UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Contribution to the African Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development (3-7 April 1995)
Contribution by : Asfaw Hailemariam & Zerfu Dimd, Participants from EthiopianTelecommunications Authority , ETA
Title : How can Telematics for Development be realized in Ethiopia
As a network provider, ETA has been witnessing a marked rise in the use of modems and facsimiles for data communication. Although this trend of increasing computer use is encouraging, the fact remains that important economic sectors like agriculture and trade firms, educational institutions such as the University and a number of other government agencies are either unaware or less informed of the potential of computer hosted information services. The users are mostly concentrated around UN agencies and certain non-governmental organizations. This has been revealed from the limited survey that ETA has made in order to establish a Packet Switched Public Data Network (PSPDN).
The forefront task of agencies like PADIS is likely to be to promote computer hosted services as appropriate to the above mentioned institutions. Collaborative efforts between computer use promotors as PADIS and network providers as ETA shall pave the way for telematics.
The past five years of ETA are marked as being years of constant growth in the demand for data and facsimile services. Giving due consideration for this, the authority has relaxed its monopolistic policy to allow customers to import data modems and facsimile machines against a technical approval conducted on case by case basis. The users are a mix of government, non-government and private organizations. Other than the UN-affiliated agencies and NGOs, SITA and Commercial Bank of Ethiopia are the largest group of data communication users here. The types of connection circuits in use are either of a dial-up over the PSTN or voice grade lease line. Apart from this, four government organizations use VSATs to get data communication services. In order to provide a direct means for accommodating such customers, ETA is planning to introduce an X.25 Packet Switched Public Data Network (PSPDN). More than providing connectivity to the world-wide packet network, the proposed single node X.25 network is expected to provide a higher level of performance as compared to that of the PSTN. Nevertheless, the large mass of government data users we have come to discover employ their systems to make business (lease-line) contacts over proprietary protocols rather than harnessing telematic services as we know them. Such value added services where information is organized for the best use of the customer is less heard of to government based important institutions as the Ministry of Trade and Chamber of Commerce. Letting alone UN-agencies and NGOs, the use of development information in economic intensive sectors as the agriculture and trade is yet minimal.
On the other hand efforts are in the making to widen telematics on a regional sense. The regional telematic computer center at Djibouti, meant for East Africa and the Arabic Peninsula, is worth of mention in this regard. An American expert heading the project had visited Ethiopia a year ago in an effort to win user groups who could join the project which was planned for inauguration in March 1994. From their project document, we have come to know that the center is constituted of 49% private and 51% government investment. The computer center brings together two groups called as service providers and end- users. The service providers pay the center to get a host service for their information whereas the end-users are either paid for or pay to get access to the information.
The response given to the telematic computer center at Djibouti by certain government organizations here had been sceptical. The reason for that being the lack of comprehension of the advantages of hording information as farther away whereas the target audience is by enlarge to be found locally. By our judgement the scepticism shown mainly arose from lack of understanding of and practice on such telematic services. We hope this symposium on telematics will enlighten administrations as well as the user community on the following.
I/ The essence of telematics as applied to the economic infrastructures of developing countries.
II/ The list of regional efforts being made on the African Continent.
III/ The role of administrations like ETA and the user groups to contribute to these regional efforts.
IV/ The repercussions of distributed processing offered by microcomputers on the standardization of communication protocols.
V/ The networking requirements to facilitate dessimination of telematics for development on a regional and global basis.
As a final word of commentary, we would like to draw the attention of computer use promoters like PADIS to coordinate efforts with administrations like ETA in order to raise the awareness of the user community and to provide needed facilities in the following manners.
I/ Distribute to the potential users brochures and informative documents about computer hosted services.
II/ Inform the user community about the pros and cons of telematics
III/ Define connection technicalities, standards and world trends as applied to data communication in general and telematics in particular.
IV/ Coordinate regional efforts being made so that a seamless communication is enabled across borders.
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