small entrepreneurship commercial businesses to be established in the country. Inevitably, at some point there will be problems arising from cross-channel interference. Today, by maintaining a central authority for spectrum, the government seeks to deal with this. In actual fact, there are still around 20 to 30 different central agencies whose permission needs to be taken before allocated spectrum becomes usable. Most of these agencies are unequipped to correctly assess local issues in rural India. Change in this regime is necessary, so that a truly local environment for empowerment can be created. The advantage of FM broadcasting, as we see it, is that it is a totally verbal medium, calling for skills that are very easy to develop and most importantly, do not demand literacy as a necessity

This calculation takes into account all the measured waterways, deducting their area from the area of the landmass


for entry. As we have found, the creation, recording, editing and archiving of audio materials are tasks that can be undertaken by people with a minimal level of training. Managing program schedules and transforming audio content into a desirable art form as well as inducing demand for it, is a skill that can be learned far more easily when the audience is nearby to give feedback rapidly and thus provide opportunities for improvement. The medium is therefore supportive of the democratic form of society, which seeks to empower all people with broadly equal opportunities. Most importantly, these opportunities are based on people possessing just one skill: verbal ability. Verbal skills are natural: we know how to speak before we know how to read and write. They are flexible: we can speak about five times faster than we can type and at least 10 times faster than we can write. Low power FM broadcasting reaches small audiences (less than 5,000 to 10,000 people) for an extremely low cost. From the audience point of view, it works in an extremely suitable manner. This is because the content can be locally relevant in both language and context, and the broadcasters themselves are likely to be locally familiar. An opportunity has also emerged for the sharing of audio materials using cheap public data file transfer systems based on Internet technologies. While this may not yet be pervasive, it has enormous potential in India in the future. What is needed now is wireless infrastructure through which people everywhere will gain effortless access to the Internet, using everyday tools such as telephony and radio. Such infrastructure cannot come to pass unless there is an internal demand for it. The skewed balance of urban-rural development ensures that such a demand does not exist at present. Although the government has, through its Universal Service Obligation terms and conditions of telephony licensing (both cellular and basic services) attempted to ensure this situation is remedied, in reality the return on investment in rural telephony falls far below affordable levels. Around the world, community radio is normally taken to mean a self-owned and operated station, serving a community. The community may be rural or urban or indeed global, if one takes Internet radio into account. For rural India, there is an important qualification: such a station needs to have an extremely low entry point in terms of cost, otherwise local ownership is not possible. This can be achieved with low power FM transmission, far more pragmatically than with any other technology currently being considered within the ICT agenda. Since the top-down approach has so far failed miserably, despite over five decades of public and private investment, we see the need for a bottom-up approach. In this we believe that involving participants at the lowest economic and social levels is needed.

5.0 Demonstration and Proof of Concept To demonstrate this, we set up a low power FM radio station in a small village in southern India. Oravakal is located about 20 km from Kurnool, a district headquarter town in Andhra Pradesh. The population of about 5,000 is mainly involved in agriculture. The town is drought-stricken most seasons, and the area is rocky, typical of this part of India. There is an existing social self-help movement, led by women and supported by donations from a World Bank funded project. It has been running for the past seven years, and has built up strengths in education and micro banking. We worked with them to devise an appropriate technical solution for the radio station, examining the possibilities for leaky cable radio (i.e. using


a television cable distribution system to carry the FM radio signal: this acts both as a wireline, and 7 for short distances, wireless solution ) before deciding to use a traditional free-to-air broadcast. The solution as implemented consisted of a transmitter with recording and editing facilities, capable of being received throughout the village. The output power was restricted to less than 50 mW, just enough to broadcast to the immediate village area with the help of a folded dipole antenna mounted on a mast made of cast-off materials. The antenna was located at a height of roughly 5 meters. We optimized the solution to 50mW output for two reasons: 5.1 This level of power is used by all sorts of consumer devices sold openly in India, including wireless microphones and remote door locks, and 5.2 We were assured, off the record, that in the absence of a clear policy on the use of public spectrum (between 87.5 and 108 MHz), there would be little objection to such an application.

6.0 Design and Development of Suitable Technology The actual technology was developed indigenously, with parts sourced from the local market to our design. This included the frequency synthesizer, the transmitter, the mast and the antenna. For the recording and production facilities, we used the optical minidisk, a very sturdy and handy commercial technology that, being digital, is also very easy to use for editing. We designed a simple 50mW transmitter circuit, which combines an audio preamplifier and RF output block with the RF modulation section, using ordinary freely available electronic components. is the URL for the circuit, while instructions on assembly are published at 6.1 Construction Cost: The actual cost of building the circuit is about Rs 100 (under US$2 at current exchange rates), including a sturdy metal box to shield it from outside interference. It can be used with different types of antenna, depending on the type of coverage needed. If this is roughly longitudinal (ie, the reception area is oval rather than circular), as was the case in the actual village where the technology was demonstrated, a simple folded dipole antenna can be made from ordinary television antenna cable. This has the advantage of being manufactured to the standard needed for a dipole, while being extremely cheap - Rs 30 to Rs 50, depending on how much cable is needed to connect to the top of the mast. The mast can be made from bamboo or steel pipe, materials that can be found at any construction site in India. The section where the dipole is supported needs to be made of some non-conducting (high dielectric) material, while the upright part needs to be firmly braced. Ideally, the mast needs to be as tall as possible, without swaying in the wind. Program production can vary upwards from practically free, depending on how many hours per day of broadcasting is taking place. The very cheapest is of course verbatim broadcasting, where the broadcaster speaks directly into a microphone connected to the transmitter. However, this presents the biggest challenge in terms of human resources, as the broadcaster needs to be


See http:/


highly skilled to maintain the interest of the listeners. In India, microphones cost from Rs 125 upwards. Deciding on recording, archiving and production facilities is not a big challenge. As with most things, there is a trade-off between features and costs. There are two types of recorders - tape (linear) and digital (disk or solid-state, non-linear). As the name implies, linear recording types record sound in a linear fashion, and this determines the method of editing (production). Material selected for inclusion in the final version needs to be physically located in the tape (by listening/review). This takes time, and it is necessary to have two machines, one to transfer the desired audio content from the source tape. It is also possible to physically cut unwanted material from a recording, but this is tedious, timeconsuming, and an exacting job. In traditional high cost studios, using special editing tables where, during playback, the tape is clamped between rollers, eases this task. With this, unwanted material can be physically cut, and the open ends of the tape physically rejoined with adhesive tape. In digital machines, this is not a limitation, as the recording and therefore editing is not linear. The minidisk standard incorporates a means of 'marking' sections of audio material, which can be done on the fly while recording. This methodology is sometimes followed in solid-state recorders also. The minidisk recorders usually have an edit function, where sections of audio content can be reassembled in the desired sequence for playback. This is done without physically manipulating the actual recording medium in any way. 6.2 Production Cost: Cassette tape recorders cost from Rs 250 upwards in India (for a locally made twin drive machine), while minidisk recorders (which are not made in India at all) cost around Rs 14,000 upwards. Cassette tapes cost around Rs 12-15 upwards, while minidisks can be bought for around Rs 125. A single cassette will hold 90 minutes of audio (using both sides) while a minidisk can be set to record up to 4.5 hours (mono recording, giving best results for voice quality). We use the paradigm of physical movement to describe the real cost of setting up an affordable radio station in India. Users can choose between walking (no station at all) to a bicycle (a transmitter, a simple pair of tape recorders, no dedicated studio), to a car (a transmitter, a dedicated studio, a digital recorder) to a truck (a transmitter, a dedicated studio, several digital recorders, a computer for accessing the Internet and exchanging audio files between companion stations) to a jet plane (full-fledged digital recording studio, with sophisticated transmitter and live mixing facilities and so on). Any of these methods will work. Using sophisticated transmitters is necessary when there are a number of radio stations transmitting in the same physical area. This is because they are prone to electromagnetic interference with each other, causing a nuisance to listeners. In India, this situation only exists currently in a very few scattered urban areas. High power transmitters can also interfere with signals from weaker stations, but again, in India, this is a phenomenon that can only occur in a very few regions. 6.3 User Cost: For radio listening, all that is needed is an FM receiver. This can cost as low as Rs 60 (US$2.50) in India, with more expensive sets costing around Rs 250 (US$5.50). Such sets normally also incorporate a cassette player, and thus constitute a home entertainment center rather than just an audio receiver. At these prices, most sets have the alternative of direct electric operation or battery power, and thus are potentially free from the risk of utility failure, which is commonplace in rural India. As against the incredibly low setup cost possible in FM radio, with a potential audience of up to 5 or 6 thousand people, it would cost at least twice as much to get ready to print a newspaper. The running cost of the newspaper will also be much higher, since there is an ongoing cost of


newsprint. From both the points of production and access, illiterate people cannot directly enjoy the benefits of the print media, whereas this is simply not an issue for audio FM broadcast.

7.0 Legal Issues The pilot station in Andhra Pradesh started operations in October 2002, and ran successfully until March 2003. Although we had been verbally told that running a localized station at such low power would not create a fuss, this turned out not to be the case, and the station was arbitrarily shut down as soon as the central government learned of its existence. This situation continues until the writing of this paper (see Appendix C - a newspaper report). We have now adopted a more proactive stance to persuade the government not to throttle this medium, which has such a potential for positive change. We filed an appeal in writing with the minister of telecommunications in April, 2003. Finding that our nominally democratic government has no formal channel for encouraging disadvantaged people to develop independence and selfempowerment, we work on lobbying and persuasion to bring about positive change (see Appendix D - letter to the minister of telecommunications, April 2003). 7.1 Some pertinent excerpts from our appeal (letter to the minister of telecommunications, April 2003): "We seek your intervention in a matter of serious concern for the hundreds of millions of poor people in this country. An action by some bureaucrats in your ministry has nipped in the bud a highly promising experiment in bringing the benefits of the Internet to people who cannot afford a phone line or a computer. ... "While recognizing the importance of FM radio in bringing poor people into public debate, we were, of course, determined to keep within the bounds of what the government permits in this area. We were pleased to note that the government allowed the unlicensed use of cordless FM microphones, which … radiate a power of about 50mW, as do the remote car door openers that luxury cars routinely provide. ... We adapted the design of a cordless microphone, using parts that are commonly available in small towns, wherever radios and TVs are repaired. We designed an efficient, low-cost antenna using the flat cable used to connect TV antennae, so that just 50mW of power would carry the signal about 400 meters. We also made a provision for attachment of an audio recorder. This system allows villages to set up community radio stations at a cost of only a few hundred rupees. ... "Our request is simple: could we please participate in a discussion of a wireless policy that allows frivolous uses such as opening car doors and wireless microphones (used mostly for Karaoke), while denying poor people their only available access to modern telecommunications [and] the Ministry sees fit to send a senior bureaucrat to the remote village of Oravakal, to terrorize some poor women trying to convince others to join their micro-finance system? ... "Our software industry has acknowledgedly achieved sterling success, and so can the hardware industry, but not if shackled in this way. …


We would be happy, at your convenience, to demonstrate our system to you, and discuss with you the promising possibilities of such technologies in achieving universal access..." During its existence, the station produced and broadcast programs using local resources entirely. This is a demonstration of the viability of our concept, that given the tools, uneducated and illiterate people can produce audio content independently, to be heard by the local community, using local languages and local themes. We also obtained a modern laptop computer for the village station, which expecting we could connect it through dialup to the Internet. As it turned out, it was not possible to get a reliable telephone line running for this purpose, although the village was nominally part of the district network. The purpose of the computer was to give the station the ability to run Q&A programs based on accessing information from anywhere. The experiments at Radio Kothmale in Sri Lanka ( and elsewhere allow illiterate people to access the Internet in a limited fashion, using their own mother-tongue languages. People send their questions to the radio station via a post card or a phone call. At the station, English-literate staffers search the Net or encyclopedias for the answer, and broadcast it in the local language via the radio station, a concept known by the term "radio-browsing". This part of the solution was not successfully implemented before the station itself was shut down.

8.0 Access for the Disabled Apart from illiterate people, there are a significant number of people excluded from participating in the economy because of one form or another of disability. In percentages, such people constitute perhaps 4 per cent of the total population. In absolute numbers, that is a staggering 240 million. If just the Third World is considered, it is still 200 million persons. Yet this is not the total: many of these people need the help of at least one other person to cope with the burdens of their disabilities. The additional number thus disabled could be as many as 100 million people. The percentage of people affected in India by disease and accident may be a little higher, due to a combination of social factors. Some of the directly affected people have severe disabilities that prevent them from exercising full motor control of their muscles. Such people, while otherwise fully capable, are cut off from the world by the inability to communicate independently. We have addressed one problem within this space: assisting such severe disabled people to access computers. General-purpose computers are relatively inexpensive and useful devices that can be programmed to deliver information rapidly. They can also be connected to and used to control other devices, thus enabling the person to gain a degree of independence not possible in any other way. As it happens, the development of modern personal computers has emphasized the use of certain standard interface peripherals. These computers normally consist of monitor screens and audio speakers for visual and aural output, and mouse and keyboard for data entry and command control. The combination of visual and aural display of output enables people with sensory disabilities, including those with visual and aural disabilities, to make use of computers, but the keyboard and mouse controls are partly or completely useless for people with motor disabilities.


We have been working on developing an easy-to-learn interface that will use the rapid processing capabilities of modern personal computers to interpret the input signals of users to deliver complex command capabilities. In plain terms, it enables users to use a single click device (a switch) to navigate through a series of choices and produce complete and original sentences. The aim is to produce a complete sentence in just about the same time and with the same effort that would be needed to complete the task with a mouse and keyboard.

9.0 e-Locutor: The Hawking Project We started this project in early 2001, following a meeting with the physicist Prof Stephen Hawking. He is well known, for his science and for his own medical problem, a nerve disorder known as motor neuron disease. This interferes with the transmission of commands between the brain and muscles, leading to a condition similar to paralysis. Prof Hawking has been using computer-aided tools for communication and control of his electric wheelchair for many years now. However, the software is no longer supported and he is unable to find a suitable substitute. We offered to help develop something better suited to his needs. He is capable of a small measure of movement in one hand, which he uses to press and hold a special switch. 9.1 The solution: We have developed a solution, eLocutor, which is available for testing at Links from this page also display dynamic images of the software in use, hence it is not necessary to install the software in order to get a flavor of the process of using it. Prof Hawking and his assistants are currently evaluating the software. One key feature of the solution is that it is independent of the language used. It has no inbuilt grammar rules, instead relying upon actual usage. By substituting the database content, a completely different language can easily be put in place. It is our intention to promote the software for use by disabled people in Third World countries, enabling them to consider entering active life once more. We found while working on this solution that it is essential to have the cooperation and assistance of people with similar difficulties, in order to arrive at optimal solutions. We are working on setting up a research and development institute where we can work with disabled people to create new software and hardware solutions aimed at overcoming the problems created for people like them by their physical condition. We believe that developing high-end solutions and designs will give our colleagues the experience and confidence to independently take up high-end projects subsequently, whether or not these are disability related. All too often such people are relegated to menial jobs as data entry operators, even after they have proved their qualifications and ability.

10.0 Wireless Data Access - The Next Step The investment stage for fibre optic in India is ongoing. Rail, power and communication companies are all investing in laying down fibre optic cable. This is happening not only in the major cities but across huge swathes of land, criss-crossing the country. The "last mile


connection", however, remains a major problem. The low density of users across larger geographic areas deters investment in expensive switches and copper line to each household. However, completely unsung, following the grapevine of the Internet, a new communications paradigm has taken hold. It wasn't even properly christened. Much too late, marketing came up with Wi-Fi, but long before then, engineers had cheerfully been using the IEEE standard number that defined the standard - 802.11. There is a family of standards within this definition, denoted by an alphabet after the digits, two of which, 802.11b and 802.11g, are already commercialized to off-the-shelf status. Wi-Fi costs less than a hundred dollars a node to deploy, routinely carries traffic in excess of half a megabit per second, traverses kilometers with line of sight, and uses off-the-shelf hardware and software. It simply transports TCP/IP and the Internet into the air, so it doesn't need a central server. This makes for a major cost and management saving. In the event of a disaster, the surviving nodes automatically reconnect, unlike conventional telecommunications networks, which have consistently let us down in natural disasters such as Latur, Bhuj and Orissa (three major natural disasters - two earthquakes and a typhoon - that hit India in the last ten years, killing tens of thousands of people and destroying property worth hundreds of millions of dollars). In 802.11, the individual invests once in the networking hardware, which depending on distance and the presence of other 802.11 nodes, costs between $40 and $1000. Networks as small as 2 nodes are commonplace. Often these are within a room, for the economies of scale that Bluetooth didn't find, 802.11 reached by simply extending the wired Ethernet LAN into the air. It also, significantly, allowed cost-effective broadband connectivity over distances. Single hops in the range of several kilometers are easily attainable, with multiple hops extending the range without limit. Through this ability, 802.11 delivers today what 3G promises in a few years. is an excellent beginners' guide to 802.11b, the first of the family to reach ordinary consumer product status. 802.11g standard devices have now joined it, offering higher bandwidth at greater distances, together with compatibility to the earlier standard. Rapid deployment of telecom is a high priority in India. Much optic fibre has been deployed, but of these rivers of bandwidth, very little reaches even the large end-user. We now have a tried and tested technical solution to this problem. Funding agencies will find it much more attractive to fund low, one-time costs, than the high running expenses the current model entails. The emergence of a standard allows us to focus our meager resources in capital and training.

11.0 Models of Deployment One way of analyzing the ways in which 802.11b has been deployed around the world, is to divide them into Intranet and Internet models. In the Intranet model, a hospital, hotel, school, airport might use it as a means of providing connectivity to its clients or employees. Multiple nearby offices of a large organization may use it to cut down interconnection charges, or share a fat pipe to the Internet. 11.1 Community Networking: There is, however, the far more exciting community model, as demonstrated by in London and environs ( Other examples abound, such as and, in which anyone in a given geographical area can share communication bandwidth by simply procuring and installing a little networking hardware.


This model is ideally suited to interconnecting villages. While at the time of writing, 802.11b devices seem to be more economical, and available in greater variety, 802.11g is making rapid strides, and because of its higher bandwidth, may be considered instead, at the time of purchase. 802.11a is the most powerful variant in terms of reach and bandwidth, but it has not been as popular, and does not interconnect to 802.11b and 802.11g networks or nodes, hence may never be more than an engineering powerhouse. In India, bandwidth at 2.4 GHz, as used by 802.11b and 802.11g, has been made free from licensing for indoor use. In reality, this recent policy announcement is a little mendacious, as any indoor use of wireless at public frequencies was always permitted. Clearly, Wi-Fi can be used to extend high bandwidth out from fibre optic termination points over the last mile. However, for this to become meaningful in rural India, it will be necessary to see widespread dissemination of computers first, as 802.11 products are used as peripherals for computers.

12.0 Conclusion It is possible to push telecommunications growth in rural India by inciting demand. Traditional wireline technologies cannot hope to do this. In wireless, using technologies free from expensive central switching are the best way to bring costs down to affordable levels. We have demonstrated that it is feasible to use low power FM radio broadcasting to spur local interest in communications. There is still some work to be done in this area, as present government policy does not favor villagers from owning or having locally managed broadcast radio stations. As long as this remains the case, the option for use of leaky cable is viable. Going ahead from here, we see enormous potential in addressing the other aspects of data access: computer interfaces and connectivity. Interfaces need to be in local languages. With our interface for severely disabled people, the future goal is an interface that speaks the local tongue. While long distance connectivity shortfalls are being addressed with investments in fibre optic across the country, we see the last mile solution for rural areas lies in wireless, especially promising technologies such as Wi-Fi, based on established standards, with a steadily growing consumer market internationally to ensure that costs remain low.


i. Times of India, 1st Nov 2002 ii iSource ( iii Economic and Political Weekly, November 20-26, 1999 iv Satellites Over South Asia: Broadcasting, Culture and the Public Interest. (D Page and M Crawley) Sage Publications, 2000


Appendix A Community Radio in India Until the early 1990s, there was no provision for any form of private involvement in the broadcast media in India. This government policy relaxed with the burgeoning of satellite and cable television, as independent producers began up linking local content to satellites with an Indian footprint. Cable television operators quickly found that there was a huge market for such local content. In the mid-'90s, the government began to actively carve out a policy for governance of this medium. This is an ongoing process, and it has been facilitated by the introduction of rules and regulations to manage local up linking, use of Indian owned satellites, and very recently, governance of the terms and conditions under which cable operators provide services. In the 1990s, the government also began an exit policy from many of the services once considered its exclusive province. In radio, this took the form of focusing on revenue collection from commercial services, which ultimately led to the licensing of private radio stations. Radio, therefore, did not get the same level of attention as television. Following the introduction of color broadcasting in the 1980s, the commercial market focus switched from radio to television. Unlike other media, television did not merely complement radio, it took over. It is very likely that independent content played a major role in this phenomenon, as much as, or more than, the potential attractiveness of simultaneous moving pictures and sound. The government also decided to switch local broadcasting from medium wave to FM in the 1990s. However, this has not been a success, since consumers could not afford to replace their existing sets with those capable of receiving FM. Content has always been a serious concern. The entertainment factor (or lack of it) meant that most radio programs had a low listenership. It can be argued that this pointed more to niche listener interest, rather than poor quality per se. However, centralized production meant that there was always major potential for disconnect between listeners and those producing and presenting the content. This point has not been well understood at the policy level. In the early days of radio, when there were very limited resources for investment, the emphasis was on long range broadcasting, with centralized production and transmission. This mindset continued long after the need for it was over, and it still exists. As is often the case with policy shifts, what was once a government monopoly came to be perceived as a source of revenue, to the extent that licensing of private radio stations was carried out in a manner that ensured only the largest of media companies could consider entry to this business. One commercial channel has already closed down and many of the licensees have not yet started operations. Operators claim to be losing money at a far higher rate than anticipated, and blame the lack of sufficient radio stations as a significant factor in the slow growth of radio listening habits. The small size of the market has also meant that they have adopted a 'one-sizefits-all' approach to content, which is mostly pop music in Hindi and English. There is no local language radio station in any of the cities where commercial radio has started. The government decided to broaden the scope of public radio broadcasting by licensing the Indira Gandhi National Open University to start 40 radio stations under the Gyan Vani (Knowledge Broadcast) banner. So far, about 7 have been started in different cities, but the response has been lukewarm. IGNOU is an organization that has no campus but maintains a presence in many cities, and undertakes education of people who are excluded from the traditional college streams by various factors. It conducts courses mainly using distance learning techniques.


Very recently, in January 2003, after intense lobbying (including some by the authors), a policy for non-commercial 'community radio' broadcasting was announced, but once again, this policy has been shaped in a singular fashion, to restrict broadcasting rights to 'recognized' educational institutions only. Such institutions exist mainly in large cities, and none have begun services to date. This policy is also directly against the interests of the IGNOU policy announced earlier, and this may be a contributory factor. One university, an agricultural college, has been leased a disused medium wave transmitter by the government, and has begun broadcasting agri-centric educational programs for farmers. The terms and conditions of community radio as currently defined by the Indian government places a number of restrictions on the content. It is intended to ensure that they focus on matters of social relevance. Guidelines for Applying: Licenses for Setting Up Community Radio Station Preamble The Union Government has decided to grant Community Broadcasting licenses to wellestablished educational institutions/organizations recognized by the Central Government or the State Government. These will include the Universities and Institutes of Technology/Management and residential school. The salient features of eligibility criteria, basic conditions/obligations and procedures for obtaining license to set up and operate Community Radio service are briefly described below:- For further details reference may be made to Ministry of Information & Broadcasting 2. Technical parameters: 2.1 License will be granted for FM transmitters for power of 50 Watts or less. 2.2 License will be issued in the shared frequency band from 87.5 to 100 Mhz. However, in the event of frequency not being available in this band, the exclusive broadcast band of 104 to 108 Mhz may also be considered, as in case of private FM broadcasters. The frequency band from 100 to 104 Mhz. earmarked exclusively for the use of AIR, Prasar Bharati will not be disturbed. 3. Procedure to be followed: Application:3.1 Any eligible institution/organization desirous of setting up of Community Radio broadcasting service may make an application to the Ministry of I&B in the prescribed proforma. (Download application form) 3.2 The Ministry of I&B immediately on receipt of an application will consult the Wireless Advisor in WPC wing of Ministry of Communications and also Prasar Bharati to determine the availability of frequency at the place requested by the applicant. 3.3 The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting will refer the eligible applicant case to the Ministries of Home Affairs, Defense, Human Resources Development and External Affairs and letter of intent and/or license will be issued only after getting the requisite clearances from these Ministries. The licensee will be required to sign a license agreement after allotment of frequency by WPC. The license agreement shall specify detailed terms and conditions under which the license is to be operated. 3.4 Within one year from the date of signing of license agreement, the applicant will complete all necessary formalities such as obtaining SACFA clearance etc., set up the necessary broadcast facilities and obtain a Wireless Operating License from the Wireless Advisor in the WPC Wing of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.


3.5 In the event of more than one claimant for a single frequency at a given place, the licensee will be selected by a Committee constituted by the Ministry of L&B on the basis of standing, commitment, objectives and resources of the applicant organization. 3.6 Licensee will be charged only the spectrum usage fee as determined by the WPC. The Ministry of I&B will not levy any other license fee. 4. Terms and Conditions 4.1 The basic objective of the Community Radio broadcasting would be to serve the cause of the community in the service area of the licensee by involving members of the community in the broadcast of their programs. For this purpose community would mean people living in the coverage zone of the broadcasting service of the licensee. 4.2 The license shall be for a period of three (3) years. 4.3 The license shall not be transferable. 4.4 An applicant will not be permitted more than one license. 4.5 The licensee shall provide its services on free to air basis. 4.6 The licensee shall not use its channel/broadcast services in whole or part for commercial purposes. 4.7 The programs on the community radio service will focus on issues relating to education, health, environment, agriculture rural and community development. The content must be confined to social, cultural and local issues and the format, subject, presentation and language must reflect and exude the local flavor and fragrance. 4.8 The licensee shall not be permitted to broadcast any news and current affairs programs and shall not air election and political broadcasts. 4.9 The licensee shall not air any advertisement or sponsored programs. 4.10 The licensee shall ensure that nothing is included in the program of the licensee which : a. Offends against good taste or decency; b. Contains criticism of friendly countries; c. Contains attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes; d. Contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths; e. Is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote-anti-national attitudes; f. Contains anything amounting to contempt of court; g. Contains aspersions against the integrity of the President and Judiciary; h. Contains anything affecting the integrity of the Nation; i. Criticizes, maligns or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country; j. Encourages superstition or blind belief; k. Denigrates women; l. Denigrates children. m. May present/depict/suggest as desirable the misuse of drugs including alcohol, narcotics and tobacco or which may stereotype, incite, vilify or perpetuate hatred against or attempt to demean


any person or group on the basis of ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, sexual preference, religion, age or physical or mental disability. 4.11 The licensee shall ensure that due care is taken with respect to religious programs with a view to avoiding a) Improper exploitation of religious susceptibilities; and b) Offence to the religious views and beliefs of those belonging to a particular religion or religious denomination. 4.12 That the licensee shall ensure that due emphasis is given in the programs to promote values of national integration, religious harmony, scientific temper and Indian culture. 4.13 The licensee shall follow the Program Code of All India Radio. 4.14 The licensee shall pay spectrum usage fee as determined by the Wireless Advisor in WPC Wing. 4.15 Though the licensees will operate the service under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India, the licensing will be subject to the condition that as and when any regulatory authority to regulate and monitor the broadcast services in the country is constituted, the licensees will have to adhere to the norms, rules and regulations prescribed by such authority. 4.16 The licensee shall provide such information to the Government on such intervals as may be required. In this connection, the licensee is required to preserve tapes of programs broadcast during the last six months failing which the Government will be at liberty to revoke the license. 4.17 The Government or its authorized representative shall have the right to inspect the broadcast facilities of the licensees and collect such information as considered necessary in public and community interests. 4.18 The Government reserves the right to take over the entire services and networks of the licensee or revoke/terminate/suspend the license in the interest of national security or in the event of national emergency/ war or low intensity conflict or similar type of situations. 4.19 All foreign personnel likely to be deployed by way of appointment, contract, consultancy, etc. by the licensee for installation, maintenance and operation of the licensee’s services shall be required to obtain security clearance from the Government of India. 4.20 The Government reserves the right to modify at any time the terms and conditions if it is necessary to do so in the interest of the general public or for the proper conduct of broadcasting or for security considerations. 4.21 Government may revoke the license at any time in public interest or for breach of any terms and conditions of the license by giving a notice of 15 days. 4.22 Notwithstanding anything contained anywhere else in the license the Government’s decision shall be final and conclusive. 4.23 The licensees shall furnish a bank guarantee for a sum of Rs.50,000/- (Rupees fifty thousand) only to ensure timely performance of the license agreement. 4.24 If the licensee fails to commission services within the stipulated period, he shall forfeit the amount of bank guarantee to the Government and the Government would be free to cancel the license awarded to the licensee. 4.25 A license will be subject to such other conditions as may be determined by the Government.


Appendix B News item: India's first community radio broadcast center shut by government Copyright, 1999 The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G. Road, Post Box No 5331, Bangalore - 560001 Tel: +91 (80) 5880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 5880523 Thursday, February 13, 2003 Centre ends AP's community broadcasting From R Akhileshwari, DH News Service, HYDERABAD, Feb 12 A much-publicized World Bank-funded, government-supported program in Andhra Pradesh has been scuttled by the Central Government for violating the law. An official of the Department of Telecom (DoT) seized the transmitter set up by the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) in Orvakal village in Kurnool district for not possessing a license to broadcast programs, thus putting an end to the experiment of community broadcasting called 'Mana Radio' or 'Our Radio'. The program was launched in October last as part of spreading awareness among the community. A handful of the village's men and women were involved in recording programs and broadcasting them once a week. The one-hour program every Monday included songs, discussions and even news about the community and its concerns. According to the official who seized the transmitter on Tuesday, he received an advisory from the DoT's monitoring agency to seize the transmitter since it had not been licensed by the Wireless Planning Coordination wing as required under the law. While senior SERP officials were reluctant to comment on the development, some put up a brave face saying that they would apply for the licenses soon and the radio would start working once again within a few days time. However, media experts here are skeptical since they point out that as per the revised norms of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, licenses would be granted to set up FM radio stations only to 'well-established' educational institutions. "There is no law at present under which a group of people or a government-supported institution can broadcast programs by using air waves," said Mr Vinod Pavarala of the University of Hyderabad. According to a 1985 law, even owning transmission equipment is illegal, he pointed out. The 'radio station' comprises a low-powered transmitter that has been installed atop a house in Orvakal village with a reach of one km, effectively covering the entire village. It has two digital tape recorders which double up as editing equipment. The programs were heard by the community in about 50 radio sets that were distributed free of cost as part of the program. Media analysts here told Deccan Herald that right from the beginning the SERP was 'fudging‘ on the issue of license, suggesting that they were capitalizing on a loophole in the licensing law. They were so confident that they publicized Mana Radio as the first community radio of the country and it was covered extensively by the press and TV channels. Evidently, the confidence was inspired by the Telugu Desam Party's close ties with the Centre and that the program was backed by World Bank the analysts said.


Appendix C Letter to the Cabinet Minister protesting shutting down of Mana radio station April 16, 2003 Mr. Arun Shourie Minister of Telecommunications and IT New Delhi Subject: Low-power FM radio policy Sir, We seek your intervention in a matter of serious concern for the hundreds of millions of poor people in this country. An action by some bureaucrats in your ministry has nipped in the bud a highly promising experiment in bringing the benefits of the Internet to people who cannot afford a phone line or a computer. At Radiophony, we decided early on, that, unlike most other communications companies, we did not wish to focus our interest on that very small fraction of India that has access to such facilities, and knows English well enough to use the Internet. As we saw it, there is only one telecommunications device that the poor person can afford to own, indeed might already possess: the simple AM/FM radio. Any strategy that seeks to bring the benefits of modern communications to poor people cannot bypass this. You are undoubtedly aware of the experiments at Radio Kothmale in Sri Lanka ( and elsewhere, which allow illiterate people to access the Internet in a limited fashion, using their own mother-tongues. People send their questions to the radio station via a post card or a phone call. At the station, English literate staff search the Net or encyclopedias for the answer, and broadcast it in the local language via the radio station, a concept known by the term "radio-browsing" . At Radiophony, we have detailed ideas on how this might be extended to allow low-cost simultaneous translation, which would save considerable time at national conferences, as well as affordable multi-location conferencing. We would be happy to elaborate on these. While recognizing the importance of FM radio in bringing poor people into public debate, we were, of course, determined to keep within the bounds of what the government permits in this area. We were pleased to note that the government allowed the unlicensed use of cordless FM microphones, which are used on almost every public platform now, and Chinese-made models are indeed easily available in every electronics market for a little over Rs. 100. These microphones radiate a power of about 50mW, as do the remote car door openers that luxury cars routinely provide. We adapted the design of a cordless microphone, using parts that are commonly available in small towns, wherever radios and TVs are repaired. We designed an efficient, low-cost antenna using the flat cable used to connect TV antennae, so that just 50mW of power would carry the signal about 400 meters. We also made a provision for attachment of an audio recorder. This system allows villages to set up community radio stations at a cost of only a few hundred rupees. As partners for the pilot project, we were lucky to find the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty in Hyderabad, which was seeking to promote development in regions of extreme poverty, and was looking for an affordable means of communication for the members of their micro-finance self-help groups. Effectively, what we gave them is an ecologically-friendly public address system. The range is roughly the same as that of a blaring loudspeaker, however, our system allows multiple voices to co-exist (for instance, at the time of elections, each political party can set up its own, independent transmitter). Unlike in the case of the conventional PA system, the listener can choose, which source to tune her radio to if her kids are studying, she can also switch


all of them off. By effectively replacing a small number of large loudspeakers with a large distributed set of small, switchable ones, we not only save power, but also drastically reduce noise pollution. At the same time, the quality of sound reception improves, and the last house within range hears the sound almost as clearly as the nearest one. Information about the pilot project, including detailed circuit diagram and parts list, have been made available at Of course, when using such little power, even at this range, indoor reception is not available: the listener must attach a wire to the radio and suspend it within line of sight of the transmitting antenna. The occasion for bringing this to your notice, is that, as we have been told, Mr. Sharad Chauhan of your Hyderabad Wireless Monitoring Unit, at the request of his Delhi-based superior, Mr. TP Narayanan, and the complaint of Mr. Ashok Kumar of Wireless Planning and Coordination, went to Oravakal, and seized the equipment (without any written warrant). For your reference, Oravakal is located in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, being a tiny village about 20 km from Kurnool town, about 4-5 hours drive from Hyderabad. Our request is simple: could we please participate in a discussion of a wireless policy that allows frivolous uses such as opening car doors and wireless microphones (used mostly for Karaoke), while denying poor people their only available access to modern telecommunications? If a transmitter of 50mW is illegal, how is it that no raids are conducted at the myriad shops in Palika Bazaar, Lajpat Rai market, and thousands of electronics shops around the country, which sell cordless microphones, while the Ministry sees fit to send a senior bureaucrat to the remote village of Oravakal, to terrorize some poor women trying to convince others to join their micro-finance system? Surely the government isn't arguing that the FM spectrum in Oravakal is crowded, or is going to be in the foreseeable future: at the moment, only one FM station can be received at the village, and we are unaware of any plan to significantly increase that number. As we all know, the FM band can accommodate dozens of such stations. Internationally accepted standards of broadcasting allow for about 100 stations to broadcast in the public band between 87.5 and 108 MHz, to an audience listening in the same geographical area. The government seems to have no problem allowing Chinese made equipment to sell openly in the country, while Indian organizations (with far more laudable objectives), making equivalent equipment, are harassed. Is it then any wonder, that there is such little electronic innovation in the country? Our software industry has acknowledgedly achieved sterling success, and so can the hardware industry, but not if shackled in this way. And talking of innovation in electronics, is it not ironic that FM radio, a technology we are only now allowing to any serious degree, is over sixty years old? Shouldn't the experts in your ministry seek to encourage some innovation in this area, instead of trampling it underfoot? We would be happy, at your convenience, to demonstrate our system to you, and discuss with you the promising possibilities of such technologies in achieving universal access. Thanking you for your consideration, Yours truly, Arun Mehta (CTO, Radiophony)



Table of Contents 1.0 2.0 Introduction 1.1 The Lao People’s Democratic Republic Current IT and Communications in Laos 2.1 Government, Business, and Personal Computers 2.2 Landline Infrastructure 2.3 Fibre Optic Infrastructure 2.4 Internet in Laos 2.5 Customer Demand 2.6 The Wireless Revolution 2.7 A Local Solution

3.0 802.11 “Cantennas” 3.1 History of the Cantenna 3.2 Required Parts 3.3 Required Equipment 3.4 Performance 3.5 Costs 4.0 Creating Local Wireless Networks in Laos 4.1 Sustainability 4.2 Training Required 5.0 Obstacles 6.0 Opportunities References Appendix A: Performance Data for Various “Cantennas”


1.0 Introduction Laos lacks access to the low cost and sustainable technologies we take for granted. In a developing country where water pipes are still rare, opening the “fat pipes” of the IT revolution is a difficult, but important task. Fortunately, with the lack of precedence comes the ability to innovate, to “leapfrog” over outdated technologies, and adopt the best the world has to offer today. New technologies, particularly low cost 802.11 “wi-fi”, give us the potential to “un-wire” a country where wires might never penetrate into remote jungle hamlets, but radio waves will. This paper will present some of the opportunities Laos presents for providing low-cost access and connectivity.

1.1 The Lao People’s Democratic Republic Laos is the only landlocked South East Asian country, a natural land hub interconnecting China, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Laos has an area of 236,800 square kilometers and a population of 5,777,180 (July 2002 est.), with 16.5% illiteracy rate (government's figure). The Lao People Democratic Republic was proclaimed in December 1975, with the change of political balance in South East Asia (Vietnam War). The gross National product (or GDP) is estimated to be $1,630.00 per capita (2001 figure, inflation rate at 10%)1. Mainly a subsistence economy, its natural resources remain mostly unexploited and untapped. Laos is a poor and isolated developing country, which had suffered much from the misfortune of war and neglect. Remote and removed from the world, the existing technology infrastructure is only now becoming known to outsiders. The country's recent history and political structure further compound problems of poverty and underdevelopment. Like many other communist bloc countries, Laos has long been isolated from the international arena, with limited ties to the rest of the world. This is gradually changing as the country is undertaking economic reforms and slowly opening its doors to the outside world; especially in the IT arena- the Internet included.



World Factbook 2002- URL :


2.0 Current IT and Communications in Laos According to Phonpasit Phitsamay, Director of Information Technology Center, Science Technology and Environment Agency, Prime Minister’s Office2: The Ministry of Communication Transport Post and Construction has set a target of teledensity of three by 2005, but again there is no clear mechanism of how this will be reached. It is interesting to note that according to official reports over 8,897 people in Vientiane only were on the waiting list for a fixed telephone line at the end of 2000. The connection charge for the fixed telephone network is just Kip 400,000 (US$40). This amount is equivalent to roughly 13 per cent of household yearly consumption expenditure. Though this seems large, it is a one-time investment to get connected to the network and is far below the actual cost of providing service. After that, monthly expenditures for phone service seem manageable for wealthier households. For example the monthly telephone fee plus 100 minutes of local telephone calls (Kip 15,000 + 4,500 = 19,500) is equal to 10.3 percent of average monthly household consumption. An AMPS analogue cellular network was launched in 1993 serving Vientiane and a year later a GSM 900 network was introduced (December 1994). The AMPS network has since been shut down. The GSM network is now available in nine of the country’s eighteen provinces. As coverage is usually available only in the largest town of the province and does not fully extend down the nation’s main highway, it is estimated that less than ten percent of the population is covered by a mobile signal. Despite eight years of mobile cellular implementation, Lao PDR has not yet experienced a wireless boom to the same extent as other developing nations. At September 2001, mobile subscribers accounted for one third of the total telephone subscribers in Lao PDR and mobile density was a mere 0.25 per cent. There are several possible explanations. Lao PDR was the last country in the region to introduce competition in the mobile sector. It also only recently launched prepaid service in 2000. Some argue that the country’s economic and geographic situation work against wide mobile penetration. Incomes are low, the vast majority of inhabitants are rural and much of the terrain is mountainous. The number of subscribers grew by 75 per cent between January and September 2001; significantly above the annual average growth of 44 percent a year between 1997-2000. One factor has been the start of the M-Phone prepaid service. Launched in 2000, there were 5,402 prepaid subscribers at September 2001, accounting for 21 percent of all mobile cellular subscribers.

2.1 Government, Business, and Personal Computers There are probably less than fifteen thousand computers in Laos. Although there is a very high level of interest in personal and business computing, and the Internet, costs for PCs and access to the Internet are still too high for common use. Computing remains an activity mostly reserved for the workplace in the Lao PDR, though wealthier households in the major cities, especially Vientiane, are now buying computers for their children.

Seminar on Information Technology management, Under common program of CLMV initiatives and JICA-ASEAN. October 8-10, 2002, Vientiane, Lao PDR. “IT policies and E-development in Lao PDR”



According to Phitsamay: There is a 5% tariff on all imported hardware. There is also a 10% turnover tax applicable to all computer retailers. These two taxes are passed on directly to customers, along with an additional 20%-50% mark-up profits. Most retailers (mainly the big companies) rely heavily on sales to international organizations, projects and the government; these sales, on average, account for 85% of all their computer sales. Private businesses are the next largest customers, accounting for 13% of total sales. Sales for personal computing only accounts for 2% of total sales. Small shops usually target the low-end computer market, providing cheap computers to customers with tight budgets. 2.2 Landline Infrastructure The International Telecommunication Union estimates “that fewer than four percents of Laotian households currently have a telephone” and that “less than half of Laos’ districts (58 out of 142) have fixed telephone services and only urban areas in half the provinces are covered by a mobile cellular signal: 3 2.3 Fibre Optic Infrastructure • Regional: In the area of telecommunications infrastructure, Entreprise des Telecommunications Lao (ETL) has plans for a fibre optic backbone that will link all provinces. The China South-East Asia Cable (Vientiane to Laksao), which ETL considers to be Phase One of its fibre optic project, has already been installed. There are nine additional phases: Road 9 (2000-2003), 13 South (2001-2003), 13 North (2001-2003), Northern Provinces (2004-2006), Southern Provinces (2006-2008), Lao-China (20042006), Lao-Thai (2001-2003), Lao-Vietnam (2001-2003), and Lao-Cambodia (20062009). LaoTel has their own high speed connections via Shinnawat’s telco backbone. National and International: The planned transmission rate for this fibre optic network is 2 Gbps. The plan for the Lao-Vietnam connection includes a line that extends to the east coast of central Vietnam, near Quang Tri. This line will then connect to Hong Kong via submarine cable. All other international connections will be terrestrial connections: 3 lines to Vietnam, 1 line to China, 1 line to Myanmar, 4 lines to Thailand, and 1 line to Cambodia.

2.4 Internet in Laos ISPs Recently the number of Internet users registered with all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) has dramatically increased, numbering between 3500-4000. There are only three ISPs currently operating in the Lao PDR; the largest market share holder being LaoTel, the country’s only telecommunications provider – LaoTel services almost 80% of all Internet subscriptions. LaoTel is 51% owned by the Lao Government and 49% owned by Lao Shinawatra International.


Internet on the Mekong: Lao PDR Case Study. ITU March 2002.


Internet Cafes An alternative, and less expensive, means of Internet access are Internet cafes, which requires no investment in a personal computer or costly monthly charges. The estimated number of Internet cafes in the Lao PDR is under one hundred; however, this figure is growing at a very rapid rate. The growth of Internet cafes is indicative of the increasing interest in accessing the Internet. Full-time access, via an ISP, by local citizens accounts for about 40% of all ISP accounts. However, Lao people make up the majority of Internet café users, which was initially comprised of international tourists. 2.5 Customer Demand The Lao people are no different from people in other parts of the world. They want to communicate with others. Most Lao people are unfamiliar with computers. They are unlikely to use any system that is complicated or presented in a language not their own. To this end, there have been efforts to create and standardize Lao fonts for use within text processing applications. In addition, the Lao version of Linux, (Laonux) has integrated Lao into the entire KDE graphical user interface. Thus, some of the pieces are already in place to dramatically increase the use of computers in Laos. A working used computer, (P-133 - Win95 with monitor, keyboard, mouse, modem) now costs around two hundred dollars in Laos. While this is a large sum for any single family outside the capital, spread between the residents of a village, it becomes affordable. Most villages do not have regular electricity supplies. Still, even the poorest places have at least one television, usually powered by a generator. Where a village already has a television, acquiring a computer is not an unreasonable expectation. The primary obstacle remains the lack of telephone landlines. As elsewhere, it’s “the last mile” that thwarted efforts toward connectivity. Currently, about 4% of the population has landline access to telephony. Only the major urban areas have mobile phone coverage. It is unlikely this will improve rapidly. Current demand for voice communications is very high, as can be seen with the explosive growth of mobile phone subscriptions. Presumably then, the primary purpose of the first computers used rurally will be for Voice Over IP services which allow the users to make and receive low cost phone calls. The government, except where a special permit has been issued for VoIP, currently prohibits this. Still, enforcement of this law seems lax as most Internet cafes openly advertise the availability of VoIP for their customers. While adult literacy is rising, Laos remains far behind at only 47%. The number of Internet users who are also literate in another language will be but a fraction of that. Thus, surfing the mostly English language web is not currently a primary goal of users. Text based messaging, such as email, SMS, and IM is currently the primary activity online for Lao people. This is why the development of Lao fonts and user interfaces remains critical for extending the use of the Internet. As more Lao language sites are created, they should be popular destinations.


No Lao bank currently offers credit card services. Without the ability to shop online, ecommerce is unlikely to be feasible when marketed to Lao users. The economy is mostly agricultural, exporting food and raw materials. Some businesses may use the Internet to improve pricing and market data or logistics. It is almost impossible to quantify demand, as there are few surveys of this nature and access to the rural population is difficult. What remains certain is that serving the rural user is unlikely to be affordable or sustainable using typical landline technologies given the geography and economics of Laos. 2.6 The Wireless Revolution If people are unwilling to wait for telephone lines, yet still have the strong desire to connect to the Internet, they might take matters into their own hands. Some mobile subscribers have erected base stations near their rural homes at their own expense. Could Lao Internet enthusiasts and entrepreneurs be able to create their own WLANs, especially if the technology is made affordable? A few companies have already sprung up in Laos offering 802.11b service to business customers. All these efforts are within the capital Vientiane and are very costly. Imported hardware and technical expertise is required to make the WLAN work, and the internet gateway must be paid for whether it is through LaoTel or a satellite uplink provider. The huge advantage of using 802.11 isn’t speed. That will always be limited by the gateway to an Internet backbone. Rather, it’s the very troublesome geography that can be overcome with wireless. All that is required is line of sight between antennas. With relays on top of buildings, trees, and mountain peaks, the whole country could be connected to both local wireless LANs in their own language, but also to the Internet itself. If all the equipment is installed using state of the art commercial antennas with a qualified staff of trained technicians, it will fail. The installation cost is too high, and the maintenance is almost impossible. Further, the equipment is subject to vandalism, theft, and frequent weather-related failure. 2.7 A local solution However, if the Lao people themselves make their own low cost antennas, mount and maintain them locally, and create the network themselves, there is a very real potential to connect the countryside without much money and with no requirement for outside maintenance. The following section details how this can be done using “cantennas”.


3.0 802.11 “Cantennas” Note: Except where otherwise noted, the following section has liberally borrowed, abstracted, and copied information from It is believed that all the information below is accurate and in the public domain as the result of many generous enthusiasts posting their experiences on the Internet. Any mistakes herein are the responsibility of the authors of this report, who wish to thank the enthusiasts for acting in the true spirit of the web. 802.11b Description: A physical layer standard for WLANs in the 2.4GHz radio band. It specifies three available radio channels. Maximum link rate of 11-Mbps per channel, but maximum user throughput will be approximately half of this because the throughput is shared by all users of the same radio channel. The data rate decreases as the distance between the user and the radio access point increases.4 3.1 History of the Cantenna In July 2001, Rob Flickenger wrote an article5 for describing Andrew S. Clapp’s success in converting an ordinary Pringles can into an 802.11b antenna. On Clapp’s website he says, I looked at this cool Seattle Wireless page with wonderful pictures of a manufactured directional yagi antenna and then I did some math and built one as much like it as I could afford. When I was done, I had the basic model for the antenna, but 36" long. Both are similar in construction and materials, and identical in theory. I just scaled down the materials and made a smaller one, and the potato crisp can just happened to be about the right size and it worked out.6 Since that time, thousands of enthusiasts have built “cantennas”, using cans of all shapes and sizes. Dozens of Figure 1: An early cantenna websites give detailed instructions on how to build these cans. For an averagely skilled person with some mechanical aptitude, building a cantenna takes about one hour the first time, and fifteen minutes thereafter.

4 5,14179,2857227-2,00.html 6


3.2 Required Parts (See footnote7) The Connector Each antenna requires an N type Female Chassis-mount connector. One side is Nfemale for connecting the cable from your wireless equipment, and the other side has a small brass stub for soldering on wire. These can be found at electronics stores internet suppliers for $3-$5.

Nuts & Bolts The bolts must be long enough to go through the connector and the can. You may use #6x1/4" stainless. If the N-connector is a screw on type, then there is no need for the nuts and bolts. Wire Each antenna requires about 1.25" of 12 gauge copper wire. This wire will stick into the brass stub in the N-connector. A Can Any can between about 3" and 3 2/3" in diameter. The size doesn't have to be exact. Users have experimented with a wide variety of shapes and sizes with various results, and almost any can will work. Discarded empty cans commonly found in Laos will certainly be suitable.

3.3 Required Equipment • •

A drill or other tool for making a hole in a can. A soldering tool

Adapted from


• •

A measure A way of calculating the location of the hole.

See the exact details on the amateur manufacture of a cantenna at

3.4 Performance As shown in Appendix A, cantennas perform as well as commercially available 802.11b antennas, which currently cost hundreds of dollars. Mounted anywhere with line of sight to another antenna, attached to a computer with a coax cable and wireless card, these antennas can achieve line of sight ranges of at least 15 kilometres. This means that wireless local area networks, wireless peer to peer networks, wireless hub and spoke networks, and just about any other configuration can be readily achieved without worries about whether these low cost cantennas are sufficiently powerful. 3.5 Costs Assuming a soldering tool and drill is already available, the cost for creating each cantenna is under five dollars. Even minimal effort to scale up such manufacturing would lower those costs dramatically. A shop floor, garage, storefront, backyard, or just about any other reasonable workspace is sufficient to manufacture cantennas in quantity. Personnel require no background in welding or electronics to build a cantenna. The coaxial connector to the PC or other wireless device cost will vary by manufacturer. They can be found online for as little as twenty dollars. It is strongly suspected that these cables can also be locally manufactured. The most expensive piece of equipment for now is the wireless card for a laptop, PC, or other wireless device such as a Pocket PC or Palm Pilot. These range from $40 to $150, although their price continues to fall. So for each computer using a cantenna to connect to the wireless LAN, the equipment cost will initially range between $65 and $200. If the cables, N-Type connectors, and even the wireless cards can be manufactured locally, the price could drop to a fraction of this.


4.0 Creating Local Wireless Networks in Laos From the above, it should be clear that the equipment for networking is no longer the obstacle it was just a few years ago. Lao people can make the equipment themselves cheaply and easily with little training. The next step, assuming computers are available, is mounting antennas (with the shortest length of wire possible, since it degrades signal strength). Bamboo poles, strapped to a building, can be used to elevate the cantennas. They can also be installed in trees, rooftops, towers, or any other place that provides a line of sight to another cantenna. The only limit is power and proximity to a computer. It is important to remember that not all computers must be using cantennas. If a remote school has ten computers, only one requires a cantenna. The rest can connect to each other using standard CAT5 cables. If two computers in such a local network are also connected to cantennas, then the school becomes a relay point, further extending the network at very low cost. Since the bottleneck for throughput is the final connection to the Internet itself, it is unlikely that the typical cantenna network will ever utilize its full potential. Speeds of between 14Kbs and 11Mbs are available, but actual Internet connection performance will be slow. Speeds between the computers in the local network should be quite high though, since there is no bottleneck other than the distance between antennas and atmospheric conditions. There is no requirement that the antennas be fixed in only one position. They are quite portable and can be rotated and adjusted to gain signal strength or point to a different wireless antenna. There is also no requirement that a PC or Laptop be the device connected to the network. Other wireless capable devices, such as Pocket PCs, work just as well. For remote relays, a handheld device, equipped with two wireless cards connecting to two cantennas may require little enough power to operate for several days between battery recharges. Similarly, Lao people may find it more intuitive to use a stylus for writing the Lao script than a standard English language based keyboard modified for the Lao font. As these portable devices drop in price and rise in capabilities, they may become the heart of a fluid wireless network that is imminently suited for the rural countryside. Users may shift between ad hoc networks, Internet connectivity, and other types of LAN at will simply by shifting their cantennas. The flatter the geography, the better for wireless networks, but the mountainous terrain also provides advantages for locating relay stations on promontories.


4.1 Sustainability The weather and geography of Laos will degrade any kind of equipment. So using locally made replacement parts is a large reason why this approach is more sustainable than buying antennas from commercial vendors. The very simple design and obvious user interface (point your can at another can to get a connection) means that no literacy or special training is required to use and maintain the cantennas. If a typhoon knocks over the equipment, or it is stolen, it can be replaced within a matter of days by the local people at a (likely) lower cost than when they first installed it. Since they are made or ordinary familiar cans, they do not intimidate the novice. Rather, she is interested to see how something so common can be so useful and may want to learn more. There is nothing inherent in either this design or computers generally that prevents females from creating, installing, and maintaining wireless networks. In fact, they may be better suited to the task than men, and more likely to responsibly use the networks for economically beneficial activities. Wherever possible, women should be encouraged to operate these networks. 4.2 Training Required Detailed illustrated instructions in print and/or video must be produced in the local language. Printed handbooks can be sold or distributed for free at appropriate events. The video may be broadcast on television, or distributed through DVDs or VHS. Ideally, the information on how to create and use a cantenna and wireless networks is spread virally. Selected groups of students, the press, donors, and interested computer professionals can be given demonstrations to introduce the concept of low cost high quality wireless networking. Establishing organizations like “cantenna clubs” to share and experiment with the technology is a good bet for spreading the word and driving further innovation and localization. Demonstrations can be repeated in the provinces and at schools and universities. ISPs, satellite uplink providers, and other gatekeepers to the Internet can be encouraged to provide shared gateways for Internet access. With encryption and prepaid cards, ISPs could find a lucrative new market in allowing entrepreneurs to setup wireless internet cafes or hubs which serve as resellers of access to the Internet.


5.0 Obstacles • Geography and Weather: Laos is mountainous, and inundated with rain for half the year. The roads, while improving, remain treacherous. The cost of installing wires and other traditional infrastructure in remote areas is very high. Half the year Laos is drenched in monsoon rains, which requires weatherising of most electrical equipment, and potentially reduces signal strength for out of doors wireless networks. • Lack of Coordination: Unsurprisingly, many governmental agencies are intensely interested in the path IT modernization follows in this country. While this is laudable, it can also create conflicts and redundancies within the agencies. This slows the process considerably. It is difficult to know just who may authorize installation and operation of IT systems, and projects can be thwarted through the frustration this causes. • Lack of Standards: There are virtually no IT standards in Laos. Both private and public sectors use several conventions to integrate IT into their current organization structure (Character sets & software and hardware for LAN, WAN and Intranet). In addition, the government may take steps to block independent communications networks, or systems that provide VoIP without permission. • Lack of IT Knowledge: The government has a lack of expertise in areas relating to formulation, implementation, and maintenance of National IT strategies and policies. The educational institutions have a lack of resources and the knowledge base for the integration and promotion of IT. In rural areas, lack of IT knowledge is nearly universal. Special efforts must be made to promote rural technical learning. • Infrastructure: The current telecommunication infrastructure does not support technologies for high-speed information access. The poor power supply suffers from frequent failures, plus unstable voltage and frequency8 To support wireless access in rural areas, generators would be needed. • ISP Customer Service: Price fluctuation, poor technical support, and service disruptions, make dialup connections unreliable and slow. • Costs: Where the per capita GDP is about $1,600 annually, it is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of Laotians cannot afford a computer, much less Internet access. The Lao government is also unable to spend as much as it would like on IT equipment. Currently, much of the equipment comes from international donors. • Lao Language Support: Laotian fonts are available for Windows and Macintosh computers, so Lao websites and documents can be created and shared. The “Laonux” project is a Lao version of the Linux operating system, which will provide the user interface entirely in Lao. But without sufficient documentation of such systems and software in both English and Lao, progress will continue to be slow. Online publishing and training cannot proceed without additional technology teaching materials.

Seminar on Information Technology management. Under common program of CLMV initiatives and JICA-ASEAN. October 8-10, 2002, Vientiane, Lao PDR



6.0 Opportunities Laos provides an excellent showcase for promoting IT in a rural developing economy. Simply put, if the technology can work here, it can probably work anywhere. The weather and geography will always present difficulties, but many of the other obstacles can be removed. • • Laos can “leapfrog” over existing obsolete technologies to new, better, and more sustainable technologies at lower cost. Encourage more coordination between the various governmental agencies that oversee IT. Consolidate the authority to authorize projects, and discourage lower-level interference with pre-approved projects. Encourage wider adoption of IT by easing restrictive regulations in telecommunications that would prevent 802.11 networking. Train Lao people in creating, administering, and managing IT systems. Encourage the formal adoption of national standards in IT, taking advantage of work already completed by ISO, IEEE, W3, and other international standards setting bodies Increase the use of IT in education and training in non-technical areas, and train educators in how to use online resources to improve instruction. Spread IT more widely outside the capitol to include provinces, universities, hospitals and other institutions. Use low-cost wireless networking to expand access to the Internet in areas of the country where wireline installation is impractical. Train Lao people in the construction, operation, and administration of wireless networks. Encourage the use of “cantennas” and similar “do it yourself” low cost alternatives to importing expensive IT equipment into the country.

• •

• • • • •

Practically speaking, the installation of antennas using the 802.11 standard is neither technically difficult, nor expensive. The primary difficulty lies in identifying power sources for relay stations and end users, and in getting the ISPs to cooperate and provide access to Internet backbones. There are at least four potential candidates for installing this infrastructure: the government, private companies, international donors, and private citizens. If standards are adhered to, the interconnectivity of any of these networks would be assured. Since the government and private citizens don’t have the financial resources to install this infrastructure without help, private companies and international donors are likely to play a large roll in the creation of a countrywide grid. The Jhai Foundation ( has already demonstrated how the installation and use of 802.11 antennas can provide Internet access to remote rural villages. This type of international donor funded project should continue to be encouraged.


Now, with cantennas practical and available to build locally, with a small amount of assistance and knowledge transfer, the people of Laos could be provided the opportunity to build their very own network themselves. Affordable and sustainable wireless LANs built with cantennas are certainly only one of many ways forward, but in countries such as Laos they may prove to be the most practical to introduce today.


References • • • • • • • Michael Minges and Vannessa Gray- ITU’s Internet on the Mekong: Lao Case Study -2003 Madanmohan Rao- The Internet in Laos: A Rough Guide. ITU’s Internet Country Case Studies -2000 Internet Cafés, ISPs, STEA, UNICEF, US. Embassy surveyed by the NUoL students from May to July 2003 Phonpasit PHITSAMAY Director of Information Technology Center-IT policies and Edevelopment in Lao PDR. JICA-ASEAN October 8-10, 2002, Vientiane, Lao PDR Internet on the Mekong: Lao PDR Case Study. ITU March 2002 ITU Internet Country Case Studies - Letters from the Field - Lao The Internet in Laos: A Rough Guide by Madanmohan Rao ( Vientiane, Laos; September 15, 2000 Fred Williams, et al. The concept of using cantennas for rural low-cost sustainable networking is not new, but the specific suggestions for SE Asia and 802.11 cantennas herein are the work of Fred who may be reached via:


Appendix A: Performance Data for Various “Cantennas” Note: The following was posted by the 802.11b Homebrew Computer Club on their website. Others have posted similar results. See the entire website at: As you can see from the data below, cantennas can meet or exceed the performance of commercial long range 802.11b antennas. 802.11b Homebrew Antenna Shootout - 2/14/2 modified 2/16/2: posted noise measurements in response to slashdot comment. Test Methodology The Linksys WAP11 access point was 1120' from the test antennas. Performance Measurements All numbers are in dBm as reported by the Orinoco Client Manager software's Site Monitor. Lower numbers are better. Power doubles for every 3 dBm increase. Built in Orinoco Card Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -90 none none -96 none none

Lucent/Agere/Orinoco "Range Extender" Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -83 -86 -85 -99 -98 -96 -98

Average -85

Flickenger Style Pringles Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -83 -88 -86 -97 -98 -98 -98

Average -86


Rehm Modified Pringles Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -85 -86 -86 -98 -99 -99 -99

Average -86

Flickenger Coffee Can Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -80 -85 -85 -98 -98 -98 -98

Average -83

Rehm Modifed Coffee Can Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -78 -80 -84 -98 -98 -98 -98

Average -81

Hunt's Pasta Sauce Can Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -79 -80 -81 -98 -98 -98 -98

Average -80

Nalley "Big Chunk" Beef Stew Can Antenna Channel 1 5 11 Signal in Noise in dBm dBm -77 -80 -78 -98 -98 -98 -98

Average -79


By: Americo Muchanga and Björn Pehrson (, ( KTH, Royal Institute of Technology Department of Microelectronics and Information Technology Telecommunications System Laboratory (TSLab) Stockholm, Sweden

Table of Contents 1.0 Introduction

2.0 The Present State of Informatics in Mozambique 2.1 Telecommunications 2.2 Internet Status in Mozambique 3.0 Challenges for Deploying ICTs in a Developing Country 4.0 Country ICT Strategy 5.0 Hardware Infrastructure and Ubiquitous Network Access 5.1 Access to computer devices 5.2 Internet Access 5.3 Vertical vs. horizontal competition 5.4 The Concept as a model of access and organization 5.5 Wired vs. wireless technologies and deregulation 5.6 Satellite services 5.7 Fibre optics technology 5.8 Providing IT service beyond the power network grid 6.0 Human Resource challenges 7.0 Software infrastructure challenges 8.0 Saving Bandwidth and Enabling E-commerce 9.0 Regulatory bodies for ICT 10.0 Sustainability challenges 11.0 Conclusions Bibliography, References and Acronyms


1.0 Introduction The world is being profoundly affected by the ICT revolution. The Global Information Society, manifested by the Internet, allows information and knowledge to circulate at an unprecedented speed, changing all aspects of life and economic, political and socio-cultural activity. In this Information era, it is the ability to use information and communication technologies effectively and efficiently that increasingly determines the relevance and competitiveness of a country in the global economy. This fact makes ICT part of the infrastructure of a country and a concern of the public administration. Information processing resources and communication networks should be regarded as utilities, together with roads, electrical power, water management, etc. From the public administration point of view, these utilities should be treated as enablers rather than as businesses themselves. Our basic assumption is thus that the purpose for public involvement in the deployment of information technologies in a developing country is as an enabler for development and empowerment of the people in order to develop democracy, efficiency in organizations and independence and quality of life of individuals. Information technology tools are the same in developed and developing countries. However, the environment in which they are deployed in developing countries make them unique in terms of the challenges that are involved in the process of planning, acquisition, deployment, exploitation and maintenance. The best approach to support the developing countries to meet these challenges is not to donate outmoded equipment and old literature. Rather, it is to use the best technologies and front line research results and to support capacity building via education and training. We will discuss six key challenges that need to be addressed when deploying Information Technology in a developing country. For each challenge, a strategy is proposed and experiences from its implementation are discussed. We do not argue that there is only one set of strategies and solutions that will work for every country, but we present them as a proposal for a country like Mozambique. Our general argument is that there is a need to change the way in which data and telecommunication networks are owned, deployed and managed today, if universality and ubiquitous access is to be achieved in developing countries in the near future. Such change has to be accompanied by a very pragmatic policy that contributes to the extension of the network as well as of the number of the devices that are required to access Internet resources. The main bottleneck is access.


2.0 The Present State of Informatics in Mozambique The First National Inquiry into the Informatics Capacity of the Country, undertaken in 2000, revealed that Mozambique is gradually entering the Global Information Society, though it also showed that more than 50 percent of the informatics equipment is concentrated in the national capital. The following data shows the starting point from which the country is beginning its program of transformation in informatics.

Basic data on the country

Geographical position: Southern Africa
Neighboring countries: Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and South Africa

Land area: 799,380 square kilometers
Population statistics (1997) Total: 16,917,000 Population growth rate: 2.72% Males per 100 females: 92 Population density: 21 persons per square kilometer Where the people live In cities: 29% In the countryside: 71% Illiteracy rate (1997) Total: 60.5% Urban: 33% Rural: 72% Life expectancy at birth Average: 42 years Males: 41 years Females: 44 years Gross National Product: 2.4 billion US dollars (1997) Human Development Index: 0.341 (UNDP 1997) Ranking in HDI: 169th in 174 countries (UNDP 1997) Sources: 1997 Census (CD-ROM of the National Institute of Statistics, 1999) and Human Development Report (UNDP 1998)


Mozambique is a large country with an area of approximately 800,000 km2 and with a population of 17.3 million is a sparsely populated country. More than two thirds of the population live in the country’s vast and isolated rural areas, where infrastructure and communications are scarce. Only 3.2 percent of rural population has a public telephone in their own village, while the post office is available only to 2.7 percent of rural population. 2.1 Telecommunications: Telephone service provision in Mozambique is inadequate and unevenly distributed. Mozambique's teledensity of 0.5 main fixed lines per 100 inhabitants (2000) is not only well below that of developed countries, but it is also low when compared to other African countries with comparable geographic and economic conditions. This illustrates the difficulty of the public incumbent in keeping up with market demand and population growth. In the end of 2000, the fixed network had a switching capacity of about 128,000 lines from which 86,000 were in service. Although the number is growing quickly there are still few public phones, however the network is fully digitalized, which means that the exchanges can provide good quality of service if the network is in good condition. The following table shows specific data in the area of telecommunications. Item Mainlines total switching capacity Total transmission Capacity Total Primary Network capacity (pair) Total Secondary Network capacity (pair) Total installed lines during the year Total connected lines Cellular mobile telephone subscribers 2000 121.754 20.457 147.359 197.231 7.642 85.714 51.065 2001 127.902 27.150 150.129 198.259 3.774 89.488 152.652 2002 138.482 29.070 151.510 199.309 -5.749 83. 739 254.759

Source: Audited accounting Report of The Telecommunications of Mozambique (TDM) of 2001 and 2002

During the period 2000 to 2002 the number of fixed telephone lines declined from 89,488 in 2001 to 83,739 in 2002, while cell phones subscriptions grew from 51,065 to 254,759. This shows considerable growth in the sector: 492% for cell phones. The decline in the fixed telephony service should be regarded as a concern because fixed infrastructure is essential for data communication services. However such decline is visible in urban areas that today enjoy a good coverage of mobile telephony while in the rural areas the network has been extended. The country has recently awarded a license to a new mobile operator, Vodacom Mozambique, as part of the effort of the government to increase telephony density. However, a look at the national coverage reveals that with a teledensity (telephones per hundred inhabitants) of only 0.46, the country has one of the lowest telephonic coverage indices in the region. 2.2 Internet Status in Mozambique: Use of the Internet started in Mozambique back in 1992 through the Center for Informatics of Eduardo Mondlane University (CIUEM). This was done initially in a form of dialup connection to Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. It was only later in 1993 that the first permanent connection providing full Internet access was established. Currently there are 10 operational Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Mozambique, all of which run their main operations in Maputo. In terms of Internet access - today considered to be one of the more obvious indicators of whether a country belongs to the Global Information Society Mozambique has risen from being a country with only one Internet Service Provider (ISP) and less than a few hundred users in 1995 to ten ISPs and around 10,000 users in 1999, which gives


an average of one user to every 1,700 inhabitants (better than the African average of one in 5,000, but much less than, for example, the South African average of one in 65, not to speak of the European and North American averages of one in 4). Taking into account that subscriptions to the Internet are frequently shared amongst several people, and also assuming that some of the accounts are connection to networks belonging to institutions or companies or cyber cafes, the real number of persons with access to the Internet in Mozambique could be considerably higher than 10,000. In fact that number is today estimated to be around 60,000. The main limitations are said to be economic - the relatively high costs of computers, telephone lines and ISP fees. It is likely that at least 80% of all users are in Maputo. Even if reliable telecommunication facilities and ISP POPs now exist in all provincial capitals and some districtal cities, unreliable electricity, high costs of Internet and lack of computers and skills limit the use outside of the capital. The major ISPs are: CIUEM, Teledata, Tropical and Virconn. CFMNet is owned by the Railways company CFM, Teledata is 50% owned by TDM, whereas Tropical, Virconn, Intra, EMIL, Dataserv are fully privately owned. There are some Internet Cafés in Maputo, and several of the better hotels in Maputo offer free Internet access to their guests. Teledata operates four Internet cafés in Maputo, Beira, Nampula and Quelimane. The telecommunication company, TDM, has been deploying what they call “digital agencies”. A digital agency is basically a cyber café that also offers telephone service and TDM services such as payment of telephone bills. The plan is to deploy 36 digital agencies by the end of this year. The fees when using Internet café facilities are comparable to other capitals in Africa. Internet cafés in Maputo charge about US$ 3.00 an hour for access, and dial-up subscriptions cost about US$30 per month. TV Cabo offers Internet access via cable TV in limited residential and business areas of Maputo. The costs, on top of the minimum TV package of US$ 20/month, are US$75/month. Mozambique has two companies that offer satellite services only. These companies are SATCom and GSTelecom. SatCom do provide Internet services as well to its clients. These figures above show clearly the long way Mozambique has to travel, as have so many other developing countries, to accomplish a radical change in its under-developed situation. A very encouraging sign is that, despite all its financial, infrastructural and technical problems and limitations, Mozambique is taking a very positive attitude to the adoption and domestication of ICTs for sustainable national development and for its effective participation in the Global Information Society.

3.0 Challenges for Deploying ICTs in a Developing Country The challenges for full deployment and exploitation of Information and communication technologies in developing countries like Mozambique can be divided into the following main groups: The need for a national ICT strategy Hardware Infrastructure challenges, including users access to computer devices, ubiquitous network access and access to electrical power. Human Resources challenges Software infrastructure challenges Regulatory bodies for ICTs Sustainability challenges


In the following chapters we are going to expand on the challenges and offer possible alternative solutions in the Mozambican context. 4.0 Country ICT Strategy An ICT policy and strategy for implementation of the policy is essential if developing countries want to have a cohesive mechanism of ICT development in the country. To be effective, the policy should be formulated and discussed in a process involving all stakeholders. The strategy should set priorities and call for an alignment of IT policy with other country sector policies that influence the development of IT. For instance, the development of power networks and telecommunication networks has an impact in the improvement of ICT use in a country. The cost of IT devices such as computers and other peripherals is essential for the expansion of Internet usage in a country and can be influenced, e.g. by reducing the import of tariffs for these types of goods. The process of formulating the ICT policy and implementation strategy for Mozambique was an important moment for the country to assess the situation of ICTs in the country and the impact they can have in the process of poverty reduction. This process brought together several stakeholders, from users, policy makers, service providers, companies, government, NGOs and civil society. It is important to make this process as inclusive as possible. Regional workshops were carried out to discuss and shape the policy and strategy document. This process has improved the quality of the output and has also built a sense of ownership of the policy, while at the same time it provided information for many Mozambicans in regard to ICTs. An important lesson learned from this process is that while it is easy to come up with innovative ideas and projects that create enthusiasm and expectations, the resources for implementation are limited and scarce. After the brainstorming phase, it is important to discuss priorities, to identify a small set of core projects that should be given priority and make capacity building a central part of the development process. Important areas for which policy objectives are formulated include: education, health, universal access, e-government, human resource development, infrastructure and protection to the public.

5.0 Hardware Infrastructure and Ubiquitous Network Access 5.1 Access to computer devices One of the main difficulties in realizing the vision of universal access to ICT in developing countries in general and in Mozambique in particular is related to the limited hardware computer infrastructure. Though the cost of a computer has decreased considerably in the recent years, very few people can afford to buy one. The end result is that even in the few places where it is possible to get access to the Internet and take advantage of resources and tools available with the Internet, very few people can have access since they have no computer. So, in fact, the slow growth of Internet users in developing countries is also related to a weak hardware infrastructure. Two approaches can be adopted in order to overcome the shortage of computer devices to access the data communication services including Internet. 5.1.1 Economic subsidies via tax reduction The first approach is to eliminate the taxes incurred in the process of importing IT goods as well as create conditions under which computers can be assembled inside the country. This would lead to situations in which the cost of a computer with acceptable computing power is closer to the cost of a similar computer in developed nations.


This would have the double effect of creating new jobs as well as increasing skills in IT that will be gained in the process of assembling the IT equipment. 5.1.2 Telecenters Even with tax reduction, given a per capita income in Mozambique of only US$210, the cost of equipment will still be higher than what many people can afford. It will be a long time before all Mozambicans have a home computer, let alone a computer with Internet access. Therefore a second approach is to build community access IT centers. In Mozambique this type of centre is called a telecenters. The model of telecenters for community access is the only way to bridge the digital divide in the near future. Implementing the telecenters approach, i.e. deploying a computer lab, or cyber café, in each community such that villagers can have access to ICT resources without being required to buy their own computer, can solve the problem of the lack of computers. Mozambique presently has eight telecenters of this type in districts away from many urban centers and the results achieved are very encouraging. The telecenters offer a range of services from basic telephony to fax, e-mail and Internet services [8]. 5.1.3 Schools Another way to increase the capacity to access IT infrastructure is to create capacity of IT access in the schools. Many young Mozambicans spend half of their day at school, so if we can create access to the Internet in the schools we can increase dramatically the number of citizens with access to the benefits of the Internet. The Centre for Informatics of Eduardo Mondlane University (CIUEM) in Mozambique has pioneered the project called Schoolnet Mozambique, currently being expanded and managed by the Ministry of Education. Currently this network covers more than 45 schools with an average of 1500 each although not all the schools have Internet access yet. The plan is to cover up to 500 schools in the coming 3 years. This will increase the population percentage that will potentially have access to IT facilities, to 750,000 students (25%) of the population in both primary and secondary education. For a country like Mozambique this would be a big achievement. An additional way of expanding access that has been accomplished is the installation of computer networks in the student dormitories of Eduardo Mondlane University [7]. 5.2 Internet access One of the main problems faced by developing nations is the huge cost associated with the development of a communication network infrastructure that can be used both for data collection and telecommunications. Even in a situation where the data market has been deregulated, the investment required to put a large data network to cover a citywide area or even a village wide area is still significant for both the public economies and private companies in a developing country. Telecommunication companies, private or publicly owned, have to be profit-oriented and need to prioritize network development in areas where there is a clear indication that the return of investment (ROI) will be achieved in a short or medium term run. Most rural areas do not justify the huge investment that is required to deploy a suitable network infrastructure. Thus, the vision of universal service cannot be realized via the standard business plans of the traditional telecommunication operators. Even in developed countries, much of the national backbone and regional distribution networks are subsidized via public funds with long term depreciation plans, very much like roads and other parts of the infrastructure. 5.3 Vertical vs. horizontal competition An often-discussed alternative approach to the traditional operator model is deregulation to allow the creation of a new value chain for communication networks based on horizontal rather than


vertical integration of resources. This means that the actors deploying the infrastructure and operating the links are separate from those providing Internet and application services. Using this approach, the communication infrastructure is developed in a manner similar to road infrastructure. The public and regional administrations take a larger responsibility for the information highways and distribution networks while local actors take responsibility for the local access networks. In rural areas, the local user communities could form network associations, building their own access networks connecting to the nearest point-of-presence of the service operators. In the road system, the services and applications are provided by public and private transport companies, private cars, etc. Since a network without services has little value, and vice versa, the necessary vertical integration will come via a natural cooperation in a value chain including infrastructure owners, low level operators in different segment of the network, service providers and end-users. Such local access networks could be based on local economic opportunities and could use technologies adapted to local conditions. The approach stimulates entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for small private companies and individuals to extend part of the network and to provide services to the closest community. It reduces the cost required of a single company to provide ubiquitous access to telecommunication services and bring economical resources that traditionally cannot be exploited by telecom operators into the communication market. 5.4 The Concept as a model of access and organization The concept is one approach that can be used to stimulate new actors to provide access. It facilitates deployment of independent, shared access networks [5,7]. This concept is based on the notion that (subject to rules necessary to guarantee availability, security and service-level agreements between service providers and users) a shared access network backbone is available for: Any user community or user agent to connect access points Any service provider to connect their service network, and

- Anyone to extend the backbone into new local areas. Once you access such a network, you have the freedom to choose where to get the services you require. An open access network can be thought of as a network where you can meet several service providers. The providers could be the standard Internet service providers, cable TV companies, Video on Demand companies, Radio companies or it could be the government network, research and education networks. In this spirit, municipalities, districts and cities should be encouraged to establish access networks that are open for everyone to access the service provider of their choice. A network based on this concept has been established at UEM within student dormitories. Such a network can potentially allow the students to select a service provider of their choice. 5.5 Wired vs. wireless technologies and deregulation The new network can be built using a combination of different wired and wireless technologies to carry the Internet Protocol (IP) based packet service that constitutes the essence of the Internet. IP-packets can be transported over any link and can be used to implement any communication service and application, including web and mail services, Voice-over IP, and IPTV and video. When deploying new networks, fibre is preferred rather than copper. Long distance trunks, even transatlantic, based on 10Gbit/s Ethernet technology are now becoming standard. The performance of the copper network can be extended using xDSL technology, where there is a good electricity distribution network without telephone network, and power line communication (PLC) could be used to provide data communication services. There are a few examples today of such use but Mozambique does not yet have one.


Networks in places beyond the public telephone network grid could be established using wireless radio technology. Today there are systems that allow one to deploy one antenna and be able to reach anyone in a radius of 50 km. The speeds can range from 5 Mbps to 15 Mbps in such a network. The investment required set-up such a system is low and the prices for client equipment are also low. The fact that cellular subscribers grew by nearly 500%, while in the same period fixed telephony declined by -6% is a clear indication of the power of wireless technology and of deregulation. Our argument is that voice telephony universality will be achieved in Mozambique through mobile services, and if we allow such a network to be extended by everyone then universality could be reached even sooner. As an example, The Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) is located at several sites in different parts of the Maputo city. Because the local telecommunication network could not provide a reliable and efficient data communication network, UEM decided to deploy a large wide area network based on wireless point-to-point links. This network today is comprised of 32 wireless point-to-point links connecting every building of the UEM located outside of the two main campuses that have fibre rings. This network is based on IEEE 802.11b links that run at 11 Mbps. Though this network was built for the purpose of serving the University, it could well be used by anyone to access common services. This also shows that wireless technology is powerful and that it can be easily deployed at lower costs than other technologies. However, this was possible only because Mozambique has a favorable regulatory policy toward wireless technologies. Most cellular companies in developing countries, including the existing and operational company in Mozambique, are providing mobile services over a second-generation cellular infrastructure. This is good enough for voice services, but do not provide large bandwidth for data services. While this infrastructure is acceptable in developed nations where there is equivalent fixed infrastructure to cater to data purposes, it still leaves communities in developing countries without access to data services. Because the cellular network is expanding more quickly than fixed telephone infrastructure, we suggest that cellular companies should be deploying networks today that are based on 3G technologies, to enable them to offer data communication services. On the other hand, data companies should be allowed to sell both voice services as well as data services. This would require deregulation and a strong regulator. We will address this issue later. 5.6 Satellite services In Mozambique, access to the Internet is accomplished through satellite links. Most of the National telecommunication links are still operated over satellite links. Satellite links have high latency and the equipment that is required for large bandwidth is expensive. The services are also very expensive and do not offer the bandwidth required for multimedia applications. The new DVB-RCS standard may bring some improvement in the price/performance ratio of VSAT communication. 5.7 Fibre optics technology Fibre optics is the technology of choice to provide bulk capacity. Such capacity can be used for all kinds of services, such as voice, data, video, television and radio services. This might be an expensive network to deploy but the benefit and the aggregate cost of providing the same services over satellite links justify this investment. As a country with a vast ocean coast, Mozambique has an opportunity to link several provinces through sea fibre. In fact, part of that has been achieved already, but more investment is required to connect the remaining provinces as well as connect the surrounding provinces. A joint effort together with the Electricity Company is necessary to extend the network for surrounding provinces.


Also there is a need to provide a link to the Internet through fibre Optics. Unfortunately the East coast of Africa does not have fibre that attaches to the Internet backbone. There is a plan to build a fibre link that will go from Durban in South Africa to Djibouti. Mozambique should link its sea fibre to this one. By doing this, Mozambique can realize the vision of providing its citizens with access to Internet with the same quality as the one that of developed countries. 5.8 Providing IT service beyond the power network grid As initially stated, a power network is essential for the development of IT in a country. Mozambique has a poor distribution network. The challenge is even bigger if we assume that more than 70% of the population lives in rural areas, which normally do not have access to electricity. This is valid for schools and hospitals located in these areas. The solution to this situation is the use of solar power to power the network equipment. Solar energy is high in Mozambique, with days of approximately 12 hours both in summer and winter. CIUEM is using solar power to feed a computer lab in a teachers' training college in Montepuez located in the northern province of Cabo-Delgado.

6.0 Human Resource challenges As in many other areas, human resources are necessary and are the key for procurement, deployment, exploitation and maintenance of Information and communication technology infrastructure and software. Many IT projects fail because they lack the human capacity to acquire the Technology and manage the implementation process, to exploit the infrastructure in order to improve the processes or services that are offered through ICTS, and to maintain the infrastructure that has been deployed. Another important issue related to human resources is the language problem. Much of the Internet content and computer software is only available in a few well-known languages such as English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Chinese. However, in many countries like Mozambique these languages cannot be understood by a large fraction of the country’s population. For instance, Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique, but it is spoken by less than 40% of the people, let alone English which is spoken by less than 10% of the population. Therefore, for countries like Mozambique content development in languages and format that is appropriate for local consumption is essential. If developing countries are to take advantage of ICT, any investment in this area has to be accompanied by an equivalent human resource development program. Human resource issues can be met with adequate training. This may require certified IT institutes to train personnel. The Internet driving license, Cisco networking academy programs, combined with local academic or professional training institutions can create the necessary know-how to use and manage ICT resources as well as improve the capacity of the regulator to define and enforce appropriate policies conducive to the development of IT in the country. Professional training will create skills to solve easy well-known practical problems. There is a need to run academic training programs in the field of IT, such as the International Internetworking Masters provided by KTH [9] and offered in cooperation with universities from developing countries, such as Mozambique. This enables universities such as the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) to be a partner in a global learning space, with partners all over the world, learning by solving real problems together with user communities, operators, system manufacturers and regulators as external problem owners. In the next phase, this is an excellent source of challenging research issues that can attract funding for research and PhD-education in the area of communication. Another initiative in Mozambique that is spearheaded by UEM and aims at solving the shortage of human resources is the Mozambique Information and Communication Institute (MICTI). Through MICTI, Mozambique wants to create academic and professional training in the field of IT, create a


science park as well as incubate start-ups in the field of IT that will lead to innovation and new services in the field of IT. 7.0 Software infrastructure challenges Computers and computer networks should be regarded merely as means to improve the processes required to provide services to companies, governments and to the society. Therefore they are not the end objective, but a tool to provide a service to the society. Many developing countries require software infrastructures to run on top of the hardware infrastructure. Some of the main management software that would bring an impact and could accelerate the economic development of countries is as follows: Management Information Systems Registers of Population (civil identification systems, passport, driving licenses, electoral, tax services, etc) Registers of Companies Library Databases Geographical Databases (GIS) Legal Databases Statistical Databases

- Document & Electronic Publishing databases This is just a limited set, but it gives an indication of systems that can enable companies or the government to efficiently and with efficacy offer better services to citizens. Mozambique does not yet have large information systems, especially in the government. Some institutions such as Universities, banks, and larger utility companies such as telecommunication companies, electricity and water supply do already have management information systems. However in most of them the IS are only for internal use and do not yet have interfaces that allow citizens to obtain services through the Internet. For instance to pay water, electricity, and telephone services in most of the cases you still need to walk to a shop manned by the company. With previous arrangement it's possible to pay the services at the bank, in some cases through ATMs, but much still remains to be done in order to allow the users access to services, to enquire about them, and to do full business through the Internet.

8.0 Saving Bandwidth and Enabling E-commerce One common situation that results in wasted bandwidth and delays the development of local content and e-commerce is the fact that many developing countries peer externally (i.e. local ISPs exchange data through their upstream service providers that are normally located in countries in Europe or North America). This has the net effect that two users are attached to different ISPs, and when communicating to each other their traffic will go through the International link-- often the expensive and high latency satellite link. This is too expensive for the ISP and degrades the quality of service (QoS) experienced by the local users when accessing local content. A local bank in Mozambique trying to offer Internet banking services saw its success hampered because of this situation.


The way to solve this problem is through the establishment of Internet Exchange Points (IXP). Mozambique has established an IXP called MozIX. This was made possible through funding by Sida/SAREC and DFID. Five students, two from Eduardo Mondlane University and three from KTH implemented MozIX in a course project in the communication systems design course that is provided by KTH [7]. With this IXP, the round trip delay between users connected to two different local ISPs went from an average of 1200 ms to 3 ms, i.e. 400 times faster than before. This has dramatically changed the type of content that is hosted today in local servers belonging to ISPs. In fact, browsing local content today is faster unless if you belong to, or you are trying to access, Teledata, the only ISP that is still not connected to the IXP. The next step should be the connection of this exchange to exchanges in other countries with which Mozambique exchanges a lot of traffic. This will speed up the traffic exchange between users in these countries. For this Mozambique is an active member of the project called Regional Virtual Exchange (RVX) that aims at connecting exchanges in Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria.

9.0 Regulatory Bodies for ICT Several areas and aspects of ICTs require new regulation and legislation and a strong and knowledgeable body to enforce proper rules required for a rapid and integrated ICT development environment. Countries like Mozambique, coming from a monopoly in the fixed telecommunication services, have a weak regulator. This is mainly due to the fact that the monopoly telecom was also the regulator of communications. Though, in many countries, regulators today are independent from telecommunication companies, they still lack the human capacity required to actually establish good policies as well as enforce the established regulations. Regulating the Internet environment remains fraught with difficulty, as many applications and technologies are emerging. These applications and technologies are, in many cases, challenging the existing policies, services, and technologies. For instance, many countries have no clear policy about the use of VoIP, the use of ISM-bands WLAN technologies, such as Wifi and Wimax, etc. Mozambique has, in many aspects, a very favorable policy in regard to ICTs. For instance, a license is not required to operate as an ISP, just authorization. Data communication services are open for competition, so anyone can deploy whatever equipment is needed to provide data services including deploying VSAT links that is not possible in many African countries. Wireless services are also allowed, although a regulation for this area is still under development. In fact many companies have already been granted permission to operate even commercial services under the ISM band. The few institutions with fairly large networks include UEM, Tropicalnet - a local ISP, Intra – a local ISP providing services using WLAN similar to the one provided by Telia homerun in Sweden, and point to point wireless, EDM –the electricity company of Mozambique. Unfortunately, the voice market, especially fixed telephony, is still a monopoly of the state owned company (TDM), although a bill has been approved in 1999 opening up the road map for privatization of TDM. The voice market for mobile services is already deregulated and full competition through license is possible. As a result a second operator will start providing services in December 2003. This situation and ambiguity prevailing in the law regarding the definition of data and voice has led to a situation where it is not clear if one can provide VoIP services. Many ISP engineers will agree that VoIP is data, but some Telco managers prefer to say that VoIP is equivalent to fixed voice. Nevertheless, the law allows voice services if they are provided within the institution. This


has enabled some companies to run VoIP for their internal use, even though they might be connecting sites that are located in different regions of the country. Our argument is that VoIP should be considered as data and, as such, even under the current law provision, any ISP could provide services to its clients and, through the peering in the IXP, exchange traffic with other ISPs.

10.0 Sustainability challenges Investing in ICT infrastructure leads in many case to an equivalent increase in running costs. Many developing countries cannot afford the running costs required to sustain the operation of ICTs as well as to cater for equipment depreciation. Many computer infrastructures are left un-operational due to lack of small things such as disks, power supplies, and monitors. This is because organizations can afford to buy the computer or might even be donating computers or funds to buy computers, but they do not have the operational budget required to buy spare parts. In addition, they cannot afford to retain qualified technicians to run the ICT resources. No matter how good the ICT infrastructure and resources that are deployed, if they cannot be maintained, there is no hope that it will improve economic development or the life of the citizens.

11.0 Conclusions There are a lot of challenges in order to realize the vision of information societies in developing countries. Many of them are caused by lack of hardware infrastructure in areas such as electricity and telephone networks. There are technologies that can meet some of the challenges; however a national vision in terms of ICT is essential. Apart from hardware and software infrastructure, it is necessary to take into consideration the need for human resources, sustainability and regulatory issues. Mozambique has a long road to become a computerized nation; however it has succeeded in developing a national ICT policy and an implementation strategy. Success will come from creating a regulatory environment that is flexible and favorable to the deployment of new technologies without the barriers that are often encountered in outdated telecommunication laws. Implementing the telecenters approach, i.e. deploying a computer lab or cyber café in each community, such that villagers can have access to ICT resources without being required to buy their own computer, can solve the lack of computers. Mozambique is already running telecenters in districts away from urban centers, and the results achieved are very encouraging. Experience shows that solar panels are cost-effective to power a relatively small number of computers. In order to extend the network as fast as possible, a vision of a network that is open for extension and can be used by anyone to access services independently of those who actually own the transport network is required. The concept is one approach that could stimulate new actors to provide access as it facilitates the deployment of independent, neutral and shared access networks. Fibre optics networks are preferred as a transport network for all services. Cellular networks that are being deployed today should be enabled to provide acceptable data communication services, as they constitute the viable form of realizing the universal access vision. Education and collaboration with academic institutions located in developing and developed countries is required as a way to share knowledge and enable a quicker development of qualified staff that will lead the country into the information society.


Bibliography, References and Acronyms [1] Mozambique ICT Policy, CPInfo, December 2000, Maputo Mozambique [2] Mozambique ICT Policy Implementation Strategy, June 2002, Maputo Mozambique [3] Wireless IP for Rural Connectivity, ITU Doc FG7-TF DOC 4, June 2002,Geneva [4] Américo Muchanga, Mozambique ICT Country Profile, Maputo, October 1999 [5] Björn Pehrson, Open Communication, 2nd ASEM Conference, IKED, Malmö, March 2003 and 1st Int Workshop on Open Access, UN ICT TF, Sida and KTH, Stockholm, June 2003. [6] Country ICT survey for Mozambique, Final Report prepared for Sida, Miller Esselaar and Associates, November 2001. [7] Mozambique e-Ready? (draft), Magda Ismail, Harvard Center for International Development, May 2001. [8] Audited accounting Report for 2001 of The Telecommunications of Mozambique (TDM), TDM, 2002. [9] Audited accounting Report for 2002 of The Telecommunications of Mozambique (TDM), TDM, 2003. [10] South African Telecommunications Sector Performance Review(2003), Alison Gillwald & Sean Kane, LINK Center for Public Policy Research, August 2003. [11] Mozambique 1997 Census (CD-ROM of the Mozambique National Institute of Statistics, 1999) and Human Development Report (UNDP 1998) [12] Mozambique Internet Exchange and Open Access Project documentation is available at, KTH, Stockholm, May 2001. [13] Telecenters Project in Mozambique, [14] International Master program in Internetworking, Acronyms: CIUEM – Center for Informatics of Eduardo Mondlane University DFID – Department for International Development of United Kingdom EDM – Electricity of Mozambique GIS – Geographic Information System ICT – Information and Communication Technology ISP – Internet Service Provider IT – Information Technology IXP – Internet Exchange Points KTH – The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm RVX – Regional Virtual Exchange Sida – Swedish International Development Agency TDM – Telecommunication of Mozambique UEM – Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo


Quelles technologies, quelles actions et quels bénéficiaires pour mettre les NTIC au service du développement au Nord du Bénin?
Thomas Baboni et Javier Simó Borgounet


Introduction Le projet BorgouNET œuvre depuis trois ans dans le sens du renforcement des activités de développement, de la promotion humaine et de l’intégrité de l’environnement au Nord de la République du Bénin par le biais des NTIC. Dans les lignes qui suivent, nous partagerons avec vous les actions concrètes ainsi que les réflexions que nous tirons de notre expérience, sachant que les projets de NTIC, comme tous autres projets, dépendent beaucoup des personnes et du contexte. Tout au long de notre intervention où nous exposerons notre expérience et les raisons qui expliquent nos choix, nous n’avons pas la prétention de donner des consignes universelles mais de faire un humble partage. Contexte Le Bénin est un pays qui connaît une disparité notoire du niveau de développement entre le Sud et le Nord. La majorité des infrastructures socio-économiques sont concentrées dans les villes côtières comme Cotonou et Porto-Novo. Ainsi, le Nord a besoin des actions de développement à plusieurs niveaux en vue d'un équilibre national. Dans les départements du Borgou et de l'Alibori des actions concrètes ne manquent pas, car il y a beaucoup de structures aussi bien nationales qu’internationales engagées dans des programmes de développement. Malheureusement, le manque d'infrastructures et de moyens empêche souvent la bonne exécution des projets. Dans le domaine de la communication télématique, c’est encore le Nord qui est pénalisé avec toutes sortes de problèmes de communication. L'Office des Postes et Télécommunications (OPT) et le Ministère de la Communication et de la Promotion des Technologies Nouvelles (MCPTN) ont fait des efforts louables au cours des dernières années pour améliorer la situation. Les résultats sont la numérisation de la téléphonie à Parakou, principale ville du Nord, et la communication interurbaine Cotonou - Parakou par la fibre optique. Malgré ces efforts, les conditions générales pour l'utilisation des communications télématiques et de l'accès à l'Internet en particulier sont encore difficiles car toutes les ressources spécifiques sont centralisées à Cotonou. Cette difficulté d'accessibilité aux NTIC freine encore les efforts et les bonnes volontés des uns et des autres pour sortir le septentrion de sa situation d’enclavement. BorgouNET BorgouNET est un service de communications télématiques que l’Archevêché de Parakou fournit aux agents de développement et de promotion humaine au Nord du Bénin. La réalité catastrophique des communications dans cette région au début de l’an 2000 fût à l’origine de la décision de créer ce service. Les projets de développement dépensaient d’énorme somme d’argent et gaspillaient leur temps à faire des essais d’échange de messages électroniques avec les fournisseurs de service installés au Sud, mais très souvent sans succès. BorgouNET est né le 1er mars 2000 et commença à fonctionner le 1er septembre 2000, après une phase d’étude de 6 mois, comme une passerelle de courrier électronique pour les organisations travaillant pour le développement du Bénin dans le Borgou et l’Alibori en tant que service à but non lucratif. L'esprit de BorgouNET est de jouer le rôle de canal d'appui efficace pour propulser ou renforcer les actions de développement, de la promotion humaine et de


l’intégrité de l’environnement dans le Borgou et l'Alibori à travers les NTIC. A la création, il n’y avait qu’une personne, un ordinateur et deux lignes téléphoniques pour atteindre ces objectifs.

Deux ans et demi plus tard, BorgouNET a considérablement évolué : Nous fournissons l’accès à Internet, le courrier électronique, un support technique en informatique et télématique et des services d’information aux projets de développement. L’équipe humaine est désormais constituée d’un directeur exécutif, de trois ingénieurs, d’un gestionnaire, d’une Secrétaire et de trois stagiaires. Les services de connexion sont pourvus sur place aussi bien sur RTC que sur un réseau métropolitain sans fil et sur un réseau rural VHF (en cours de configuration). Un service d’information est mis sur pied afin de faciliter aux projets de développement le partage des informations et une collaboration plus efficace à travers un portail. La communication BorgouNET n’est pas l’aboutissement d’un projet bien élaboré au préalable, il est plutôt né de fait sans une grande perspective. Un besoin urgent se posait aux agents de développement (la communication télématique avec Internet, surtout le courrier électronique), une personne ayant des compétences en télécommunication a assuré pouvoir mettre en route un système pour améliorer la situation : en voici la genèse. Au cours de ces trois dernières années nous nous sommes posé plusieurs questions allant dans le sens de notre devise à savoir « renforcer les actions de développement, de la promotion humaine et de l’intégrité de l’environnement au Nord du Bénin à travers les NTIC ». Notamment, quelles technologies sont les plus appropriées, quels bénéficiaires cibles et prioritaires choisir pour favoriser le développement, quelles actions entreprendre... ? Dans cette communication nous essayerons de restituer ce processus, les questions que nous nous sommes posées et les réponses que nous croyons avoir trouvées puis pour finir nous ferons une évaluation des résultats. 1. Les technologies appropriées Dans le cadre du développement en général, on a souvent parlé de technologies appropriées, c’est-à-dire technologies adaptées à la réalité locale du lieu où elles seront utilisées, celles pour lesquelles l’apprentissage, la maintenance et l’utilisation sont possibles localement sans créer une dépendance de l’extérieur. Malheureusement, pour les NTIC, on voit que souvent les technologies sont utilisées sans aucune adaptation. Voyons quelques exemples: Pour avoir une liaison spécialisée sur Internet à 64 kbps, le raccordement au back-bone Internet de l’OPT se fait exclusivement par liaison sans fils selon la technologie IEEE 802.11b (WiFi), alors que la paire à cuivre de tous les abonnés téléphoniques est aussi valable pour la même finalité ; elle est beaucoup moins chère et plus facile à maintenir. Pourtant, les grandes villes du Bénin commencent à ressembler à des véritables forêts de pylônes pour supporter les antennes de grille. Il faut aussi reconnaître que la technologie WiFi permet aux fournisseurs privés de proposer des services d’interconnexion plus intéressants à leurs clients que la liaison téléphonique malgré le manque d’alternatives offertes par l’OPT. Les fournisseurs d’accès à Internet offrent leurs services sur RTC (et les liaisons sans fil ci-dessus mentionnées) en utilisant le protocole PPP pour réaliser la connexion. Cela fait que les utilisateurs potentiels des zones rurales ou urbaines où la téléphonie est encore analogique et de mauvaise qualité ne peuvent pas se connecter à Internet parce que ces connexions sont souvent interrompues et que les messages de courrier électronique n’arrivent jamais. Personne ne fournit un service UUCP ou avec d’autres protocoles plus adaptés. Malgré le manque de lignes téléphoniques sur la plupart du territoire national, personne ne fournit des services NTIC sur radio HF/VHF/UHF. Il y a des technologies radio-paquet AX25


qui pourraient être utilisées au moins pour rendre possible l’échange de courrier électronique, mais personne ne les utilise. Par rapport aux logiciels, nous avons constaté avec surprise que les logiciels libres sont à peine utilisés. Or, c’est justement eux qui offrent des solutions souvent gratuites et toujours flexibles pour mettre en place tous genres de systèmes télématiques sur des architectures PC. Les habitudes locales courantes sont l’utilisation des produits Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco. Les organisations et les entreprises doivent se rendre à l’évidence que les techniciens à leur disposition ne connaissent que les produits commerciaux. Dans la mesure de nos possibilités, nous voulons y réfléchir à BorgouNET. Au lieu de reproduire automatiquement les mêmes services et les mêmes technologies que les fournisseurs de service au Nord, nous essayons de penser chaque fois aux technologies qui s’adaptent le mieux à la réalité locale. En ce sens nous voudrions donner quelques exemples qui correspondent aux points signalés ci-dessus. Plusieurs fournisseurs d’accès Internet privés ont adopté la technologie WiFi pour fournir des liaisons permanentes à Internet dans des localités où l’OPT n’offre pas de services de télécommunication pour le faire. C’est bien notre cas ! BorgouNET démarra ses activités comme passerelle de courrier électronique lorsque les communications avec l’extérieur n’étaient pas encore numérisées. L’échange de messages avec l’Internet était presque impossible ; les communications n’étant pas stables, la ligne se coupait sans arrêt . L’utilisation des protocoles UUCP avec une configuration appropriée des dispositifs d’interconnexion a rendu possible cet échange qui a bénéficié aux ONG de tout le Nord du Bénin. Cette adaptation des technologies télématiques aux mauvaises conditions des réseaux de télécommunication n’est pas nouvelle ; plusieurs projets ont fait la même chose depuis les années 1980, notamment ceux qui constituaient le réseau APC. Malheureusement cette expérience semble être oubliée ou ignorée. Nous avons constaté que le besoin existe. Maintenant que nous bénéficions d’un réseau RTC numérique (Parakou est la seule ville au Nord du Bénin qui en ait), nous pouvons toujours utiliser la même technologie pour fournir nos services à ceux qui sont dans les autres villes et villages au Nord du Bénin avec accès au réseau RTC analogique. L’utilisation des liaisons radio sur les fréquences HF/VHF/UHF permet de mettre en relation des systèmes informatiques enclavés. Là où le réseau téléphonique n’est pas disponible, la radio l’est. Prenons l’exemple sur le projet EHAS sur trois pays de l’Amérique Latine (voir pour échanger le courrier électronique sur des liaisons radio VHF. Nous en sommes encore à la phase d’expérimentation mais, malgré les nombreuses difficultés, nous tenons à faire marcher ce projet comme modèle pour d’autres initiatives. Les logiciels libres nous ont permis de configurer plusieurs serveurs et de fournir tous les services nécessaires pour nous et pour nos utilisateurs. Nous avons pu construire un routeur pour relier notre réseau à l’Internet et développer un système d’information avec des pages web dynamiques et des bases de données relationnelles, etc. Tout cela est possible grâce à la disponibilité gratuite et à la flexibilité des logiciels libres. Compte tenu du manque des techniciens formés pour maîtriser Linux et les logiciels libres que nous utilisons, nous avons dû faire un effort du point de vue formation et encadrement mais cela vaut la peine. 2. Les bénéficiaires Ce qui est courant de nos jours pour beaucoup d’organismes internationaux de coopération au développement, c’est de donner la priorité aux projets NTIC dont les bénéficiaires directs sont des paysans. Notre réflexion et notre expérience montrent que cela paraît un peu artificiel : les NTIC pourraient être bénéfiques pour tout le monde (nous sommes certains qu’il en sera ainsi dans le futur) mais elles ne constituent pas la priorité pour tous actuellement. Pour certains collectifs, comme les ONG, qui ont de nombreux partenaires avec qui communiquer et partager des informations, c’est une bonne solution, pour d’autres, c’est une solution qui tombe du ciel pour un problème qui ne s’était jamais posé auparavant. Il n’y a pas non plus une coïncidence entre les acteurs importants pour le développement et ceux qui demandent les NTIC. Par exemple, les écoles et centres d’éducation sont à notre avis


prioritaires pour le développement mais rares sont les lycées ou collèges qui demandent de tels services. Le problème de la sensibilisation se pose. A notre avis, les bénéficiaires prioritaires pour un projet NTIC qui vise le développement au Bénin devraient être les suivants : Les écoles, collèges et lycées : les jeunes constituent la frange montante de la société avec pour mission de bâtir l’avenir, il faut mettre à leur disposition tout ce qui est utile pour y réussir, entre autres les NTIC. Ce n’est pas toujours facile, les enseignants ne sont pas toujours motivés et une approche sérieuse à l’introduction des NTIC dans les écoles passe par la création des infrastructures dans ces écoles, ce qui revient cher. Mais malgré ces difficultés cela vaut la peine d’y parvenir. Les ONG, associations, projets et tous ceux qui interviennent dans le développement humain qu’on pourrait appeler « la société civile organisée », sont les principaux acteurs à qui fournir des outils de communication et d’accès à l’information, ce qui aura une répercussion sur toute la société. Si l’administration aussi bien locale que centrale est imprégnée des NTIC, cela aura pour conséquence la transparence, les échanges avec la société civile et la bonne gouvernance. Les sociétés commerciales sont intéressées par les NTIC pour les mêmes raisons que celles de toutes les sociétés commerciales à travers le monde. Les citoyens Béninois font un usage varié des NTIC selon leurs niveaux d’éducation, leurs capacités économiques et leur tranche d’âge, mais l’expérience nous montre que rares sont les individus qui s’y intéressent et qui n’appartiennent pas aux collectifs de la liste précédente. Aussi croyons- nous que le meilleur développement se fait lorsque le moteur est le propre dynamisme de la société locale. Il est important de promouvoir la présence des cybercafés, ce sont aussi des éléments de rapprochement des NTIC de la population de base. Nous ne voulons ni ne pouvons jouer le rôle d’un cybercafé mais nous sommes heureux du nombre croissant de cybercafés dans nos villes. Nous saluons l’initiative du Ministère de la Communication et de la Promotion des Technologies Nouvelles pour la création de plusieurs cybercentres communautaires dans plusieurs villes de notre pays. Nous devons ajouter que le PNUD a bâti un énorme projet avec le SDNP au Bénin pour la création d’une culture des NTIC dans les ministères et organismes de décision de ce pays. Compte tenu des initiatives déjà entreprises par d’autres projets, nous avons choisi de travailler davantage pour les agents de développement, de promotion humaine et de l’intégrité de l’environnement, ainsi que pour les centres d’éducation.

3. Les actions 3.1. La communication et l’information Nous avons essayé d’analyser les expériences des initiatives semblables à la notre autour de la planète, surtout celles des membres d’APC (Association for Progressive Communications). Notre conclusion est que les NTIC arrivent toujours suivant le même ordre : certains services sont essentiels à un moment donné puis quelques années plus tard ce sont d’autres qui ont leur importance : Dans un premier temps c’est l’arrivée de l’outil informatique détaché des télécommunications: les ordinateurs pour les applications bureautiques puis le téléphone et le fax pour la communication avec l’extérieur. Peu après le besoin du courrier électronique se présente, parfois accompagné des forums de discussion et des listes de diffusion pour supporter le travail de collaboration avec plusieurs interlocuteurs à la fois. Après cela, l’utilisateur vise l’accès complet à l’Internet, ce qui comporte surtout la navigation sur le web.


Avec le web, la communication est de plus en plus le support d’informations, les organisations ont besoin d’une aide systématique pour l’accès à l’information pertinente et pour fournir à leur tour de l’information sur l’Internet. Tout au long de ce parcours, le mode d’échange d’informations entre les acteurs de développement a évolué : échange de fax, échange de messages e-mail simples, échange de documents en fichier attaché, puis partage de documents et bases de données sur des sites accessibles sur Internet. Un projet comme le nôtre, qui vise à se mettre au service des acteurs de développement, doit être prêt à faire ce même parcours : en commençant par l’entretien des ordinateurs, les services de courrier électronique, les services Internet... pour finir comme fournisseur de systèmes d’information et consultant. Ainsi nous considérons que les services de communication nous permettent d’obtenir les revenus pour faire tourner notre projet de manière autosuffisante et le rendre soutenable à long terme, tandis que les services d’information risquent d’être gratuits. 3.2. La formation Le transfert de compétences doit être fait à deux niveaux pour que les NTIC imprègnent la société et deviennent un véritable moteur du développement : le niveau des utilisateurs et celui des techniciens. Les techniciens médiocres ne peuvent que répéter les actions et les solutions qu’ils connaissent par cœur et quand de nouveaux problèmes se présentent à eux, ils en trouvent difficilement la solution. Les utilisateurs non formés ne tirent pas tous les bénéfices possibles des NTIC et ne peuvent pas réagir correctement dès que les problèmes techniques apparaissent. La formation devient essentielle si nous voulons que les NTIC produisent du développement. Pour ce qui concerne les utilisateurs, il faut tout d’abord qu’ils sachent comment utiliser les services auxquels ils s’intéressent. Mais c’est aussi important de leur montrer les services et les possibilités qu’ils ne demandent pas parce qu’ils ne les connaissent pas. L’utilisateur ne connaît pas tout ce que les NTIC peuvent lui offrir, tandis que le fournisseur ne connaît pas tous les besoins des utilisateurs. Il faut travailler avec les organisations dans un esprit de partenariat, avec beaucoup de communication, pour identifier leurs besoins de formation. Les techniciens doivent être capables de faire tout ce que nous sommes en train de dire : adapter les technologies à la réalité, trouver des solutions pour les problèmes des utilisateurs, gérer les technologies utilisées sans dépendre de l’aide extérieure, former les utilisateurs... Pour y parvenir, il leur faut une bonne formation. Nous ne pouvons pas penser seulement au présent et à nous : si nous formons les techniciens dont nous avons besoin aujourd’hui, le jour arrivera où ils partiront et le projet aura échoué. Il faut créer une « masse critique » de techniciens formés capables de penser de manière créative et dynamique, utiliser les technologies appropriées, et surtout d’être autodidactes pour les nouveaux besoins de chaque moment. Actuellement, nous formons plusieurs ingénieurs et informaticiens en administration réseaux, administration systèmes et gestion de systèmes d’information. 3.3. Le support informatique « Ce matin, lorsque je suis arrivé au boulot, l’ordinateur ne démarrait pas bien. J’ai cherché en vain un technicien compétent pour me dépanner. Depuis quelques jours plusieurs messieurs sont venus déclarer qu’ils pouvaient résoudre le problème, ils l’ont fouillé, a mon avis sans trop savoir ce qu’ils cherchaient, et cela n’a abouti a rien. Finalement j’ai été obligé de prendre mon ordinateur et de voyager sur 450 km jusqu’à Cotonou pour trouver un technicien capable de résoudre le problème ». « Mon ordinateur a un virus depuis quelques semaines. Je suis bloqué dans mon travail et personne ne sait me dépanner ». De tels propos étaient habituels lorsque BorgouNET a été créé. Ils nous ont fait prendre conscience du besoin du support informatique pour les organisations. Même dans une ville de 150.000 habitants comme Parakou, les organisations faisaient venir un maintenancier de


Cotonou (à 450 km) ou bien ils étaient obligés d’emporter leurs ordinateurs dans cette capitale pour se dépanner. 4. Les résultats La présence de BorgouNET à Parakou comme passerelle de cour-rier électronique à sa naissance et actuellement comme FAI est incontestablement un appui efficace aux actions de développement. Nous en voulons pour preuve les multiples témoignages des bénéficiaires : « Sans BorgouNET mon travail d’appui au développement n’aurait jamais été possible, les connexions étant impossibles avec Cotonou !», «Vous ne pouvez pas vous imaginer combien vous nous êtes utiles, tant nous dépendons de nos partenaires pour un travail en temps réel »… Le réseau métropolitain sans fil Wifi de BorgouNET est tout à fait fonctionnel depuis le début de cette année, il permettra aux utilisateurs qui ont besoin d’une connexion à Internet à haute et permanente disponibilité, de mener convenablement leurs opérations de connectivités à un coût supportable. Avec la technologie WiFi les télécentres communautaires de Parakou, l'Université ainsi que plusieurs ONG et centres d'enseignement envisagent une solution définitive pour leurs problèmes de connectivité dans des localités dépourvues de téléphone. Les échanges de courriers électroniques ont été possibles du temps où la téléphonie était analogique à Parakou avec Cotonou en utilisant les protocoles UUCP. Nous avions un serveur de courrier qui se connectait avec un autre hébergé chez notre FAI à 450 km de Parakou. Le fait d'avoir utilisé les technologies appropriées et adaptées au milieu nous a permis, avec du matériel presque insignifiant, de rendre possible l'accès à ce service qui est basique mais essentiel pour la société civile. Une cinquantaine d'organisations non gouvernementales et structures de développement ont bénéficié de ce service au cours des deux dernières années, ce qui leur a permis de bien avancer dans leur travail sur le terrain, les témoignages dans ce sens ne manquent pas. La maintenance des ordinateurs, le service d'assistance en ligne et la possibilité de nous consulter pour l’acquisition du matériel informatique sont des services très simples mais très appréciés par nos utilisateurs. Ils peuvent se concentrer sur leur tâche au lieu de se préoccuper des infrastructures informatiques et des communications. Avec de tels services, aussi simples qu’ils soient, les NTIC deviennent un outil à leur service plutôt qu'une difficulté supplémentaire. Les services d'information par contre ont été un petit échec pour nous jusqu'à maintenant. Les organisations ne s’intéressent pas assez au partage de l'information et à la mise en ligne des documents, pages web, bases de données... malgré la gratuité de ces services chez nous. Nous ne sommes pas parvenus à savoir si cet échec est dû à une mauvaise politique de sensibilisation, à un manque de formation ou bien seulement à une question de temps. A en croire certains, les choses gratuites échouent bien souvent! Conclusion De tout ce qui précède, nous ne pouvons pas dire que BorgouNET, pris dans son état actuel, joue pleinement son rôle d’appui dans le septentrion, car nombreuses sont les zones qui ont des difficultés de connexion avec BorgouNET. En effet, comme nous le disions plus haut, seule la ville de Parakou jouit d’une téléphonie numérisée dans cette région du pays. Nous avons voulu résoudre ce problème avec des systèmes radio VHF mais, malgré nos efforts, nous n'avons pas trouvé une solution technologique acceptable (les solutions satellitaires s’offrent, mais elles sont chères) pour connecter à Internet tous ceux qui sont au-delà de 50 km et sans téléphone. Nous allons continuer à chercher des solutions créatives pour rapprocher le monde rural béninois des NTIC, mais notre conclusion est qu’il importe d’élargir l'accès à un bon réseau téléphonique numérique sur tout le territoire, ce qui devrait être un service basique assuré par l'Etat qu’aucune initiative privée ne peut remplacer.


Stratégies d’intégration du Cameroun à la société de l’information et de la communication
Jean Lucien Ewangue Journaliste Principal (en stage à l’ENA) Chercheur à la Fondation Paul Ango Ela pour la promotion de la géopolitique en Afrique centrale (FPAE) -Cameroun13, rue de l’Université – 75007 Paris Port.


La révolution dans les domaines de l’informatique, de l’information, de la communication et des télécommunications a donné naissance à la société de l’information et du savoir. Cette nouvelle société de l’information, en dépit des craintes inhérentes à toute révolution, suscite beaucoup d’espoirs. Elle est présentée par la plupart des spécialistes comme le moteur du développement économique et de la croissance des pays du globe, le nouveau capital du monde des affaires. Les technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC) en général, et Internet en particulier accélèrent la cadence de l’implantation d’une « nouvelle économie » à forte valeur ajoutée et renforcent la mondialisation. Aussi, les pays en développement comme les pays développés élaborent des plans et des politiques pour se connecter à ce nouveau réseau mondial du savoir. Afin de ne pas se tenir à l’écart de ce vaste mouvement planétaire, dont- on dit qu’il sera fatal pour ceux qui auraient délibérément choisi de se marginaliser, le Cameroun opère depuis quelques années déjà une rentrée dans la société de l’information. C’est dans le contexte géopolitique et géoéconomique de la « mondialisation » qu’il convient d’examiner la démarche camerounaise d’accès à ces nouvelles technologies de l’information et de la communication. Une analyse des dynamiques d’intégration du Cameroun à la société de l’information et du savoir devrait aboutir à mettre en exergue les stratégies d’insertion de ce pays pivot de l’Afrique centrale dans les réseaux de communication interconnectés, en tenant compte des déséquilibres géopolitiques et géoéconomiques qui limitent l’efficacité et la cohérence de cette démarche. En effet les efforts de mise en œuvre de la politique du renouveau communicationnelle du Cameroun par l’appropriation des TIC doit faire face aux « structures de contrainte » liées aux « discontinuités territoriales et fonctionnelles » caractérisant les « réseaux physiques ou énergétiques », (transport, électricité) ou les « réseaux techniques ou médiatiques »(télécommunications, télévision, informatique, radiodiffusion) en matière de communication. La géographie spatiale de l’intégration inégale des réseaux techniques de communication au Cameroun L’examen de la couverture du territoire camerounais par les différents dispositifs de connexion et de connectivité montre des grandes inégalités d’implantation technologiques. L’investissement des espaces et des lieux par les NTIC et Internet s’opère surtout dans les concentrations urbaines plus ouvertes aux « innovations de l’ère numérique » parce que disposant des meilleurs moyens d’accès dans la distribution spatiale et territoriale des réseaux physiques et énergétiques de communication. Or le développement des NTIC est conditionné par cette infrastructure physique et énergétique dont la qualité détermine l’implantation des différents terminaux. Le maillage des territoires technologiques. La consolidation des réseaux de radiodiffusion, de télédiffusion, de l’informatique, de l’électronique et des télécommunications qui vont s’ouvrir progressivement aux NTIC à travers les supports technologiques tels que la téléphonie mobile, l’ordinateur portable ou la messagerie électronique doivent surmonter les « effets de verrouillage » dus à des disparités territoriales qui freinent le développement des « paradigmes et schémas technologiques » dans les secteurs de l’information et de la communication au Cameroun. Le maillage territorial et spatial des technologies des télécommunications comme des réseaux met bien en évidence les asymétries


dans la géographie des accès en ce qui concerne les réseaux de la téléphonie fixe et mobile au Cameroun par exemple. Les territoires technologiques des télécommunications épousent en effet la configuration des asymétries caractérisant les réseaux physiques et énergétiques. D’un point de vue géopolitique et géoéconomique les deux grandes villes de Douala et Yaoundé, qui ont chacun plus d’un million d’habitant, apparaissent comme de véritables « plaques tournantes »de l’activité du secteur des télécommunications. Ce constat est valable à propos de l’implantation du « dispositif de communication. » Le Cameroun dispose actuellement de 2 centres de transit nationaux et régionaux EWSD à Yaoundé et Douala, 2 autocommutateurs numériques pour le transit international à Yaoundé et Douala, 1 hub pour les systèmes VSAT à Yaoundé, 10 centraux d’abonnés EWSD à raison d’un dans chaque chef lieu de province, 1 central Alcatel 100 E à Buéa, 31 centraux de type analogique CP 400 avec commutation locale et rattachement unique vers le centre régional de transit, 15 centraux locaux numériques à Douala, Yaoundé et Buéa. Un tel constat reste pertinent à propos des « dispositifs de transmission » : 50.000 km de faisceaux hertziens analogiques avec 9000 circuits de communication interurbaine ; caractère stratégique des liaisons numériques entre Douala et Yaoundé avec une liaison Yaoundé-Edéa-Douala de 3 x 34 Mbps ; puissance des intercentraux de Yaoundé et de Douala dotés d’une capacité de 140 et de 565 Mbps (F.O) et 34 Mbps (F.H), réseau Douala-Buéa doté d’une puissance de 34 Mbps. L’interconnexion de ces circuits au réseau est assurée par 3 services : le « service mobile » par le satellite IMMARSAT, le « service fixe » par le satellite INTELSAT (avec 2 stations terriennes à Yaoundé et à Douala) et le « service de câble sous marin à fibre optique » par le câble SAT3/WASC/SAFE depuis août 2002. Le secteur des télécommunications et l’ouverture asymétrique aux NTIC. Consubstantiel à la faiblesse de son économie, l’état du secteur des télécommunications au Cameroun est tout simplement alarmant, avec des réalités contrastées. L’introduction des NTIC au Cameroun est confrontée à la fragilité du tissu infrastructurel et télécommunicationnel. En 1999, la télédensité (nombre de lignes téléphoniques pour 100 habitant) était estimée à 0,54 au Cameroun, ce qui classait ce pays au 179ème rang sur les 206 pays classés par l’Union Internationale des Télécommunications (UIT). La structure de la téléphonie s’est modifiée avec l’introduction de nouveaux supports technologiques permettant l’exploration et l’exploitation du réseau cellulaire à partir de la norme GSM . Cette dynamique de restructuration a permis d’élargir l’éventail des abonnés du réseau téléphonique général. Entre le lancement en février 2000 du réseau MOBILIS par la Société Camerounaise de Mobile (SCM), filiale de France Telecom, et novembre 2000, soit 9 mois après ouverture, la SCM comptait déjà 62.803 abonnées et couvrait 11 villes camerounaises. Son concurrent Mobil Telephone Network(MTM), opérateur sud-africain, totalisait à la même période 26 sites d’exploitation dans 3 villes du Cameroun (Douala, Yaoundé, Bafoussam) et 9.127 abonnés actifs déclarés en octobre 2000. Le maillage général en réseau de téléphonie fixe et mobile était évalué à environ 250.000 abonnés en février 2001, soit un doublement des abonnés en 5 ans. Cette forte progression ne saurait pourtant occulter les disparités exprimées dans la répartition géographique de cette extension du réseau d'abonnés. En 1998, le parc téléphonique (capacité des centraux) des provinces du Littoral( 56.000 lignes) et du Centre (43.000) ordonnées respectivement autour de Douala et de Yaoundé, était supérieur- pour chacun- à celui des 8 autres provinces réunies. Bien plus, le nombre des abonnés dans ces provinces du Littoral (26.215) et du Centre (21.924) représentait plus de la moitié du total des abonnés du Cameroun en 1998. A ce sujet, on peut à juste titre parler de « Yaoundé et Douala et le désert technologique camerounais ». De même, le boom du téléphone cellulaire ne peut faire oublier les problèmes de la saturation du réseau téléphonique fixe camerounais, le faible taux de pénétration


du téléphone fixe, surtout dans les zones rurales, l’inexistence d’un backbone national fiable, la vétusté, voire l’obsolescence de certains de ses équipements. L’opérateur historique de la téléphonie fixe, la Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel), société d’Etat en voie de privatisation, a cessé depuis fort longtemps d’attribuer des nouvelles lignes, notamment pour les cabines téléphoniques. Douala et Yaoundé occupent une position géostratégique décisive dans l’organisation sociale des différentes activités nationales, apparaissant à juste titre comme les » foyers régulateurs et coordinateurs » dans les domaines actionnels et fonctionnels des télécommunications abritant chacune : 1 centre télex national et international. Le programme CAMPAC (Cameroon Packet Switching Network) met en place un système de commutation des données par paquets (X25), sorte de réseau MINITEL faisant appel à une liaison spécialisée satellite à 9.600 bits/s (64 kbps dans le réseau en cours d’installation) qui se déploie sur le territoire national à a partir de 4 nœuds d’accès localisés à Yaoundé (Centre), Douala ( Littoral), Garoua (Nord), et Bafoussam (Ouest). Le couple stratégique Douala-Yaoundé occupe une place hégémonique dans le mouvement de « numérisation » ou de « digitalisation » croissante de l’activité nationale des télécommunications et dans l’organisation du maillage territorial des différents « générations de technologies de réseau » au sein de ce secteur. Le secteur camerounais des télécommunications va progressivement s’ouvrir aux nouvelles technologies de l’information et de la communication en général et Internet en particulier. Les trajectoires spatiales d’une géopolitique asymétrique des accès à la société de l’information au Cameroun. Le développement des connexions à Internet va progressivement imposer une évolution des trajectoires technologiques en matière d’information et de communication au Cameroun en raison des pressions évolutives crées par l’absorption des « mutations techniques associées à la révolution numérique. » La connexion du Cameroun au réseau Internet à été amorcée en avril 1997 suite à la réussite du « programme de numérisation », faisant de ce pays le précurseur de l’adaptation aux innovations de l’ère numérique en Afrique centrale. Le raccordement du Cameroun à Internet et aux autoroutes de l’information à été rendu possible grâce à l’assemblage de 2 nœuds d’accès construits à Yaoundé et à Douala par CABLE and WIRELES et British Telecom entre avril 1997 (pour Yaoundé) et avril 1999 (pour Douala). Les opérations techniques de connexion à Internet, qui traduisent l’intérêt croissant des camerounais pour les autoroutes de l’information, ont permis la mise en place de liaisons privilégiant une fois de plus les villes de Yaoundé (22 liaisons spécialisées) et Douala (10 liaisons spécialisées) dans la construction de l’architecture technologique interconnectée bâtie autour de 4 serveurs, 8 routeurs et 1 réseau ETHERNET 10 BT. Cette société fait de Douala et Yaoundé l’axe principal de son dispositif d’accès à Internet par le réseau téléphonique commuté ou par liaisons spécialisées. La Camtel ,qui a du mal aujourd’hui à trouver un repreneur privé, a arrêté la plupart de ses dépenses d’investissement, limitant ainsi ses offres de connectivité aux backones internationaux. Sur le plan interne, elle utilise la solution médiane des liaisons spécialisées pour les villes de Douala, Yaoundé, Bafoussam, Garoua ou Ngaoundéré. Cette solution de rechange entraîne de nombreux problèmes de saturation de trafic. Toutefois l’entreprise espère résoudre au moins en partie ces différents problèmes grâce à l’arrivée du câble sous-marin à fibre optique à Douala depuis le 23 août 2002. La minceur du parc informatique camerounais.


Le parc informatique camerounais est encore très limité comme l’indique sa densité évaluée à 0,302 ordinateurs pour 100 habitants au Cameroun en 1999. Bien que l’on ne dispose pas toujours de statistiques fiables, moins d’un dixième des agents de l’Etat utilise l’outil informatique. Certains ministères fonctionnent avec moins de 100 micro-ordinateurs. Ce faible niveau d’acquisition des équipements informatiques est en partie lié au coût prohibitif de ces appareils pour des économies déjà fragilisées et sous ajustement structurel, au nombre restreint des utilisateurs résidentiels et à la quasi- inexistence de structures académiques de formation en informatique. Selon l’évaluation faite lors de l’atelier régional Afrique centrale, de l’Est et de l’Océan Indien sur les « Inforoutes » tenu à Yaoundé en janvier 1997, le parc informatique du Cameroun était de 10.000 micro-ordinateurs. Si l’on se base sur le taux de croissance annuel en investissements informatiques estimé à 30,1% , ce parc devrait atteindre aujourd’hui 80.000 micro-ordinateur, c’est -à- dire en deçà de la moyenne africaine. Les équipements et les instruments informatiques qui constituent le préalable pour l’accès à Internet indiquent un taux d’acquisition de 13% par an pour les micro-ordinateurs, 4,5% pour les mini-ordinateurs et 5,2% pour les gros ordinateurs au cours de la période 1987-1999. En dépit de cette limitation conjoncturelle et structurelle, le parc informatique national a connu une évolution sensible, en raison d’une situation économique marquée par un début de reprise de la croissance et du gros effort fait par les pouvoirs publics dans le cadre des opérations du Comité National de Pilotage de la Transition des Systèmes Informatiques à l’an 2000, entre 1998- 2002. Ces évolutions, encore fragiles, devraient être consolidées car certains signes ne sont pas très encourageants et appellent à la prudence. Le « Plan national Informatique » publié en décembre 1999 par le ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de l’informatique et de la recherche scientifique n’a pas été suivi. Et le gouvernement camerounais a du mal aujourd’hui à élaborer une stratégie nationale cohérente de développement des technologies de l’information et de la communication, dont l’un des axes prioritaires pourrait être l’accroissement de l’œuvre d’accès. Les approches stratégiques d’une politique camerounaise d’accès à la société de l’information et de la communication On peut situer comme point de départ de la volonté des pouvoirs publics camerounais de s’investir dans la problématique des nouvelles technologies de l’information et de la communication les trois interventions politico- médiatiques du président Paul Biya lors du discours de fin d’année 2000, celui de la présentation des vœux au corps diplomatique en janvier 2001 et celui adressé à la jeunesse le 10 février 2001. Bien qu’ayant bien souligné les enjeux et les défis de cette nouvelle révolution annoncée, on a encore du mal à identifier qui est le chef de file de l’élaboration et de la mise en œuvre de la stratégie nationale d’appropriation et de développement des NTIC. Plusieurs ministères et institutions interviennent dans ce projet de manière désordonnée. Un Comité ad hoc chargé de l’élaboration d’une stratégie nationale de développement des NTIC a été créé par le Premier ministre le 26 novembre2001, et n’a toujours pas rendu son rapport. De même, l’Agence Nationale des technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (ANTIC), créée par décret présidentiel du 8 avril 2002 pour « promouvoir et suivre l’action gouvernementale dans le domaine des technologies de l’information et de la communication » tarde à fonctionner, faute de personnel. Le ministère de la Recherche scientifique et technique s’est vu confié, par un décret présidentiel en octobre 2000, la mission d’élaborer un « Programme d’Action Gouvernemental pour la Société de l’Information et du Savoir » (PAGSIS), tandis que le ministère des Postes et télécommunications, qui dispose d’un direction des observatoires des NTIC, était chargé par le Premier ministre de définir une « politique Nationale de Développement de l’Internet et des Autoroutes de l’Information ». De même, le ministère de la Communication n’entend pas être exclu de ce domaine et a entrepris une réflexion sur le développement des contenus des sites Internet camerounais. Le ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur a été désigné par une décision du Premier ministre du 16 novembre 1999 comme point focal dans les démarches d’organisation et d’orientation des NTIC. D’autres ministères interviennent plus ou moins directement dans ce


débat de l’élaboration d’une stratégie nationale d’ancrage à la société de l’information. C’est le cas, par exemple, du ministère de l’Education nationale, celui du Développement industriel et commercial ; le ministère des Finances et le Centre National de Développement Informatique. D’autres opérateurs privés qui existent à côté de l’Etat se positionnent aussi comme « fournisseurs d’accès » et « producteurs de services généralisés ». Ceux-ci sont engagés dans des relations contractuelles et intercontractuelles avec les partenaires. (GC-NET, ICC-NET, ADAFNET, DS-NET, etc.). D’autres opérateurs offrent des « accès spécialisés »(SUPTELECOM, UNITET, CENADI,). Tous ces opérateurs contribuent à l’insertion du Cameroun à la société de l’information et de la communication. Le Cameroun bénéficie aussi des projets de coopération internationale dans le domaine des NTIC et de la maîtrise des technologies innovantes. Dans cette perspective de développement des moyens d’accès à la « société du savoir » on peut citer le réseau d’ordinateurs existant dans les Universités et les Grandes Ecoles comme celui de l’université de Yaoundé I initié en août 1997 avec une liaison de 64 kbps ou réseau ETHERNET qui attribue le nom de domaine « uninet » avec le Centre de Calcul et l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure Polytechnique (ENSP) comme nœud d’accès de ce réseau en fibres optiques. Un projet d’université virtuelle( Académie CISCO) est même envisagé. Dans cette perspective, le Cameroun peut bénéficier de projets de coopération comme le « Réseau Intertropical d’Ordinateurs » (RIO) créé par l’IRD (Institut pour la Recherche et le Développement) ou le « Réseau Electronique Francophone par l’Education et la Recherche »(REFER) mis en place par l’Agence Francophone pour l’enseignement et la Recherche (AUPELF-UREF), ou encore le Point d’Accès aux inforoutes pour les Jeunes(PAJE) financé par l’Agence intergouvernemental de la Francophonie. Le développement des capacités de connexion au réseau mondial associe les acteurs institutionnels et privés, nationaux ou internationaux (administrations, commerces, industries, intermédiaires financiers ou médias). Les réseaux interconnectés peuvent être consolidées par une collaboration renforcée avec l’association ISOC-Cameroun (représentant local de l’ONG américaine « Internet Society ». L’objectif serait alors de diversifier le réseau Internet au Cameroun encore contrôlé par l’opérateur historique Camtel qui distribue parcimonieusement la voie satellitaire (V-SAT). Quelques actions programmatiques d’ancrage du Cameroun à la société du savoir. Certaines actions sont entreprises par les opérateurs publics et privés pour vulgariser l’usage d’Internet dans la société camerounaise. Les stratégies camerounaises d’ancrage à la société de l’information et du savoir semble avoir fait le pari de la jeunesse. Le président Paul Biya et son épouse ont inauguré le 30 novembre 2001, 2 centres de ressources multimédias dans 2 lycées de Yaoundé. Ils sont équipés de 30 micro-ordinateurs, 3 imprimantes, 1 scanner, 1 graveur de CD-Rom, pour le lycée Leclerc et de 72 micro-ordinateurs, 3 serveurs, 11 imprimantes et 2 scanners pour le lycée bilingue. Financé par la présidence de la République, ce projet est appelé à s’étendre sur l’ensemble des lycées des 10 provinces du Cameroun. L’université de Yaoundé I s’apprête à abriter le Centre d’excellence en informatique appliquée à l’analyse et à la gestion des ressources naturelles. Un mémorandum dans ce sens a été signé le 24 décembre 2002 entre le gouvernement camerounais et la représentation des Nations Unies au Cameroun. L’Institut africain d’informatique (IAI) antenne du Cameroun offre à la fin de chaque année – depuis 2 ans- gratuitement des cours d’informatique aux meilleurs élèves des établissements scolaires de Yaoundé. Le ministère des Finances a décidé de défiscaliser l’importation des entrants informatiques au Cameroun et le ministère de la Communication a signé le 23 septembre 2002 un arrêté qui attribue une aide publique aux médias privés y compris la presse « on line ». Celle-ci pourra bénéficier d’une subvention pour l’acquisition du matériel informatique, la production du contenu numérique, la prise en charge des frais connexes (télécommunications, transport, hébergement). Le Salon International des NTIC de Yaoundé (Yaoundé Net COM) s’impose au fil des ans


comme le grand rendez-vous des professionnels des NTIC, une plate forme de référence pour la présentation et le lancement des nouveaux produits et services des technologies innovantes dans la région Afrique centrale. Les perspectives de régulation des politiques de développement des NTIC Les politiques nationales en matière de NTIC doivent être élaborées sur la base de restructuration du secteur des télécommunications en prenant en compte les approches régulatrices. En plus du problème de la coordination des différents acteurs intervenant dans les programmes de développement des nouvelles technologies, le secteur des télécommunications au Cameroun souffre d’un vide juridique qui entraîne un désordre préjudiciable aux usagers. Le paysage télécommunicationnelle camerounais est régie par les lois n° 98/014 du 14 juillet 1998 relative aux télécommunications, n°98/197 du 8 septembre 1998 portant création de l’Agence de Régulation des Télécommunications (ART) et le décret n° 2002/092 du 8 avril portant création, organisation et fonctionnement de l’Agence Nationale des Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication (ANTIC). Dans ce dispositif juridico- réglementaire, l’ART apparaît comme l’autorité de régulation chargé de mettre de l’ordre dans le secteur, tandis que l’ANTIC devrait « promouvoir et suivre l’action gouvernementale dans le domaine des technologies de l’information et de la communication ». Bien qu’ayant déjà quelques faits d’armes à son actif (fixation des tarifs d’interconnexion entre les 3 opérateurs -Camtel, MTM, SCM/Orange, définition d’un plancher de base de tarification à la minute, attribution de nouveaux blocs de lignes, passage de la numérotation à 7 chiffres), l’ART souffre de problèmes de jeunesse, en particulier de manque de personnel qualifié pour suivre l’évolution rapide du secteur des TIC. Une approche intégrée des problèmes commanderait aujourd’hui de créer une structure centrale de coordination et de des actions de développement des NTIC et de régulation des télécommunications. Cette structure administrative indépendante pourrait prendre en charge les problèmes relatifs à l’adressage et au nommage du domaine Cameroun (.cm), de contrôle technique et éthique des contenus de sites par l’enregistrement, la certification et l’authentification en lieu et place de la Camtel en butte à ses problèmes de privatisation. Cette nouvelle autorité de coordination et de régulation devrait organiser les rapports entre informatique et libertés, réguler le commerce électronique (e-commerce), et préciser le statut des acteurs impliqué dans le développement des NTIC. Elle interviendrait aussi dans la sécurisation des opérations sur Internet (protection des données personnelles, sécurisation des opérations contre les attaques informatiques ou la cybercriminalité) avec l’appui d’un Observatoire des NTIC. Perspectives de distribution dans les politiques de développement des NTIC L’élaboration d’une stratégie nationale de développement des NTIC au Cameroun devrait mettre l’accent sur la distribution. Les actions prioritaires seraient alors l’accroissement de l’offre des services Internet à partir de la création d’infrastructures publiques d’accès telles que les cabines à carte ou « call box », les télécentres ou les cybercentres, les centres d’information communautaires en zones rurales, la multiplication des sites Internet, etc.). Le Cameroun pourrait tirer partie des projets ou programmes de coopération internationale comme l’« Africa Network Initiative » (ANI), fruit de la coopération entre BellaNet, l’UNESCO, le CRDI et l’UIT ; le programme InfoDev de la Banque mondiale pour la mise en place d’une université africaine virtuelle ; le Leland Initiative qui fournit une assistance technique au pays souhaitant développer l’accès au réseau Internet ; le projet Mercure du PNUD utilisant la technologie V SAT pour établir un réseau de circulation d’information en Afrique ; ou encore les nombreux programmes de l’UIT , de l’Agence Intergouvernementale de la Francophonie et de l’OMS. Le branchement du Cameroun à la fibre optique devrait permettre de porter la capacité globale du trafic avec l’étranger qui était de 600 circuits à 3.000, avec la possibilité de la multiplier à partir de la technique de la compression, par 2.000. Grâce à ce câble, les demandes des utilisateurs


d’Internet à haut débit pourront être satisfait. De même, les télécommunications avec l’extérieur vont pouvoir se faire sur un canal autre que le satellite. Sur le plan interne, on peut aussi commencer à entrevoir un début de solution au problème de la saturation du réseau. La réussite de l’opération du passage de la numérotation téléphonique à 7 chiffres en 2001 assure au Cameroun une capacité théorique de création de 8 millions de nouveaux numéros. Mais, pour en profiter, il faudrait faire de gros investissements, y compris dans la technologie de pointe. Pour une rationalisation de l’approche stratégique camerounaise d’ancrage à la société de l’information. L’élaboration et la mise œuvre d’une stratégie nationale de développement des NTIC passe par une approche transversale et multisectorielle réduisant la dispersion des intérêts et des actions des différents acteurs dans ce secteur. Lorsque cela s’avère nécessaire, les pouvoirs publics doivent désigner un chef de programme chargé d’animer et de coordonner les actions des différents acteurs. Une démarche de développement de l’infrastructure nationale de l’information et de la communication (INIC) doit s’intégrer dans la stratégie nationale de développement économique et social. Les participants à l’Atelier CEMAC sur les technologies de l’information et de la communication au service de l’intégration régionale ont bien souligné les principes qui doivent guider toute réflexion pour la définition d’un plan inforoutier national ( effort particulier sur la baisse des coûts d’utilisation, stratégies d’investissement et de financement par l’aide à la création de contenus adaptés aux besoins des populations, mise en place d’une libre concurrence et d’un cadre réglementaire attrayant, considération du facteur durabilité dans les choix techniques, mobilisation de toutes les énergies à travers la recherche de synergies entre les secteurs public et privé et la société civile ). Les politiques de développement des INIC doivent être mise en compatibilité avec les initiatives régionales comme le satellite africain des télécommunications de l’Organisation Régionale Africaine de Communication par satellite (RASCOM) ou l’Initiative Société de l’Information en Afrique adoptée en mai 1996 par la Commission Economique pour l’Afrique (CEA). Le développement des NTIC, de l’Internet et inforoutes au Cameroun doit s’inscrire dans la perspective des efforts des pouvoirs publics pour lutter contre la pauvreté. Les NTIC sont aussi sollicités dans le vaste programme de réforme administrative destiné à mettre en place une administration publique performante, transparente et au service des citoyens.


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