Date: Tue, 18 Nov 1997 08:41:49 EST
Sender: "African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List" <AFRIK-IT@LISTSERV.HEA.IE>
From: Adrian Quincy Labor <ALABOR1@IDRC.CA>
Subject: So What!, NY City Phones out numbers Africa?s.
So What! NY City phones outnumbers Africa's
By Adrian Q. Labor, 18 November 1997
Have you seen the CD rom titled " We`re not on the Internet. SO WHAT." It pictures four "bushmen" in front of an all-terrain Landrover?
This article`s title is a take off from that and I`m going to question the issue of "teledensity" in African telecommunications development. For a healthy dose of teledensity, pick up a copy of "Telephone density: The World Telephone" or simply go through International Telecommunications Union reports concerned with Africa.
Here is one synopsis of developing nations grouped according to teledensity within a 1983 CIDA telecommunication and development document. Teledensity - Telephones per 100 population (1979)
Group 1 countries: starts with Tunisia at 2.9 and ends with Cyprus scoring 16.9. No sub-Saharan African country within this category
Group 2 countries: starts with India at 0.4 and ends with Syria 2.7. African countries included Ghana (0.6), Madagascar(0.4), and Tanzania (0.4)
Group 3 countries: starts with Rwanda, Chad, Burkina Faso and Zaire at 0.1 and ends with Sudan and Uganda at 0.3 each. The other African countries included Nigeria and Ethopia at 0.2 each.
Teledensity is a quantitative telecommunication development indicator. Gaston Zongo of the Senegal based African Telecommunication Observatory has this to say about such indicators in the observatory`s brochure.
"Most Conventional anaylsis view telecommunications in Africa mainly from a quantitative technological angle and hence, often not in a favourable light. Expect in specific studies carried out for investment projects, is rarely analysed from an economic stand point"
This brings me back to the telecentre argument. If the emphasis is on the number of ICT gadgets that finds it way into the telecentre rather than on the supportive role (economic wise) to a business and community, then Africa will continue to record relative low values on the quantiative telecommunications development indicator.
I also don`t think we must conceptualize, measure and rate African ICT development interms of oversimplified indicators (e.g teledensity). If we do we would still be selling ICT development as evovling the developing nation Chad from a teledensity of 0.1 (1 per 100 person) to that of developed America (average of 78 per 100 person) or developed Europe (average of 50 per 100 person).
Perhaps it is time to overhaul some of those coventional indicators and analysis to take into account the diverse and expident use of ICT equipments in Africa.
Dakar`s fishing community (Sembemdoiune) is about a 100metres away from one of the City`s artisan community (Village Artisan) and both are on one of Dakar`s coastal route leading downtown. Both communities have several private telecentres around their locations to serve them. For argument sake, let us say they have 4 telecentre each. They can make a call and receive one at all four, send and receive a fax two telecentres, surf the internet and maintain email accounts at only one. Note that to receive a call at a telecenter you`ll need an arrangement in place with the owner of telecentre.
It is possible that the many artists in NewYork`s artist village (Greenwhich) in lower Manhattan may have on average one phone fax, and one computer with internet access.
Picture this: Both Dakar`communities (artisan and fishing communities) of 100 persons each would be scoring 0.4 for telephone density, 0.2 for telefax density, O.1 for email and internet density. The Geenwhich New York artist community of a 100 person would score 100 for all these density. Assuming service quality (subjective) is the same in Dakar and New York, which of these community is underdeveloped interms of ICT Use?. The communication needs of both group are met.
Try this: Any member of the 100 New York artist can add WebTV to his collection of existng ICT equipment. The Dakar artist may have to wait for local telecom to finalize the radio frequency issue for wireless services to expand and for one of those telecentre to add WebTV to their service if the owner perceives the demand. There will be an apparent lag in introducing WebTV and a host of Multimedia to the Dakar fishing and artisan communities. Does this make them underdeveloped in terms of ICT as compared to Greenwich?
Adrian Q. Labor