UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
By Daniel Pimienta, REDALC Project Director, Union Latina, Santo- Domingo, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper presents a structured set of guidelines to help start and operate research networks in developing countries. The proposed methodology is the result of a combination of studies and field experiences in Latin America since 1989 (REDALC Project). The introduction identifies the implicit model and the key factors for the success of research networks creation in the industrial countries. A comparison is made with the developing country's environment calling for a different approach. A summary list of the activities linked to network building and operation is shown which demonstrates that the bulk of activities is in managerial tasks rather than in technical one's. A hierarchical approach for problem solving is described in four layers: institutional, organizational, financial and, last, technical. The activities belonging to each layer are described with a set of associated guidelines. Finally, some success prone ingredients are presented. References are made to practical examples derived from the cases of the Dominican or Peruvian networks.
KEY WORDS: Academic and Research Networks, Developing countries, Latin America and Caribbean, Methodology.
The traditional success story for network creation have proven the unbeatable superiority of the bottom-up approach for the network building process. Putting in place an initial kernel of users have always been followed by the emergence of a nation-wide network. The mechanisms which allow the growth from the base have usually been considered as an inherent part of the environment.
A slight detail, among others, makes the method not necessarily transferable from the industrial countries to where it have demonstrated its validity, to the developing countries: MONEY. FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS IN RESEARCH NETWORKS
If one analyzes the growth factors of the EARN/BITNET model, one will discover, from the bottom to the top, the presence of this efficient tool:
a) the money invested by large computer manufacturers (like IBM or DEC) to offer the first years of telecommunication costs and/or telematic equipments,
b) the money invested by governments to keep on paying part of the telecommunication infrastructure,
c) the money collected from subscriptions by the research institutions,
d) and maybe, tomorrow, more money by the last group to pay the bill of transport networks becoming less subsidized...
Money was of course not enough. Some other factors were keys to this success:
DETERMINANT FACTORS IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
What are the contextual factors which participate to the growth of the research networks?
-The existence of good national telecommunication infrastructures.
-The high level of organization and management of the research institutions (mainly universities).
-Their capacity for negotiation with the computer industry.
-The existence of pioneers who were able to manage the idea, create the condition of the network emergence, make it happen and keep the effort ongoing.
All that process have created a wide consensus among networkers about the validity of the "pragmatic"/"realistic" bottom-up approach against the "planned"/ "theoretical" top-down approach.
The network architects could have been more inclined, by their profession skills, towards the second approach. However, they were put in the situation of being always ahead of the norm makers, thus encouraged to build on the path and maintained an "advance technology" type of attitude.
The only low rated points of the research networking emergence are the natural consequence of a technology driven situation:
PROJECTING THE MODEL INTO DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
It is not the point here to argue against the obvious validity of the historical approach. However, although we are part of the consensus on that very point, we do want to warn the reader about the illusion of projecting that truth, very specific to the industrial world, to a quite different environment: the developing countries.
On the one hand, the lack of money may prevent the "growth mechanism" to make a start-up realization evolve naturally toward a national solution. On the other hand, beside money, and beside the time elapsed since the beginning of the implementation of the technology (should necessarily the new networks be built the same way as 10 years ago?), there are other good reasons why one should think differently in term of solutions. We will show them hereafter.
Furthermore, the experience of the emergence of research networks in developing countries should not leave indifferent the networkers of the first world: although they believe their concern is now focused on fat pipes and "applications" (in the OSI sense of the term), they might learn something, for their own future, from the experiences conducted in developing countries!
Indeed, the signals are clearly appearing of the coming of the time when research networks will evolve to a market driven growth pattern, and hence, situations where the managing power and the budget expenses will drastically switch from networking infrastructures toward end-users considerations (training, support, interfaces, user's applications). This is why the experiences and considerations of the emergence of network in developing countries may be of special interest for the industrial countries. It may teach something about key transformations of interest for the entire world.
AN APPROPRIATE MODEL
This paper aims to identify a set of factors which argue for a more balanced approach in developing countries, something which merges the best of the top-down and of the bottom-up approaches. We offer in this paper a new model which design is specifically based on the characteristics of this different environment.
And to keep "pragmatism" as a healthy premise to network activities, we present a methodological tool which is applicable in the field, and which has been successfully applied already in two concrete cases (Peru and Dominican Republic).
The proposed methodology is the result of a set of in-depth studies conducted, since 1988, by the author, his team and his partners in Latin America and the Caribbean. REDALC (Red de America Latina y el Caribe) is a project initiated by Union Latina, an International Organization aiming at the defense of languages and cultures derived from Latin. The REDALC project looks after a steady, regional and comprehensive solution for research networks. The studies were first conducted from Europe in 1988 and 1989. Then an EEC funding was obtained in 1990 to conduct a 2 years feasibility study in the field. In mid-1991, Unesco joins the feasibility study to address more specifically the information network content. ACAL (Academia de Ciencia de America Latina) participated in the Unesco studies. Some other related studies or activities were also conducted by the REDALC team of Union Latina:
All this process provoke the evolution of the concept of the Latin American network, since 1988, from a simple replication of EARN, toward something more specific and appropriate to the economic and structural reality of the region (the REDALC model).
We are convinced that a large part of the experience is applicable to other regions. Readers have to evaluate if the conditions in other regions (Africa, Asia, Middle-East, Eastern Europe) are similar enough so that the methodology is applicable. Obviously, the necessary cultural adaptation must be provided by network builders in exporting the methodology to other places.
III INDUSTRIAL COUNTRIES VS DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
ELEMENTS OF SCALES
-EARN start-up costs in the order of ten millions of US $ were obtained, between 1985 and 1987, thanks to an IBM grant for the support of international telecommunication costs. Note, by the way, this interesting economical fact: the research networks have allowed a large and indirect transfer of money from the computer private industry to the telecommunication national public operators!
-National networks require yearly operational budgets from several hundred thousands to few millions of US $. So far, the telecommunications are the largely predominant part of the visible side of the budgets. It is fair to say that the hidden part of these budgets (basically manpower and resources given free by universities) is spent in user support, hardware, programming services, local administration and national telecommunication. Yet, the largest part of the "real budget" is used to pay telecommunication costs (guesstimates between 60 and 70%). However, the number and quality of free-wares produced for research networks is something worth noticing, and if one could evaluate this production, on a cost recovery basis, one would be surprised by its economical import.
-Brazil's current networking level (which serves less than 20% of potential users) is strongly supported by the State of Sao Paulo which pays a yearly amount of few millions of US $.
-One of the first experiments of EARN in Africa was conducted in Ivory Coast, some five years ago. The first investments for having so few users with access reached few thousands of US $ (order of magnitude of 10,000 US$ investment per user).
-Researcher population ratio vs national population is, depending on the countries, measured in between 1 and 10 per 1000 in the industrial world. It is roughly 10 times lower for developing countries.
-Science and Technology population for France is around 200,000. That same population for all Latin America and the Caribbean is also estimated at roughly 200,000 (with much looser criteria).
-Monthly salaries for faculty members in Latin America average 150 US$.
-Monthly salary for researchers in Latin America may in some case reach the industrial world pattern of few thousands of US $, but the bulk of the distribution is in the few hundreds of US$.
-The building of the Porto Rico research network (CRACIN) consumed a budget of approximately US$ 20 Million. Note that Porto Rico, interestingly, shares both the Latin American cultural background and the North American economic patterns. The result of the investment is a state of the art network, with multi-protocol support, full optical fiber at T1 speed between campuses, where terminals, with remote logging facility at fraction of second response time, are spread over the various campuses of several universities.
-Twenty millions of US $ is sufficient to build a Latin America proprietary regional backbone. The figure is obtained assuming a satellite transponder provided by the region as counterpart to an International Agency investment in terrestrial equipments and costs of technology transfer. The existence of such backbone would dramatically decrease the telecommunication yearly operational costs, says only few hundreds of thousand US$ per year for the whole region.
NB: the fact that the two figures are presented sequentially is not the result of a mere coincidence! That comparison conveys the whole message. With twenty millions of US$ an island of 4 millions inhabitants has built a state of the art research network for its 2000 some users (a 10,000 US$ investment per user). With twenty millions the entire region could reach the level of basic services for its 200,000 potential users (100 US$ investment per user). Of course, it would be unfair to fail to mention that the first budget included everything from terminals to the fiber optical, and that the second budget concentrates only on the backbone infrastructure and implementation costs. But anyway, it is important to identify that this is the amount of money required by the region to definitively solve the challenge of generalized and affordable research networks.
SOME OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
-Researchers are generally and logically part of the Academic community, where they split harmoniously their activities between teaching and research.
-Salary levels of academics (several thousands of US$) allows them to be full time employees of their institutions with not much incentives for looking for additional employments.
-A large majority of the Academic institutions offers appropriate characteristics in term of budget, administrative and managerial skills, computer and telecommunication to set up, operate and maintain a node.
-Market size of the academic community for computer products justifies marketing investments from manufacturers of hundreds of thousand of US $ yearly per country.
-National packet-switching networks have been developed independently of the research networks.
-Education and/or Science and Technology national budgets are such that the support of telecommunication costs for networking is rather marginal.
These obvious facts are the implicit building foundations of the research networks in the developed world. Are they true in the developing country research environment?
Although, part may be verified in some developing countries, the large majority of these facts are not verified in most developing countries. Would it be wise to use the same building model in an environment so different?
IV HOW TO OBTAIN THE BUDGETS FOR BUILDING AND OPERATING NETWORKS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES?
A full side national network unit cost is on the scale of the million US $. How can the required money be collected?
* Directly from the user Institutions? The large majority of research centers cannot afford it while there is a general agreement on the need for networks to be democratically and openly accessed.
* From Public Authorities? Of course, the Governments should participate in financing such activities prone to contribute to the global development. But it is very difficult for them to support it all: they have to complete more urgent tasks in the Education and Research fields with narrow budgets. For instance, they must improve the alphabetization rate and complete the creation of basic education infrastructures (one of the more urgent task being to increase teacher's salary).
* From the computer industry? Times have changed and the benefits have become thinner for that market segment! And, anyway, the forecasted return of investment does not justify "no free lunch gifts" of that level of magnitude for most developing countries.
Three alternatives remain:
1) Regional Integration. Substantial economies scale could be realized by building regional transport infrastructures in a coordinated fashion. Furthermore, regional agreements should be set up for the leverage of taxes on national and international telecommunications used for research networks. Last but not least, dedicating channels in a regional satellite is an appropriate way to offer a regional stable and independent solution.
A lot of money has been and is still spent by EEC to pave the ground toward European integration in term of networking, primarily for its normative politics and also with the participation in joint ventures for specific activities in advance technology domains. The motivations, both political and economical, are medium term oriented.
For developing regions, integration is an immediate financial urgency. Furthermore, networking is a typical area where inter regional, and more generally, south-south cooperation should apply.
2) Dealing with Telecommunication Operators. Most Latin American countries have very recent data network infrastructures or are on their way to build them, together with value added services. The key importance of telecommunication infrastructures for the development have not to be demonstrated any more (ref 13). Developing countries cannot afford what has been the rule in the industrial world: a relationship between networkers and national telecommunication operators with a low level of cooperation. Furthermore, it is in the interest of the data communication operators to use that small market segment which such a huge multiplicative effect on the whole market (university teach the future decision makers of the business world). The offer of special discounts to the researcher community could be a wise solution to help solve the chicken and egg syndrome which prevents the arising of the telematic market. Indeed, it appears to be more cost effective to invest in offering to the research sub-market than in commercial campaigning and advertising for the whole market... The Dominican Republic network experiments the first worldwide full scale support, for a research network, from a telecommunications operator (which, by the way, does know what business means, since it's a private company).
This is a crucial area of common interests between the telecommunication market players, the world of science and technology and, eventually, the whole development area.
3) Multilateral Cooperation It is probably the only way to trigger the process money-wise. The International Agencies may provide the funding to fulfill the basic regional infrastructure and act as a reinforcing agent for the two first factors, within regional programs frameworks.
Of course, one could still argue (ref 8) that it is easy and cheap to build a network node, and, that the end-user could pay the telecommunication bill which is cheaper using data communication than using more traditional means (telephone, telex, fax). One should also accept that this model would lead to a "only-who-can-pay-research network" reserved to a minority of third world wealthy universities. Is that the real credo of networking? Is it fair to have third world researchers pay the bill which their counterparts in the industrial world had subsidized?
V A PRIVATE HOT TUB VS A PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL: INTRODUCING THE TASK OF BUILDING A NETWORK
There is a common mistaken idea which results from a dogmatic faith about the bottom-up magics. Create a node with few users, connect it to another network and you will automatically get a network. The transformation from few users on a node toward a real national networking requires a lot of organization and engineering, and indeed, a lot of money!
Let us make the analogy of the difference between a hot tub and a swimming pool. You can be wet in both of them. Yet, it is not very realistic to believe that you can offer a collective bathing service to a large user community ... in your personal hot tub!
And beware your plumber if this person tells you there is no technical problem to transform your hot tub into a swimming pool. The most delicate problem may not be the water delivery but some management one's where your plumber may be not skilled for, like, for instance:
Finally, you realize that the amount of work and money necessary to transform your apartment in a public swimming pool may be such than you decide to consider the problem professionally ...
This analogy does not mean to make wet the intents of seeding networking by small realizations. They are required actions participating to the learning curve process. The point is to avoid the confusion between a ten users e-mail system with a nation-wide solution!
A bad habit has been created of flagging the countries which have network access with no consideration of percentage of served users. This is a consequence of the weird solution-oriented research network inventory method: counting the nodes. Who really cares about the number of nodes? Computers products salespersons! What really matters is the number of users! The outstanding task of identifying the world network accesses by country (ref 2) should evolve toward some measurement of user's penetration. Why not distinguish at least, below 1%, below 10%, below 25%, and below and above 50%. The current lack of user survey and maintained directories in the Internet is not a good reason not to try to change the pattern: a best guess is always possible. To distinguish persons who really use e-mail from those who got an unused e-mail address is a task, but, in the absence of data, statistical laws should be applied.
The other point we want to make with the pool analogy is to balance the myth of the technical gurus. They are many steps to building a national research network, and while the set up of the technical infrastructure is important, it is predictable time and money-wise. Furthermore, the percentage of manpower required for a single node installation and connection, compared with the whole task set, is rather marginal. Finally, the tasks involving organization and human relations, being much less deterministic, are more exposed to delays or failures.
***************************************************************** * Building a network has much more to do with the gathering of * * people under a common and structured organizational scheme * * than installing hardwares and software! * *****************************************************************
VI WHAT IS A RESEARCH NETWORK?
A research network is a set of telematic services offered to a large user population. Beyond the setting up of a network node connected to several users on the one hand, and to other international node, in the other hand, a set of necessary tasks need be performed before the result could be qualified as such:
The previous summary list is, of course, far from being exhaustive.
Beyond the basic functions of e-mail, distribution lists, conferences, remote logging, file transfer, special attention must be paid, from the beginning, on the application level (user and conferences directories, information networks, data bases).
Such a system is characterized by the quality of the service. The quality is a concept which summarize the global user perception of the services with regard to the various system's components:
These quality concepts translate in complex engineering and managing requirements on the system, like for instance:
Everything explained here-before is in fact generic of any computer based services offered to a large user population, and one should never forget that, as for any of such system, the fundamental objective is to serve the maximum of the potential users at an appropriate trade-off level between cost and quality.
Let's now be more specific and show a set of rules, steps and statements which have been specially designed for the launching of networks in developing countries and put into practice twice.
VII GUIDELINES FOR BUILDING A NETWORK IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Learning to build and manage a network is obviously a never ending task. What we want to share hereafter is the level our team have reached based upon our studies and experiments. We know there is still a lot of work to do to improve the method and we urge the readers to share with us their reactions, criticisms and suggestions for improvements. Of course also, the presented rules may need to be adapted to particular circumstances and to specific regional or national social, economic and cultural environments.
We are presenting a set of elements which together we name "methodological tool".
This is the result of a process which has gone through:
Neither of the two countries in the experiment can be considered as "easy" to build a network. Peru, for the size of the research world, the complex socio-cultural situation, and the dense history of trials in networking. The Dominican Republic, obviously was simpler, thanks to the size and the good telecommunication environment, however the networking learning curve was to be drawn from the beginning, and the researchers are far from being identified and organized.
Three basic elements are separated in the methodological tool:
1) PROBLEM SOLVING PRIORITY SCHEME: A logical and hierarchical grouping of the type of problems, usable as a priority scheme tool.
2) STEPS: A chronological organization of the development, a task scheduling tool.
3) OTHER INGREDIENTS: An identification of the driving patterns and the appropriate ingredients which contribute to success.
7.2 PROBLEM SOLVING PRIORITY SCHEME
The problems should be treated with descending priority from the top to the bottom of the pyramid presented hereafter.
V . I INSTITUTION I I O R G A N I Z A T I O N I I F I N A N C E I I T E C H N I C S I V
INSTITUTION: What institutional model? What areas of the civil society participate to the project? Under what terms and conditions? What types of relationship do they maintain together, with the Public Administration, with the Telecommunication Operator, and with other regional networks?
ORGANIZATION: What form of Institution? What model of development? What model of operation?
FINANCE: How to get the money? How to expend it?
TECHNICS: What network architecture and design? What implementation choices?
The hierarchy is based on these sometimes forgotten evidences:
-It is not very satisfactory to create a perfect technical plan if there is no money to finance it. Technical arguments hardly help to obtain the money for a project!
-Having the money and the right technical model, without the appropriate organization, there is a risk of wasting the money without getting the result done. Next time it is going to be tougher to receive the same money!
-Having the technical solution, the money to purchase it, and the right organization structure, without the political will to get across the development is probably the most blocking and frustrating situation!
This pyramid does not necessarily imply a chronological order for problem solving, but it does imply a priority scheme .
Next, we present a set of guidelines which are associated with each level of the pyramid.
7.2.1 INSTITUTIONAL LAYER
-Associate in the same project institutions from all the areas which host researchers: Public Universities, Private Universities, Academic Research Centers, Public Administration Research Centers and Councils, Non Governmental Organizations (NGO), International Agencies. Have each area represented in the development process by at least some institutions.
-Manage a good trade-off for the development process, maximizing both the level of independence from each group and the level of participation.
-Involve directly active researchers (future end-users) and obtain, on the way, political support from their institutions both in the project and their representativeness.
These three objectives represent together the biggest challenge of the whole process, and for that reason they deserve some additional comments. Being a researcher in Latin America is generally not an easy task. There is more negative incentives than positive one's and it requires a lot of guts and persistence. Except in strong institutions (well organized universities and research centers, which do exist, but do not hold the majority of researchers), pluri-employment and budget hunting is the norm). The NGO sector has played a fundamental historical role in providing back-up structures where the level of institutionalism was weak. Any research project should, of course, consider its duty to reinforce the official and academic research sector, but it would be an unresponsible attitude to leave aside those dynamic NGO's which struggle for more structures in the social and economic layers of the society.
In complying these objectives, one may discover, afterward, that building a networking user group have another important hidden content: it participates to the building of institutionalism within the country (institutions are, by the way, the basic foundation of development).
-Use, as a constant guideline for decision making, the regional integration factor, first at the sub regional, second at the regional level.
-Look for International Agencies and/or bilateral cooperation support in a non exclusive fashion, and manage, with independence, the federation of such contributions.
-Participate in the promotion of the national data telecommunication sector (mainly X25 networks). Integrate representatives of this sector in the process. In exchange, negotiate the best level of support in term of tariffs for national X25 access and international links.
-Develop cooperative relationship with the industrial sector.
-Maintain, as a side-objective, the support to the Science and Technology domain. In countries where exist official and strong structure, try not to appear as a competitive structure. In that case, develop a full integration with the Official sector. An important niche of responsibility remains where the Science and Technology Council (or other Official Institution) is a driving force for networking (for instance where it provides the technical layers): the constitution of a networking user group which can and should orient the decisions in the direction of the users general interest.
7.2.2 ORGANIZATIONAL LAYER
-Organize participation of the end-users in each step of the development.
-Put all the concerned Institutions at the same level in the final organization.
-Offer the same level of rights and obligations to the Institutions coming after the foundation.
-Establish a consensual juridical form on non-profit making Association. For the legal statutes of the association, use models from other countries and adapt them.
-Start with an informal and open step where the institutions are non officially represented by motivated future end-users.
-Only start to formalize the juridical structure when there is a good level of consensus and a good level of participation.
-Consider user training as prioritary compared to technician training. In countries with a large user base, train teachers.
-Consider from the beginning the integration within the network of national information networks. Use the momentum to catalyze the building of new ones.
-Change from an "assembly" to a "committee" pattern when a sound coordination group is formed and the number of active participants is too large to maintain efficient decision making assemblies.
-Maintain global information and transparence of the coordination group activities.
-Consider the diffusion of the knowledge about networking the task of each one, and maintain openly accessible all the documents generated by the development process.
-Whether there is a node installation phase with external support, or a Telecommunication company global offering, be organized to start the technology transfer and introduce it as part of the agreement.
7.2.3 FINANCIAL LAYER
-Look for International Agencies or bilateral cooperation support for the development and the education.
-Reach the maximum support from National Telecommunication Operators, in particular in term of X25 access and international links.
-Try as much as possible to have your international traffic flow via a neighboring country.
-Ask for time limited free offering for commercial Scientific Data Bases from the main vendors.
-Negotiate from national industries the budget for operational costs.
-Obtain hardware gifts from vendors.
-As a rule of the thumb, it is much preferable to receive money support or to formulate sponsor requirements than to receive non requested donations (we all know cases of offers of hardware where the additional costs in equipment is higher than the whole bill of purchasing a complete appropriate solution). The point is not to refuse sponsoring but to build a negotiator responsible attitude and be capable of analyzing the indirect consequences of the decisions.
-Other rule which better respects freedom of selection and independence is to receive donations in form of contracts with a symbolic fee.
-Establish sub-regional and regional agreements for the minimization of international connection costs.
-If exist regional training structures functioning, use them.
-Keep some level of auto-financing as a sane objective, and establish an Institution subscription fee as well as priced additional services. It is hopeless to gather enough money for all operational costs, but it does make sense to balance the association administrative budget.
7.2.4 TECHNICAL LAYER
-Minimize the number of nodes. For countries where users count in few thousands try to manage a unique node model.
-Use UUCP as the more affordable entry solution. Introduce TCP-IP in the plan and stay open for OSI out-coming.
-If there is a reliable X25 network, enforce its use for accessing the node. If not, and if the telephone system is particularly in bad shape, consider a VSAT hub system as an alternative.
-At the user level, encourage the use of PC's as the natural way of accessing the node. Look after the most appropriate free PC interface available.
Five main steps are distinguished: sensitization, conception, development, initial use and stable use.
Whenever somebody shows the interest of research networks to some part of the research community, be at a personal or institutional level.
When every potential user has reached the right level of awareness. That implies this step will overlap all the other one's for quite a while!
Attain the maximum potential user awareness from all the targeted sectors.
Learning curve. Awareness.
Operations of demonstration and promotion via different type of media. Direct contacts with key people and Institutions.
Maintain the motivation of the first interested people if the process is slow. Trade-off between the will to satisfy the created expectations and the awaiting of the critical mass.
Depending of the level of maturity of the country the process may stay at this level from several months to few years. Advantage should be taken of this step to build a pattern of mutual understanding with the telecommunication operators. It should be obvious to show that most of the promotional operation beneficed to them, and it is recommended to ask for punctual sponsorship during the shows (free data network access for show for example) so that to create the natural habit.
When there is an homogeneous, representative and motivated group of end-users ready to meet toward generic objectives.
When the critical mass of participating users is such that the need appears for task division in various committees and coordination by a steering committee.
Form a user group. Create consensus within the user group on the main global objectives of the process.
Group meetings. Motivation. Participation. Dynamic. Federation. Information.
Large group meeting to obtain agreement on basic principles. Global diagnostic and strategy for the various components.
The managing of group dynamic phenomenon in term of struggle for power, leadership or hidden interests.
An action plan with the right timing is necessary to maintain the necessary momentum. The process consists of progressively transform the unstructured levels of intention of the participating users into organized and articulated committees with very concrete objectives. Note that the nature of the process is as important as the results, in the sense that it builds the user group dynamics by itself.
When the previous one stopped, meaning sub-groups meet toward specific and coordinated objectives.
When both the user Association and the network services are launched.
Form the user Association and the network services.
Build a coordinated action plan. Complete all the elements for the association (statutes, logo, signatures, etc.). Prepare international, regional and national agreements. Make the technical solution functioning. Obtain national financial support.
Maintain a high level of user participation while changing to a more hierarchical form of organization. Maintain the active transparency pattern from the steering committee to the whole group. Obtain Institutional support for a user group. Reach the right mixture of people skills and institutions in the steering committee. Distribute the sensitization process to avoid bottlenecks and negative effects on development schedules.
This is a no joke step! There are a lot of thing to do and this is a point of no return, after take-off is reached. The group have to go from a spectator to an actor pattern. This is very selective: during this step the key people are going to appear, able to incorporate the first board of directors of the association.
7.3.4 INITIAL USE
When network services are ready.
When the number of active users cross the threshold of 10% of the potential base and a stable operating budget is in place.
Checking the basic elements of the model and adjusting parameters.
User training and support. Tuning of parameters.
Formalize pending agreements. Execute systematic user training plans, organize an efficient user support mechanism. Find and install an office. Enroll employees. Build a workable accounting scheme. Organize a systematic diffusion scheme. Set up a growth plan.
Maintain the group motivation meanwhile they are not yet provided network accesses. Link the user training and the access providing. Create new habits for user support and avoid the telephone bottleneck. Organize systematic access distribution.
7.3.5 STABLE USE
When the network service is stabilized and the user growth reach a steady pattern.
Increase the quality of the network services and serve additional user requirements.
All the tasks involved in network operation.
The user satisfaction. The installation of applications.
This is not the subject of this paper.
7.4 DRIVING PATTERNS AND OTHER INGREDIENTS
The key to the success is to maintain the cohesion and the dynamics of the group of participating people during all the process. Some ingredients have been identified which we found essential for that purpose.
7.4.1 A right trade-off between leadership and participation.
The experience shows the need for leadership to conduct the process. The leader should be an experimented networker with an orientation toward the end-user (rather than towards technics). It is better than the leader, who will concentrate on making happen the convergence of efforts from people of areas with different objective and interest, be clearly identified as above or aside these sectorial interests. That may be easier to obtain from a person belonging to an International Agency (it helps too if the person have some type of link with the country) but it is not necessary. A lot of communicating enthusiasm is required, as well as good negotiating skill, and the ability to make the others collectively participate.
Developing people participation without economic incentives is not an easy task. The success elements are the ability to make people feel they are participating to a nation-wide priority action and a permanent attitude of active transparency. The last one is a painful task (calling large and frequent meetings, reproducing and distributing information) to perform without the use of e-mail! If it has to be done again, we would opened a Bulletin Board System, at the conception step, to kill two birds with one stone: provide permanent open information and start the telematic learning curve. On the same order of idea, it is key to give network access the sooner possible to the people who are key in the drive of the process.
It is of the outmost importance to leave always the door open to other people involvement. Since all the participants offer their times on a benevolent basis, the experience shows than the level of involvement of individuals varies during the different steps of the process. The key point is to maintain always a critical mass.
7.4.2 A right trade-off between people and Institutions.
Although people are, by definition, key in the process of building a user group, institutions are the necessary foundation of the targeted result. The key people are those who are able to conciliate both the end-user and the institutional points of view. They have the capability to represent officialy their Institutions when required. It should be payed attention not to leave out a complete sector because of the lack of motivated people. Finally, the success indicator is the ability to obtain Institution official support on a user based methodology. In the case of the Dominican network, the 25 Rectors, Directors or Manager of the Institutions founding the Association were asked to express officially their compromise both on the Statutes of the Association and on the name of their representative: 22 of them officially agreed upon.
7.4.3 A federative attitude implemented in the acts.
It is key to obtain, as far as possible, the identification and implication of all the persons who have an history of trying to build networks in the country and to make all the current intents join a national coordinated effort.
Experience shows in Latin America a natural tendency for the multiplication of national solutions and, as a consequence, some level of tensions occurs, as a consequence of centralist attitudes.
The difference between the centralistic attitude and the federative one is fundamental. However it is very tricky to determine from the outside who is what. The centralist wants to promote his/her solution as the unique solution and tends to act in order to make the competitive one's disappear. The federative wants to conglomerate the various potential solutions in a pattern of commonality, where the originality of each contribution is preserved as far as possible.
Since it is useless and endless to enter in polemics on that point, it is strongly recommended to maintain a coherent attitude in the action plan:
***************************************************************** * The real goal is to give access to the maximum number of* *satisfied users. Every solution which participates to this* *objective should be treated with respect and* *cooperation. * *****************************************************************
The competitive pattern, if sometimes difficult to understand in countries lacking resources, does provide some advantages, and finally, the answer belongs to the users.
************************************************************ * One should never forget that, eventually, each solution * * will be measured in term of the satisfied user bases * * and not in term of national or international political * * alliances. * ************************************************************
7.4.4 An efficient participation of national networkers residing in foreign countries having network access.
Use must be made of national researcher residing in foreign countries to support the effort. They are useful to create communication traffic for the initial use step, they can help new networkers from their country found their way in the matrix, and later one, they may channels a lot of cooperative exchanges. It is logical than new users become a bit tense on using a new communication tool. The best way to start the learning curve is the use of national cultural distribution lists involving nationals living abroad. The use will provide a natural and progressive learning mechanism and create opportunities for direct contacts. It is strongly recommended to maintain from the beginning user directories and to publish them.
7.4.5 The use of south-south cooperation
A lot can be obtained from inter regional and in general, south-south cooperation. There is plenty of room for balanced actions which give each partner a better sense of the value of what have been accomplished.
This paper will hopefully become obsolete in a few years time-frame, when all the countries will have a large number of users accessing research networks. Once this is done, other challenges await the networkers to make their users fully satisfied, like, for instance:
1. "The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide", J. S. Quaterman, Bedford, Digital Press, 1990.
2. "International Connectivity", L. Landweber, Internet Society News, Vol 1, N?2, pp49-52, Spring 1992.
3. "Latin American and Caribbean, networking perspectives", D. Pimienta, Internet Society News, Vol.1, N?1, page 8, Winter 1992.
4. "E-Mail for Developing Countries- What they never tell you about it", I. Chukwudozie Ezigbalike, Shem J. Ochuodho, presented at AITEC South Conference, Harare, Nov. 1991.
5- Various papers related more or less directly to research networks in "Calidad, Tecnologia y Globalizacion en la Educacion Superior Latinoamericana", UNESCO/CRESALC, July 1992. Among others:
6- "Guidelines for a computer network interconnection of the African Countries", Unesco, IIP Program document, 1992.
7- "Special edition on information and research networks", Carta Informativa NTC/NCT, Vol VI, N? 14, Lima, IPAL (Instituto para America Latina), May 1991.
8. "The South American Scientific Network: an attainable, low cost, high yield reality", S. Ruth, F. Utreras, R. P. Brescia. Interciencia, Vol.15, N?5, Sep-Oct 1990.
9- "Main Science and Technology Indicators", OECD Publication, 1992.
10- "Statistical Yearbook", UNESCO, 1992.
11- "Encuesta para el Diagnostico de la situacion de la investigacion en America Latina y el Caribe", Academia de Ciencia de America Latina, ACAL, 1991.
12- "Vision Cuantitativa de la Educaion Superior en America Latina y el Caribe", UNESCO/CRESALC, April 1991.
13- "Telecommunications and Economic Development", R. J. Saunders and al., Washington, World Bank, 1983.
14. "The peruvian network", D. Pimienta, Internet Society News, Vol.1, N?2, page 8, Winter 1992.
15. "The dominican network", D. Pimienta, Internet Society News, Vol.1, N?3. 1992
16. " RIO: un Reseau Inter-tropical d'Ordinateurs pour la recherche en cooperation", Pascal Renaud, Orstom Actualites, N?34, 1992
This paper presents the synthesis of a part of years of personal and team activities. Several people have participated directly or indirectly in the conceptualizing of the ideas generated by the REDALC Project. Jose Soriano, actual Manager of the Red Cientifica Peruana, has more specifically contribute to the theme.
We want to express our thanks to Michel Perdreau for his
valuable help in improving the form of the document and, in
general, for his comments.
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