Sustainability and Technology

Sustainability and Technology

As a friend in Ivory Coast once admonished, there's technically no reason why all of Africa couldn't be on the Internet with full access to all the bells and whistles--tomorrow really. Technically, no problem. But the wiring and chips are only a small part of the problem, yes?

My working definition of technology is the nexus of technique and social institutions. The wiring and chips are of little use unless a set of social institutions is in place to manage them. I am interested in the problem of technology for computer connectivity and information. There are many associated questions, but one in particular that I've thought about recently has to do with whether a network in any given Africa country should be centralized with respect to international connectivity, or for that matter with respect to national connectivity, the alternative being a non-centralized network.

Technically there are cost differences, particularly in economies of scale for international polling. I worked up cost figures for the Salstinet Project here in Sierra Leone, and came up with $2 per one-page message received/sent for a low-volume store-and-forward or "offline" mail system (Fido, UUCP, etc.), but as low as $.50 per message for a high-volume system running the same equipment, factoring in such things as equipment depreciation and labor. (At a certain point, further increases in volume appear to result in no further economies for an offline system, suggesting economies to be gained from conversion to a leased-line system. The South African experience has been explained in this way in some accounts.)

But apart from costs, what are the implications for cost recovery?

What about control and, quite conceivably, censorship of content?

What about network reliability?

And let me not forget the economist's special area of concern--what are the implications for price (as opposed to cost)?

I've seen studies of the technical development of the network in South Africa, and to a certain extent they address these questions. For any given country elsewhere on the continent, I wonder if we ought not to give more attention to the problem of technology.

From: (Jeffrey Cochrane)
Date: 18 Oct 94 18:18:00 
Subject: Sustainability and Technology
Message-ID: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific