Joshua Goldstein who blogs over at in an African minute finally finished his paper on Internet Access in East Africa, and I must say after reading the paper several times, he did the topic justice.
It is a commonly agreed fact that bandwidth costs in EA have to go down for communities to access the internet, I mean complaining about low internet penetration but not factoring in the costs is fool hardy to say the least. It is also a commonly agreed fact that the best way to do this is by fibre optic cable. And that is what his paper basically is all about, Joshua looks at the options available to increase internet penetration and contrasts, ‘The Club Consortium Model’ and The Open Access Model’ being a proponent of the latter, his paper delves more into The Open Access Model, what it entails and the challenges it faces.
My conclusions upon reading the paper is that I basically agreed with him on the various issues he raised in the paper.
When you look at the pros and cons of the two models, The Club Consortium Model (CCM) is weighed down by the fact that it is basically a monopoly and thus the operator can charge you as he pleases after all who is to stop him/her from doing this. The operator in this instance being government owned will bypass regulator issues as regulators in this part of the world are government controlled entities, whose policy is determined by government lobbyists.
The Open Access Model (OAM) stands out as the best in that it utilizes synergies from the government and the private sector. This model tries to get information to the people at the lowest price possible. By elimination of monopolies the price of bandwidth ultimately comes down as the Public Private Partnership (PPP) shares the initial high cost of infrastructure.
The TEAMs (The East African subMarine System Cable) and EASSy (East & Southern African Submarine System Cable) the fibre optic cables that are tentatively to land in Mombasa at the Kenyan coast in the second quarter of 2009 are versions of the OAM, this indicates that it is a model that is gaining currency.
Both models have their challenges but on final analysis the OAM scores higher than the CCM.
Joshua states three challenges to the OAM;
- Collaboration between government departments that are historically unwilling to collaborate, i.e. to reduce repetition/duplication.
- Initial high cost vis a vis the demand.
- Information access by the citizenry i.e. if gov’ts are willing to allowed free flow of information.
I’d also say training is another issue but it a general challenge to , users have to be able utilize the internet; they have to know HOW to use it.
In conclusion I’d say Joshua’s paper is spot on how to get internet to the people. You can get more information about Open Access here