UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Telematics for Development: Discussion Paper, Michael Jensen

Telematics for Development: Discussion Paper,

by Michael Jensen

International Telecommunication Union
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

in partnership with International Development Research Centre

AFRICAN REGIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON TELEMATICS FOR DEVELOPMENT

UNECA Headquarters
Addis Ababa
3-7 April 1995

Discussion Paper
by Michael Jensen

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PAGE
1. INTRODUCTION1
	1.1. Background1
	1.2. Objectives of Symposium2

2. OVERVIEW OF CURRENT TRENDS IN TELEMATICS3
	2.1. Computerization and Telematics Today3
2.2.	The Organizational Framework of Telematics
		Service Provision6
	2.3. Telecommunication Infrastructure6
		2.3.1. Cable7
		2.3.2. Radio7
		2.3.3. Alternatives to Cable and Radio9
	2.4. Telematics Service Provision10
		2.4.1. Dial-up Network Nodes10
		2.4.2. Packet Switching Services11
		2.4.3. Dedicated Networks12
	2.5. Telematics Applications13
		2.5.1. Electronic Mail13
		2.5.2. Electronic Conferences13
		2.5.3.	Remote Login14
		2.5.4. Offline Communication Systems14
		2.5.5. File Access Tools15
		2.5.6. Database Access15
		2.5.7. World Wide Web15
		2.5.8. Directory Services16
		2.5.9. Fax Services16
		2.5.10. Video and Audio Services17
		2.5.11. Commercial Transactions18
	2.6. Future Prospects for Telematics19
		2.6.1 The Infrastructure of the Information Highway19
		2.6.2.	The Internet as the Prototype of the
				Information Highway20
		2.6.3. Applications20
		2.6.4. Information Services20

3. TELEMATICS IN AFRICA21
	3.1. The African Telecommunication Environment21
	3.2. Regional Telecommunication Activities23
	3.3. The African Telematics Infrastructure27
	3.4. General Status of Telematics Development in Africa29
	3.5. Telematics Development and Support Initiatives30

4.	BRIDGING THE BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE DEVELOPMENT OF
	AFRICAN TELEMATICS37
	4.1. General Problems37
		4.1.1. Low Levels of Development37
		4.1.2. Obtaining Preferential Treatment for the
				Public Sector Telematics Users38
	4.2. Problems for Funders and Service Developers40
		4.2.1. Improving Co-ordination40
		4.2.2. Appropriate Planning42
		4.2.3. Improving the Lack of Available Skills43
		4.2.4. Addressing the High Cost of Services44
		4.2.5. Improving the Reliability of Services47
		4.2.6. Improving Availability of Meta-Information48
	4.3. Problems for Users48
		4.3.1. Improving Sensitivity to User Requirements48
		4.3.2. Addressing Low Bandwidth of the Available
				Services50
		4.3.3. Coping with Unreliable Services50
		4.3.4. Addressing the High Cost of Telematics 
Equipment51
		4.3.5. Encouraging the Involvement of Leadership52
	4.4. Problems for National Government and Telecommunication
		Operators53
		4.4.1. Raising Resources for Telecommunication
				Network Development53
		4.4.2. Meeting Conflicting Demands for Different
				Telecommunication Services54
		4.4.3. Increasing the Bandwidth of Leased Line
				Connections55
		4.4.4. Addressing the Duplication of 
				Telecommunication Infrastructures55
		4.4.5. Cutting the Cost of Access to Telematics 
				Services56
		4.4.6. Reducing the Cost of New Technology 
				and Equipment56

5.1.	Funders and Service Developers57
	5.2. Telematics Users58
	5.3.	National governments, PTOs and International 
Development Agencies60
	5.4. International Network Service Providers and
		Networking Technical Bodies62

6. STRATEGIES FOR FURTHER ACTION62

BIBLIOGRAPHY64
1. INTRODUCTION

1.1. Background

The continuing revolution and convergence in communications and computing technology is producing a massive surge in the development of electronic information, education, entertainment and financial services. While these new services are beginning to sweep through developed economies, factors such as inadequate telecommunication infrastructures and insufficient demand have isolated most developing countries from these developments.

The situation is most severe in Africa, where the penetration of telephones is the lowest in the world and its sub-saharan economic growth is at an all-time low. As the developed world begins to move from industrial to information based economies, where the talk is about pay-per-view video and multi-media 'surfing' on information superhighways, some African countries are still seeing heavy usage of telex services, and costs of US$Ź30 to send a single fax page internationally.

These problems are particularly critical for the user groups that are the focus of this study - the researchers, educators, press, broadcast media, non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies and many small businesses who are collectively involved in the development of their nations. For these 'sectors of public concern' (or simply, the 'public sectors'), which have a major societal role in the communication of information, the potential of telematics to assist in realizing their goals is vast. These groups are at the centre of the evolving informatics forces that are now beginning to shape societies worldwide.

While the resources for using telematics are very poor in most of Africa, over the last few years some countries have been able to put in place advanced communication networks operated by skilled and resourceful managers. Relatively low cost national and international electronic information services for the public are already a success in such apparently unlikely places as Mozambique and Ethiopia. With new developments in low cost communications systems and the trend toward modernization and liberalization taking place in parts of Africa, there are growing possibilities for reducing the North-South information gap if all these initiatives can be properly harnessed.

In Africa the sectors of public concern are faced with a number of problems which restrict their effective use of these technologies:

-In Africa the level of development of the telecommunication infrastructure (upon which all telematics activities are based) is generally very poor. Rural development organizations and relief groups working in isolated areas suffer particularly badly from Africa's general lack of a low-cost rural communications infrastructure.

-The availability and potential of the tools already in use in Africa are poorly known. Many people working in large organizations in Africa are still unaware that electronic mail is in use by thousands of their colleagues, some in very remote parts of Africa. The information available on African communications activities is generally inadequate and neighbouring countries lack knowledge of each other's progress, preventing them from learning from other initiatives or identifying issues of mutual interest.

-The accelerating pace of technology development is increasingly difficult to keep up with, even in a developed country. While the cost/performance ratio of telematics technology continues to drop by 35% a year on average, with no indications of a slow-down, most users in Africa are still paying excessively high amounts for their telematics activities.

-Organizations such as universities and libraries which could often most benefit from investments in new technology are frequently very poorly funded and the services they need are relatively expensive. An average salary for a university lecturer in several African countries is less than US$ 100 a month. Some countries have less than one hundred full time academic research staff who by themselves represent a very small telematics market.

-The nature of the public sector means that development- oriented organizations cannot necessarily pass on high cost telematics services to their constituencies in the same way a business can. Communications can often be a major portion of the total operating costs of an agency, many of which are working within very limited budgets drawn from increasingly tight public funds.

-These organizations are a dispersed group representing a wide range of sectors from society. They usually have no co-ordinated platforms to make their needs known to the policy makers and service providers. They have a potentially huge demand for services, but they have not yet had access to the strong lobbies serving the larger entities - multinational corporations and certain government departments such as finance ministries and the military.

1.2. Objectives of the Symposium

To discuss these issues and develop strategies for improving access to telematics facilities in Africa, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) jointly convened the African Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development.

This meeting will consider:

-the international trends and opportunities in telematics; -the African infrastructure, experience and initiatives; -technical problems and solutions; -national and regional policies for the promotion of telematics; -co-operative financial and institutional mechanisms to promote development of needed telematics services in Africa.

Aimed at the range of decision makers from government policy makers to network planners and funders, to end-users - such as the scientists, journalists, broadcasters and educators - the Symposium should sensitize them to the general issues involved, the relevant activities taking place on the continent and present a range of concrete recommendations for improvement. The present paper has been commissioned to assist in this purpose.

2. OVERVIEW OF CURRENT TRENDS IN TELEMATICS

2.1. Computerization and Telematics Today

As computers have gained widespread penetration in organizations it is increasingly apparent that the use of stand alone functions can be greatly enhanced through efficient networking and information sharing. Aside from wider access to scarce resources such as laser printers and large hard disk storage, the ability to easily communicate documents, messages, moving and still images, sounds, spreadsheets and databases can greatly improve the effectiveness of any organization or individual working with information. Appropriately used, networked information systems have the power to equip every level of decision maker with better resources for making decisions. Although the technology is still relatively new, it is already being extended into areas of education, public information access and new forms of cultural expression.

Combined with the ongoing digitalization of the underlying telecommunication networks, computerization has resulted in the convergence of applications in informatics, communication and audio-visual technologies. The logical extension of this tendency is the routing of all of a user's communications through a single public exchange and a single easily managed digital connection. This allows simultaneous use of the link for voice telephony, radio and television reception, and any number of networked information access functions, depending on the capacity of the connection.

Because of the convergence of the different technologies, the flow of data is now commonly referred to as 'bandwidth', to describe the need for any type of information delivery, be it traditional voice telephony, a television channel, or an electronic mail message.

It is already clear that network access and maintenance costs will decrease still further with the increased economies of scale and improved facilities for managing these data flows between users. As trunk routes grow in size, bandwidth can be more efficiently delivered, and as the users become equipped with better computer tools to exploit it (e.g offline systems and compression), the cost to the user has come down dramatically.

This is of great importance to development-oriented sectors which are particularly sensitive to the price of services. Already, the emergence of low cost international computer networks means it is now possible to communicate daily with others around the world at very low cost, even in developing countries. And with recent advances in signal delivery and in image and audio compression techniques, even a basic analogue copper network infrastructure is now capable of delivering good quality still images, slow-scan video conferences, animation and sound. Experiments with full broadcast quality video over these networks have been initiated with higher bandwidth telecommunication links.

In view of growing perception of communication and information as a critical force in development, wide area connectivity has become a primary issue. In more and more cases it is now expected that every computer should be 'on the net' in some way and be able to communicate with any other computer similarly connected, be it in the same office, or on another continent. In this respect, a cooperative, user developed network known as the Internet has emerged as the general data trunking system, with its TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) as the de facto standard for obtaining full global connectivity. The two main advantages to the users are i) a wide range of high level standardized applications and ii) low costs due to the extensive use of shared leased lines and the assumption of management responsibilities by the users themselves.

Emerging from military networking initiatives in the U.S.A., the Internet developed first into a nation-wide academic and research network and then into a cross-sectoral international 'network of networks' including participation by commercial systems such as CompuServe, MCI Mail, Prodigy and GeoNet. This has seen its adoption in 159 countries (Landweber) and the number of users growing at 15-20% per month, estimated at over 30 million by mid 1994.

As a source of worldwide expertise and a means for peers to exchange ideas and keep each other in touch with new developments, the Internet is without parallel and has become a vital resource for all who have access to it. Almost all tertiary educational institutions and research centres in the developed world (and many in the developing countries) are connected to the Internet, as are many journalists, newspapers and news agencies. The UNŹagencies and multilateral aid institutions such as the World Bank are also major Internet users. In addition there are also programmes in several industrialized countries to connect every school and public library to the Internet.

Until recently, the Internet developed in parallel to the "official" standardization efforts of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). Although protocols such as X.25 (basic connection services), X.400 (e- mail) and X.500 (directory service) have been talked about for many years as the emerging OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) standards for communications, they have not enjoyed the user support that was expected. Being very feature-full standards requiring substantial computer resources and technical expertise to operate, their use has mainly been concentrated in a few large organizations and the public telecommunication operators (PTOs).

Public X.25 data networks are still an important access point to global information resources, particularly where there are no local access Internet sites, but their popularity for this purpose is likely to decline as Internet based systems penetrate further. Occasionally TCP/IP protocols are run over an X.25 link, but the encapsulation required makes inefficient use of bandwidth resulting in large numbers of X.25 packets being transmitted for small quantities of data. There are a number of links maintained between the Internet and X.25 based networks and these are generally transparent to the user, although there are usually additional costs for traffic transiting these systems. Gateways between X.400 systems and the Internet e-mail systems have also been developed but the tariff structures and commercial operating philosophy of the public networks have made it difficult until recently for users in the different systems to communicate.

This problem has become less important as the Internet is increasingly being used as a commercial channel, with access provided on a profit-making basis and the availability of a large number of commercial hosts and services. As commerce further penetrates the Internet, the demand for additional functionality will increase. As a result, X.400 facilities (such as security and verification features) and X.500 directory services are likely to be successively incorporated into TCP/IP and its related suite of protocols.

At the same time, completely new generations of connectionless 'smart networks' are being designed which can dynamically carry out management and delivery functions while interfacing with every electrical appliance from the printer to the cell phone. AT&T's PersonaLink and IBM's Intelligent Communications are the first of these 'proxy' or 'agent' based networks which are designed to seamlessly connect any subscriber device to any back-end service, automatically translating between formats as necessary.

With these developments, the Internet credo is inevitably evolving, and users in non-profit sectors may in future find it more difficult to maintain the cooperative, open and inexpensive communications to which they have become accustomed.

2.2. The Organizational Framework of Telematics Service Provision

The pattern of organizational structures in telematics services can be viewed as a hierarchy. At the bottom level there are the public telecommunication operators (PTOs) who provide the basic infrastructure over which all services run. For national services these organizations are usually government authorities, but with growing liberalization of the sector, there are already a few countries - mainly in the industrialized world - which have allowed private companies to compete in offering basic services right down to the local loop.

International bandwidth providers are either co-operatives comprising PTO members (e.g. INTELSAT) or private multinational corporations (e.g. FLAG, a subsidiary of NyNex). Telecommunication capacity is also on occasion provided by other operators of major infrastructures in other sectors such as transport and energy. Organizations in these sectors have often built up their own in house networks and through deregulation are now allowed to optimize the use of their capacity by selling it to third parties. The railway and electricity supply authorities are prime examples of this.

At the middle level are the service providers (SPs) who make the bandwidth available to the third or top level, comprising the users. Service providers may often be the PTOs themselves, but increasingly, large quantities of bandwidth are purchased at a discount from the PTOs and this is then supplied by service providers who specialize in optimizing its use among specific sectors of users. Service providers may be specialized organizations set up specifically to service a particular user group (either on a co-operative or commercial basis) or they may be organizations which lease capacity from the PTOs for their own use and find they can make more efficient use of the network by reselling it to others. Large commercial information networks like CompuServe and Genie are examples of the former, while SITA, the airline operators' co-operative, is an example of latter (see below).

As a result of these overlapping structures, the top level of 'users' is a term that can also refer to service providers, or even PTOs, when they are leasing capacity from international service providers. However in most cases the users are the final destination of the service provision. They could be individuals, organizations or co-operative associations.

2.3. Telecommunication Infrastructure

Despite the rapid technological advances and decreasing costs in telecommunication facilities, they have not kept pace with even faster developments in computing. Cheaply available hardware and software are now extremely reliable and capable of handling large amounts of bandwidth for multi-media applications. Demand for facilities to exploit these 'high-end' applications remain largely unsatisfied for most users, including those in developed countries. While more prevalent in developing countries, the telecommunication network generally the weak link in the telematics chain for even 'low-end' tasks such as store and forward messaging. This is almost always because of the fragility of the 'last mile' from the telephone exchange to the subscriber equipment, but service interruption on international leased lines is also not uncommon.

The salient trends for users of modern telecommunication networks are the continued growth in available bandwidth and the steady move of digitalization from the core to the periphery of the network. With the increasing demand for telematics use, the original focus of PTOs - voice telephony service - has changed. Voice telephony is now just one of the many services carried over a common infrastructure and demands for universal access to telematics facilities are moving to a more equal footing with voice communications.

The next generation of the PTO networks is expected to result in a 150-600 Mbit/s fibre optic based Broadband Integrated Services Digital Network (B-ISDN) for every telephone subscriber. However the time-scale foreseen for the roll-out has increased and not many believe it will be realized in the near future. The 'last mile' of optic fibre is expensive, real demand has still to materialize and there are competing telephone, cable TV and satellite 'pipes' to dilute demand in most of the developed countries. Furthermore, the current infrastructure is proving adequate to move medium quality images and video. With improvements in modulation and compression techniques, real-time television quality signals can be transmitted down a 4-wire copper local loop over short distances. In general 2-50 Mbit/s links are adequate for almost all functions, with only a few niche applications requiring 100 Mbit/s (Teesdale, p. 182).

2.3.1. Cable

While trunk routes are rapidly being upgraded to digital microwave or fibre optic systems all over the world, including most African countries, the local loops are still almost entirely analogue based copper cable. This is likely to remain the case until at least the end of the century for most users.

Initially, very low transfer rates of only 30 or 120 characters per second (0.3 kbit/s or 1.2 kbit/s) were the maximum achievable. However, modem technology has steadily improved to the point where 28.8 kbit/s is available with modems running the recently established V.34 protocol. In practice, the interference common on dial-up analogue lines in developing countries can limit the potential speed substantially, especially during the rainy season when unmaintained cables can be affected by moisture.

2.3.2. Radio

Further improvements in subscriber oriented radio technologies have resulted in growing popularity of non-cable based systems, especially for mobile and low density rural telecommunication networks. Aside from the mobility advantages and very fast roll out times (three months to set up an entire town), they also offer better reliability and simpler maintenance than cable based local loops. They are even being considered in urban areas for the local loop, especially in developing countries where wireless systems have the further advantage of being impervious to theft of the valuable copper cable in conventional local loops. Many systems now cost about US$ 1500 per line, which is only marginally more expensive than conventional cable systems. For very remote or mountainous locations, these systems can be coupled with low cost VSAT (see below) links to the public network and provide a television channel downlink at the same time.

Increasingly, terrestrial radio is being used for linking areas outside the immediate locale of the cable based telephone network. Line of site connections (up to 50 kilometres) can now be made at up to 512 kbit/s with low cost Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio based equipment. These systems take the place of short haul leased lines, often providing higher bandwidth, lower operating costs and increased reliability over conventional analogue cable circuits. Aside from these advantages, radio based systems will become vital for improving telematics accessibility in Africa by circumventing old local exchanges which may be unreliable, subject to poor line quality, or unable to take on new subscribers. In these situations, radio links can bypass the old exchange and connect directly to an improved switch with spare capacity at another location.

Recent developments in the use of geostationary satellites for the broadcast (i.e.download only) of high volumes of data to many sites at once is now in practice using low cost Television Receive Only (TVRO) ground stations. It has provided very cheap access (US$ 30 a month) to much of the Internet broadcast services for those in the Americas and Asia. The possibility also exists to use the spare blanking lines in existing geostationary satellite television broadcasts to carry data - CNN has recently launched a teletext service that provides up to the minute financial data and other news to the whole of Africa and to other continents. Such systems still rely on the telephone network for sending information, but generally far more information is received than is sent, so this arrangement can be highly cost effective.

Bi-directional satellite links using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) have been used for some years, especially by relief agencies and television crews. The costs have so far been relatively high, but with growing deregulation, increasing availability of local downlink hubs and low cost terminals, this technology will be extremely important in providing access to telematics services. A ground station with a 1.2 m dish capable of 64 kbit/s is now less than US$ 10,000 and satellite transponder rental plus access to the hub station can be less than US$ 1750 a month.

For more irregular, lower volume usage, up to 6.8 kbit/s can now be achieved on VSATs connected to the public telephone network. Inmarsat has until recently been one of the only service providers in this area with its Inmarsat M and C terminals which cost US$ 3 to US$ 5 per minute to use - often competitive with the IDD rates of many developing country PTOs. As a result Africa, Asia and Latin America have been a major market for Inmarsat, but other satellite service providers such as PanAmSat and ArabSat will also be providing these facilities shortly.

Radio connections to low earth orbiting satellites (LEOs) have been in use for a number of years in many African countries by relief and development organizations such as VITA and Satellife. The low altitude of the orbit - 780 km - of the micro-satellites makes it possible to use a small transmitter and lightweight tracking aerial to connect with the satellite when overhead. The propagation delay to these satellites is much smaller than to a geostationary satellite - about 12 milliseconds versus a quarter of a second, but the low storage capacity of these satellites and the restricted bandwidth available has limited their use to low volume applications.

There are a number of initiatives by commercial telecommunication groups, such those of Teledesic and Motorola to launch 'swarms' of LEOs to relay signals from anywhere on the planet via small cellular telephones. None of these plans have reached finality but one of them is likely to go ahead before the end of the century and will at least be useful for travellers and in isolated areas. The cost of these services may, however, be high - possibly up to US$ 3 per minute.

As with most radio technology, security and revenue loss concerns mean that the difficulties of obtaining government or PTO authorization can be greater than any technological barriers, especially in developing countries which are unlikely to have the capacity to monitor the traffic. The ease with which licenses are obtained varies considerably between countries and also depends on the nature of the application. In general data transmission options which circumvent national PTO services can be problematic and it is often more advantageous to attempt to involve the PTO through partnerships and assistance with fund raising for the installation of new services connected to the PTO infrastructure.

2.3.3. Alternatives to Cable and Radio

In certain situations techniques for moving data other than those described above may be more appropriate. On the simplest level, hard media such as diskettes and tapes can be used to transmit data from one computer to another. If the data is not particularly time sensitive, using conventional mail or courier services to send diskettes and cartridges can take the place of expensive calls to download data - a single diskette now holds over three megabytes of data and a 20 gram digital audio tape (DAT) can now hold five gigabytes or more.

Fibreless optical systems, generally using lasers, are also becoming more attractive. With no demands on frequency management and low operating costs, they are being considered for the local loop in informal housing developments and for high volume data transmission over limited distances.

2.4. Telematics Service Provision

Direct dial connections between two users over the public voice network are the most basic form of telematics service provision, however, there are a variety of telematics specific services discussed in this section which simplify telematics activities, increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve the accessibility of electronic information.

2.4.1. Dial-up Network Nodes

Although it is possible for a user to send data over dial-up phone lines directly to the recipient, in general this is inconvenient to schedule and expensive if the transfer involves a long distance call. As a result it is cost effective for a group of users to share the use of a local computer host (often called a 'node' or 'server') which provides a 24 hour service to allow users to send and receive communications at their own convenience. The group of local users also effectively splits the costs of maintaining a link to the Internet, giving them access to the huge community of existing users and information services already online. E-mail to fax servers, telex gateways and other links to non-standard networks may also be available on some hosts.

Aside from communicating messages and data directly between individual users and between data servers and users, it is also being used as a broadcast medium, carrying topic related discussion groups, called 'newsgroups', as well as public and restricted circulation radio stations and video conferences. The proceedings of broadcast postings in topic related areas are also usually stored by most local hosts, so that interested users can browse by subject, author or keyword search through the archived items for material of relevance or to 'catch up' on the discussion to date.

Currently there are close to 10,000 of these topic related discussion and announcement areas and these steadily growing information banks on a vast range of fields now form an increasingly important repository of stored knowledge available electronically. The volume of data that is added to them daily on a global basis is over 200 megabytes, so a local host may only keep full archives of the small number of newsgroups that are most relevant to its users. In addition to archives of postings to newsgroups, dial-up nodes may also provide access to a range of local files and databases and, if they are fully connected to the Internet, to a vast array of commercial and public domain online information services.

Commercial nodes fully connected to the Internet usually charge a flat monthly subscription fee ranging from US$ 10 to US$ 80 per month. There may be an additional hourly usage charge but the flat rate charging system is one of the reasons for the popularity of the Internet as it allows organizations to budget accurately for their communications use. Hosts that must make international dialup calls for connectivity are likely to charge a small subscription fee and then a volume fee per kilobyte transmitted, ranging from US$ .01 to US$ .50 per kilobyte. The range of charges reflects a variety of factors the most important of which are:

-Number of users.
-Degree of donor funded subsidies.
-Availability of volunteer support and technical staff(perhaps funded through secondment by
another organization),
-Costs of making international calls and the efficiency of the file transfer protocols in use on
international links.

The capital costs of establishing a host are relatively small compared to the administrative overheads, communications costs (especially for leased line or international connections) and staff costs. The latter in particular, can be high if skilled UNIX system operators are required. In general, a local host with a few hundred users will require a full time technical/system support person, a full time user support person, and half time direction and financial administration.

With the growing importance of these communications services, their reduced cost and the increased standardization of software (built-in support for remote networking functions substantially reduces technical support requirements), a growing number of larger organizations are installing their own smaller versions of these local hosts to deal with the demands for these facilities by their staff and constituencies.

2.4.2. Packet Switching Services

Public access packet switching data services have been installed by many PTOs in response to users' demands for a data service. They allow the use of a local phone call to connect computers to the PTO's Packet Switched Data Network (PSDN). A permanent X.25 connection can also be leased from the PTO for providing continuous, higher speed access. Once connected to the local network, commands can be issued to link the user's PC to any other system (locally, nationally or internationally) connected to the worldwide network of PSDNs.

Since X.25 networks charge mainly for the quantity of data that passes through the network, the usage charges generally comprise a large part of the cost of the connection. For sending and receiving messages, up to 90% of the cost to the end-user can be in the charges made by the local PTO for data volume.

Rate structures for PSDNs are complex and the costs to connect to a host can vary enormously from one country to another. Subscription charges for an end-user (as opposed to a host computer which is generally connected through a more expensive X.25 link) can vary from US$ 20 a quarter to US$ 100. Some PTO's also expect the user to rent PTO owned modems at high rates. Even usage charges (which are based on time spent online, the location of the remote connection and the volume of data passed down the network) can vary by a factor of five between different PTOs. In general, because of the high packet transfer charges of the PTOs, using PSDNs for international connections in most countries is not cost effective for telematics applications. Medium to low frequency users of international electronic mail hosts often have bills of between US$ 250 and US$ 1000 a month. As a result it is usually cheaper to use the public telephone network to direct dial internationally to the host system.

For use on a national basis however, the X.25 network can be an effective tool for low cost telematics. Data charges are usually relatively low for national traffic and the provision of local access points can make this route to a central host very cost effective, especially for intermittent interactive access. Where national trunk circuits for voice grade phone lines are very noisy or often busy, X.25 connections can provide more reliable access and error free links if the local line is of good quality.

In most cases, even when used inside national borders, store and forward offline mail protocols using TCP/IP, UUCP and FIDO are usually not cost effective over X.25. Because these protocols use the full bandwidth of the link for continuous file transfer, the data traffic charges are usually higher than the per minute charges of direct dialing with any modem faster than 1200 bits/s. In addition, protocols such as TCP/IP, when run over X.25 networks, do not efficiently fill X.25 data packets and those become inefficient and expensive to operate. Nevertheless these protocols are in use where reliability and immediacy are of particular concern and cost is less important.

2.4.3. Dedicated Networks

With the low cost of networking hardware, software and services now available, it is increasingly common to find installations of office networks in which each computer has access to remote system resources. As the volume of wide area information networking beyond the Local Area Network (LAN) expands, a demand based temporary dial-up link over voice phone lines to a remote network can be replaced by a dedicated leased line connection using the same LAN networking protocols. A dedicated link has the added advantage of enabling members of other remote networks to have direct access to the information held on the local LAN.

Full Internet connectivity for all users on a LAN can be achieved simply by adding a router to the network and connecting it via a leased line to the Internet service provider on the other end. Users on the LAN can all make use of the Internet connection at the same time, but the bandwidth of the link is shared among the online users.

The maximum number of users able to share a line varies considerably depending on the type of applications being used across the line. Many hundred or even a few thousand users can make use of a slow (less than 64 kbit/s) link for e-mail, which does not require interactive responses from the user, but graphics intensive operations and menu based systems which require fast response times can become frustratingly slow once more than 5 or 10 channels are in use, with each one having only part of the available bandwidth.

2.5. Telematics Applications

Although the full range of telematics applications are too numerous to discuss here, the major applications can be broken down into the categories described below.

2.5.1. Electronic Mail

Electronic mail - the ability to send messages, documents, databases, audio, image, video and other files is usually the baseline telematics service requirement. Other types of links allow computers to share applications, peripherals and large data sets, but electronic mail (e-mail) forms a common denominator between local and wide area networks of all types world-wide. Using standard voice grade dial-up phone lines, electronic mail has become the principal text communication tool for many professionals. With further penetration of low cost computer-based audio, still camera and video systems, electronic mail is increasingly being used to transmit these media, singly, or as part of integrated multi-media presentations.

Further savings in time and cost are being made because the medium is not limited to one-to-one communication with another individual, but can also broadcast text, sound and images to groups of interested recipients. Up to 100 times faster than fax, e-mail reduces paper consumption, does not require time consuming re-entry of data into the computer and automatically stores the information in a machine readable filing system for quick reference. As a result electronic mail is usually by far the most used of all telematics functions.

2.5.2. Electronic Conferences

Aside from facilities for sending files and messages directly to another individual, most hosts provide the opportunity to 'broadcast' messages to a select group of participants. These can be private 'mailing lists' held on the user's computer, or conference lists held on all participating local hosts.

The conference lists are the basis for electronic conferences which may be made publicly available to anyone with network access, or restricted to a select group - for example a co-ordinating committee with members spread over a number of local hosts. Conferences tend to be called newsgroups when they are widely accessible (see section 2.4.1), or special interest groups (SIGs) or bulletin board systems (BBSs) when they are restricted in membership or geographically.

The sender does not have to know the electronic address of each participant to send them each a message, instead a single message is sent to the newsgroup name which is then passed on to all other recipients of the newsgroup. Newsgroups are usually based around a particular topic and can last for a short period or proceed for an unlimited time. They can be discussion oriented (effectively replacing physical meetings) or mainly used for announcements and information postings.

2.5.3. Remote Login

Until relatively recently, most conventional information delivery systems used a terminal emulation programme such as Kermit or Procomm to connect to a remote host over a modem/phone connection and then used software resident on the remote host to transfer messages and files and access other available services. This system required the user to be online for long periods of time. With high cost and poor quality telephone lines this method of connection is expensive, unreliable and stressful for the operator. As a result users have rapidly switched to protocol based client/server systems which use the intelligence of the local hardware as much as possible to automate network functions, transparently integrate with locally run applications and maximize efficient use of the telephone lines or other scarce transmission resources.

Dumb terminal software is now mainly employed for remote job control and maintenance functions at operating system level and is rarely used by non technical workers for basic communications functions. It is still used in some cases for electronic mail where the local host is not able to offer a protocol based service, or if the user's hardware has restricted ability to run the more sophisticated client based software. Also, terminal software is still required for connecting to some remote hosts for browsing archives of information and database searches which still use character based menu systems.

2.5.4. Offline Client Based Communication Systems

Offline software allows the operator to avoid interacting in real time with the host computer - before making any phone calls, the offline software is used to read and prepare messages and files for transmission. When messages are ready, a single compressed file containing all outgoing messages is then automatically created and sent to the host without any user intervention. This method typically reduces the length of the phone call by 80-95% compared to the time taken for a manually controlled session with the host. As a result, the host system can provide access to many more callers on a single telephone line, and the user spends as little time as possible on telephone calls.

Offline networking systems are not restricted to the transfer of messages, documents and newsgroups between users. Electronic mail can also be used to send remote procedure commands to another host offering services such as fax gateways, database lookup and access to document and file stores. Although they can be more time consuming to use, the standard online services described below are usually also available through an electronic mail intermediary.

2.5.5. File Access Tools

There are a large number of hosts which allow public access to their file-stores. Some provide general purpose tools for computer users, carrying the latest public domain and shareware software, while others provide increasingly specialized data stores on a growing range of scientific disciplines and cultural areas. Regular source lists are published describing available servers and the types of information carried. Also, files can be located by keyword search using publicly accessible servers which carry databases of the files available on other systems.

2.5.6. Database Access

Commercial database service providers have long been in existence, providing a menu based interface into their own proprietary databases and database search tools. These services have traditionally been provided via links to the PSDN, but because of the growth of the Internet, most commercial database services have now connected their systems to it, resulting in much cheaper communication costs.

Until recently most such databases were provided by commercial systems charging high prices for access. While these still have their value, there are increasing numbers of organizations making their databases freely available. Examples include the ITU standards decisions, U.S. Library of Congress bibliographic data, UNDP documents, the cooperative index of development projects (Indix) initiated by IDRC, and the European Community's ECHO host database service. Aside from being made available via remote access over the Internet, (using tools such as Gopher, World Wide Web (WWW), Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP)) many are also distributed on CD-ROM, on tape, or as updates sent by electronic file transfer. In January 1995 there were over 500 freely accessible WAIS full text and image databases on the Internet.

2.5.7. World Wide Web

World Wide Web (WWW) is the most recent and most rapidly penetrating system for wide area information access. WWW based information servers provide the user with a multimedia interface for access to text, pictures and sounds. A simple ASCII based language called the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is used to construct files on the server which display on the user's computer through WWW client software usually called a Web Browser. The 'pages' displayed may contain highlighted references to other documents, sounds or images stored locally, on remote Web servers, or other newsgroup servers and file servers. By selecting one of these highlighted areas the user is transparently connected to the source of the information which is then displayed by the appropriate application running on the client computer (such as a text editor, sound card driver or moving image player).

As a unifying and integrating force for simplifying access to a diverse range of information sources and access tools, WWW has attracted the attention of most information providers. Transaction processing and encryption is being built into the next generation of Web browsers so that commercial trade can take place through browsing of WWW based catalogues.

WWW clients operating on the remote host can be accessed through dumb terminal software but in general a graphical environment is needed to exploit the full potential of the tool. Also, high bandwidth links are necessary if the graphical and sound capabilities of the system are required. Even at 14.4 kbit/s, small pictures and sound files can take long periods to download, especially if they are being retrieved through an overloaded international link.

2.5.8. Directory Services

As yet there is no universally agreed system for providing directories of the users and services of electronic networks. There are a variety of competing standards for user directories and there are a number of lists of electronic resources maintained by volunteers who circulate updates via the newsgroups.

Because of the current lack of standardization, as well as the rapid growth of the worldwide electronic network, only a small portion of the online users are recorded in the various available directory services. As a result, there is no readily available client software and finding e-mail addresses can often be unsuccessful. Certain networks of users do, however, maintain lists of their members which can be obtained from the network administrators. These include the Association of Progressive Communications (APC) hosts (about 20 000 users, especially non- governmental organizations), FidoNet nodes (about 40 000), UUCP hosts (about 10 000), CGNET (about 4 000) and Orstom/RIO users (about 700).

2.5.9. Fax Services

Most modems being distributed today are capable of sending and receiving faxes. Users with fax modems may send word processing documents and other files directly to a fax machine without requiring time consuming printing and feeding to a separate fax machine. Many local hosts also have a fax modem connected to their electronic mail delivery software, allowing the sending of faxes by e-mail. These 'fax-servers' send confirmation of delivery messages and offer a number of advantages for the user:

-Fax services are accessible to those without fax machines or fax modems.

-Sending electronic mail is much faster and cheaper.

-The local host can manage a mailing list of multiple fax numbers and/or other electronic mail addresses, allowing the user to send a single electronic mail message and have it converted to multiple faxes and messages at the remote end.

- E-mail sent to the fax server can be automatically re-routed (least cost routing) to another fax server closer to the final destination, minimizing long distance charges for the slow fax call.

For developing country users in particular, the least-cost routing facility can save very substantial costs for international faxes. With 3 minute minimums and very high international dial charges, faxes sent from Africa directly to Europe and North America often cost over US$ 10 per page. By sending the fax as e-mail, the cost can be reduced to virtually zero in some cases where Internet e-mail is free and the fax server and the fax destination are in the same city.

2.5.10. Video and Audio Services

Broadcast television and radio are well established communications media which have until recently required complicated and expensive transmission equipment. With decreasing costs of hardware and satellite technology combined with growth in available bandwidth from data networks, television and radio are beginning to move toward the era of 'personal broadcasting' where anyone can set up an audio or video connection with another individual or with a larger group.

Add-on units which interface personal computers to hi-fidelity audio players and video cameras are now available for less than US$ 1000 compared to US$ 25,000 for conventional videoconferencing systems. Furthermore, high quality computer based video editing and special effects units are now being retailed for less than US$ 3000 - just 5% of the cost of conventional equipment. These developments bring multimedia video communication and educational tools into the practical grasp of a whole new range of institutions and individuals who could not previously afford to produce broadcast quality materials. In addition, these broadcast systems have the added advantage of not using scarce radio frequency spectrum.

The quality of transmitted sound and pictures is limited by the availability of sufficient bandwidth on most existing networks. Also the hardware required to run these applications effectively is still more powerful than the majority of equipment installed on most desktops in Africa, as well as elsewhere. As a result, it is likely to be some years before these applications are in widespread use. Nevertheless Internet users are already testing these applications on the 'gigabit' pilot networks in the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. The development of more powerful audio and video compression techniques, such as those of Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG), are making these services available on more limited bandwidths.

In the interim, conventional broadcast radio and television services are benefitting from digitalization of most PTO infrastructures, lower costs for mobile uplink and downlink earth station equipment, reduced tariffs on satellite capacity and growing numbers of TVRO users to broadcast to.

In particular, worldwide and regional educational television initiatives have become feasible with a number of services such as UNISAT, Project Saturn Global and the AGN network being planned for this purpose. These initiatives will make use of the increasing availability of satellite bandwidth to deliver a wide range of educational programming to remote sites equipped with low cost satellite ground stations. Aside from films and lectures, actual course texts and software can be transmitted as well, while students respond through conventional means such as the telephone and mail.

Digital video broadcasting is coming into use for both specialized and mass audience applications, while High Definition Television (HDTV) systems are nearing commercial maturity. Digital radio sets will shortly be available for receiving the digital satellite radio stations now being launched.

Aside from audio and video, all television and radio broadcasts have the facility to carry data in the spare capacity of the signal. Information services using these facilities, such as news wires and financial market updates, have been available for many years in Europe and North America. Some services have made use of the cable television infrastructure and provided special interfaces for computers. Others, such as teletext (broadcast videotex) which use the vertical blanking interval of television transmissions to transmit data, have the advantage of allowing low cost reception on a standard television set.

Recently, low cost devices similar to modems have been developed for interfacing with cable television connections to enable communication of data at high speeds - up to 10 Mbit/s. A variety of broadcast data and database access services, such as those of VIACOM in the U.S.A., have been made available in highly cabled countries. However, the widespread adoption of cable-based systems in developing countries is still in question.

2.5.11. Commercial Transactions

Applications for automating the purchase of goods and services have traditionally centered around Electronic Document Interchange (EDI) based systems. While most major banks and other commercial transaction intensive businesses have begun to implement EDI, it is not in appreciable use elsewhere.

Meanwhile commercial interest in the Internet is seeing the rapid development of other systems for incorporating the necessary authorization and encryption protocols into popular data access applications such as the World Wide Web. Making use of this system, commercial companies have launched Digicash and NetCash which are basically banks run over the Internet. Funds are deposited in the bank by the user and Digicash enabled applications can pass instructions to debit the user's account in favour of the supplier.

The legalities of these transactions have not been tested in the courts, and electronic mail messages are not yet widely accepted forms of official communication. However, methods for ensuring secure transmission of messages between users and for sender verification are available although not yet officially standardized. The most popular de-facto standard is Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). Based on an RSA public key encryption system, PGP provides such a level of security that it is 'computationally infeasible' to decode or alter messages encoded this way.

2.6. Future Prospects for Telematics

There are three main areas of debate on the future development of telematics. These are: the form of the global and national information infrastructures, the nature of the new applications, and the organization of information systems and online services. These issues are too complex and wide ranging to discuss in depth here, but there some particular points worthy of consideration for the public sector.

2.6.1 The Infrastructure of the Information Highway

To a large extent the development of the next generation of information highways is based on expectations of demand for video entertainment and other video communication services with their very high bandwidth requirements. However, consensus on the basis of the new highway has shifted substantially since the beginning of the decade. At that time it was generally accepted that cable television operators would install digital transmitters and optical fibre systems to increase their capacity to deliver more channels. The cable operators were expected to use the channels primarily to broadcast a wider range of commercial entertainment programming to those who wanted it.

The U.S.A., with its highly saturated cable market, has seen extensions of this development, assisted by government restrictions placed on telephone companies which do not allow them to provide value added services. However where the PTOs are allowed to compete in these markets, or where cable operators are less well developed, PTOs are installing high-speed interactive digital networks that will merge the features of television and telephones. While the availability of bandwidth is still limited for most users at the moment, these networks will enable any user to connect to any other and exchange anything from simple text to full motion video. The computer, telecommunication, broadcast television and film entertainment companies are heavily investing in multimedia database servers which will be hooked to these networks. Oracle Corporation's recently announced Oracle Media Server will deliver on demand and simultaneously to 30,000 viewers, full motion video, audio, text, and graphics at a capital cost of US$ 600 per viewer. The next generation of servers will halve this cost.

Although much of the traffic carried by these new entertainment driven networks may be of dubious value, the markets generated by these services will hopefully assist in driving prices further downward, making it more possible for those in less commercial sectors to communicate on an equal footing with the large commercial concerns.

2.6.2. The Internet as the Prototype of the Information Highway

While the precise nature of the planned national and international information infrastructures (NII and GII) have yet to be established, the exponential growth of the Internet indicates that it is the model from they will evolve. PTOs in the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom are now supplying Internet connections as one of their standard services. About 160 countries now have some form of connection to the Internet and at current growth rates, between 150 and 200 million users are expected by the year 2000. World Wide Web traffic is growing so quickly that if it were to continue at present rates it will exceed the world's telephone traffic by 1996 (Rutkowski). Calls of support for using the Internet have come from increasingly high-level levels such as the President of the U.S.A, the Prime Minister of Japan, the U.N. Secretary-General and UNESCO's Director General.

2.6.3. Applications

New applications based on graphical user interfaces and standardized menu systems are becoming much easier to use than older systems. Furthermore they integrate many of the functions that previously required separate programmes and new interfaces to learn. Many communication functions are being built into the operating systems on which computers run, further simplifying the installation and use of telematics applications.

Many of the applications based on graphical interfaces require more powerful hardware to run, but the increased costs of equipment should be considered in light of any cost savings from reduce training requirements and the more limited potential of less sophisticated solutions. Also, the continuing decrease in price/performance of hardware shows little signs of easing up and further growth in demand should see prices for higher-end systems falling further.

2.6.4. Information Services

Currently there are thousands of commercial and non-commercial online services that host multiple databases and perhaps hundreds that deliver network connections for the user along with a range of information services. But permanent connectivity is now so cheaply and easily available that the role of large hosts is weakening, as is that of the closed, multiple service networks. The publishers of the original information are now able to provide the information delivery service directly to users

anywhere on the Internet, so that the use of traditional commercial online information brokers, providing a wide range of information services from other sources, is likely to decrease.

The growth of the Internet in the U.S.A and Europe has already forced Dialog - the largest commercial host in terms of numbers of databases provided - to restructure its pricing policies. In an effort to imitate the success of "new information providers" like CARL with its UNCOVER and REVEAL services, where the searching and selective dissemination services are free, Dialog has announced it is abandoning its pay to search policy.

While there has been substantial growth in the some of major closed network commercial online services such as CompuServe, GEnie and America Online, which have so far successfully integrated the provision of online access with a comprehensive range of well organized information services, the demands of their users has recently encouraged them to provide Internet access. In addition, the growth in these commercial services has been outstripped by even greater growth in LAN and cheap local dial-up public access hosts which simply provide a conduit to remote information services resident on the other 2 million plus hosts on the Internet.

Nevertheless, new alliances between PTOs, information providers and publishers are likely to produce a growing number of competing commercial services which integrate network access with information and entertainment facilities. Also, with the vast range of information sources now becoming available it is expected that new information gathering services will spring up to locate, remember, process, analyse and in general add value to the data in a manner that users will be willing to pay for.

3. TELEMATICS IN AFRICA

The African environment is characterized by very large variations in telematics use. In some countries such as Zaire, activity is virtually non-existent, in others like Tunisia and South Africa, there are tens of thousands of users taking advantage of the advanced networks that have been installed in metropolitan areas which rival those in developed countries. As is to be expected, the majority of countries lie somewhere in between these two extremes. However, less apparently, the degree of telematics activity does not necessarily reflect the state of the telecommunication infrastructure. Other factors often have a more important role.

The following sections provide an overview of the African telecommunication environment and key actors, followed by a summary of telematics initiatives in the region.

3.1. The African Telecommunication Environment

The average telephone density in Africa is one line per 250 people. This is less than one per cent of the density in the advanced industrialized nations. There are more phones in Tokyo or Manhattan than in the whole of Africa. Some countries are so telecommunication poor that there is less than one line per 1000 people and there may be no telephone links between the capital cities and other towns.

The overall waiting list for telephone connections in Africa has grown from 1.7 million to 3.6 million and the average wait in sub-Saharan Africa has lengthened to almost nine years. The installed network capacity in Africa is low and demand from customers is high. As a result, the total number of telephones is a burden on central exchanges and transmission equipment, causing network efficiency to suffer. Many areas experience very poor call completion rates, especially during office hours.

However the situation is not uniformly bleak. Some countries such as Cape Verde, Gambia, Mauritius and the Seychelles, with small populations and a relatively high level of tourist income, and other more industrialized countries such as South Africa and Egypt, have developed extensive and sophisticated networks. Here telephone density is between 4 and 30 lines per 100 people and telecommunication provides more than 3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - twice the regional average (1.5 per cent). Several countries, including Burkina Faso, Congo, Djibouti, Ghana and South Africa, have succeeded in reducing their waiting lists over the last decade. Botswana, Cape Verde, Chad, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Egypt have achieved network growth rates of more than 15% a year between 1983 and 1992.

There is very little indigenous manufacturing capability in Africa and a series of bilateral aid agreements with different countries has resulted in a wide range of different equipment being installed on the networks. This has made efficient maintenance even more difficult.

Digitalization on trunk routes is spreading rapidly, partly driven by the decreasing availability of spare parts for the old analogue technology. Digitalization is more common in the switching than in the transmission systems, but a number of countries including Botswana, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa are now implementing extensive fibre optic backbones on their major trunk routes. Metropolitan fibre networks have also been established in Benin, Burkina Faso, C™te d'Ivoire, South Africa and Togo.

Cross subsidization is very common, with high tariffs for international and data services which are primarily aimed at business users. It is not uncommon to find US$ 8 per minute call charges to Europe or North America and, in some cases, anywhere out of the country.

A study for RINAF (see below) found in September 1993 that the average cost for outgoing calls from five African countries selected from different regions (Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia) was US$ 5 per minute compared to US$ 2.4 per minute for calls originating in Italy, which is not necessarily the cheapest alternative. In fact, tariffs for outgoing international calls in some countries can be up to ten times higher than calls in the opposite direction - (US$ 0.15 per minute off-peak for South Africa to Mozambique versus US$ 1.50 per minute for the reverse).

Many PTOs in Africa also provide two types of basic telephone service - one with IDD capability and one without. Bills for lines with IDD capability often have to be settled in foreign currency and they may also require a large deposit before installation. SLET - Sierra Leone's External Telecommunications company - requires a US$ 2500 'caution fee' before installation.

Tariffs for International calls often reflect the old colonial associations, for example it is much cheaper to make calls between French-speaking African countries, or to France, than it is to connect to a neighbouring English-speaking country. The line quality on the colonial links is also usually superior.

Other economic and political associations between African countries also affect tariffs. The East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda only charge domestic long distance charges, without any international tariff, for calls made between them.

3.2. Regional Telecommunication Activities

To reduce dependency on old colonial links and improve inter-regional communications, the Pan African Telecommunications Network (PANAFTEL) was started after an originating meeting of an ITU Plan Committee in 1962. Executed by the ITU, the 45 countries participating in PANAFTEL project agreed to establish terrestrial telecommunication links with each of their neighbouring countries so that ultimately an entire continent-wide network would be in place.

Unfortunately PANAFTEL has not enjoyed the success that was expected of it. Some member countries have not been able to maintain their portions of the network reliably, there are some missing links, mainly in Central Africa, and the issue of transit tariffs for calls passing through many countries has not been sufficiently resolved. Furthermore, the costs of satellite technology have continued to fall and 42 of the 45 participating countries have established their own international satellite earth stations.

The Pan African Telecommunications Union (PATU) was established by the OAU as the primary co-ordinating body for telecommunication initiatives in the region. PATU has been hampered with a number of problems, one of which is the location of its headquarters in Zaire where the telecommunication network is not adequate to support its activity.

UNTACDA (UN Transport and Communications Decade for Africa) was declared for the years 1978-1988 with the aim of promoting regional transport and communications links. Telecommunication was a major part of the programme with over 232 projects planned, costing a total of US$ 3 billion. However only US$ 615 million was actually raised for the projects during that period. UNTACDA II was subsequently declared for the last decade of the millennium. The working group developing the UNTACDA II programme consists of representatives from the ITU, UNESCO, UNECA, African Development Bank, PATU, OAU, and URTNA.

URTNA, the Union of National Radio and Television Organizations in Africa, is a professional body with about 50 active member organizations. It encourages the exchange of indigenous programming via satellite and videocassette, obtains preferential satellite tariffs for news and programme exchange, represents Africa on legal matters such as international conventions and agreements, and works with the ITU as an advisor for the PANAFTEL project.

Since 1972, an URTNA working group has been studying, jointly with other international organizations, the contribution of communications satellites to education, culture, and development in Africa. URTNA has also conducted a long-term project with governments of member organizations to evaluate rural telecommunication needs in Africa. In addition URTNA runs seminars, training workshops, and conferences on topics such as news, educational broadcasting, development of communications and satellite communications.

In 1976 the Conference of African Ministers of Transport, Communications and Planning identified the potential of satellite networks for Africa and resolved to undertake a major feasibility study on the issue. Executed by the ITU, the study, known as the RASCOM, became the largest ever undertaken in Africa on telecommunication, involving 600 experts and a survey of 120,000 villages.

The study established the necessity for an African telecommunication satellite programme, also called RASCOM, which became operational in late 1993. The initial objectives of RASCOM are to rationalize existing satellite use in Africa, obtain better rates for its members through volume discounts, and to gain experience with management of satellite resources before preparing to launch their own dedicated satellite systems for Africa.

The first stage in this process began with the pooling of international circuits leased by member countries from INTELSAT. This has released a substantial chunk of spare satellite capacity because many nations have made long term agreements with INTELSAT for more circuits than they currently require. By giving them over to RASCOM to resell in larger pieces, each provider of spare circuits is able to make revenue on otherwise unused capacity.

RASCOM's second initiative has been the switching of all African PTOs to the use of the same INTELSAT satellite. This has been part of the process of freeing up spare capacity, but it has also yielded the further advantage that all African countries can now be reached through a single uplink. As a result the economies of scale for broadcast television and data services has been dramatically improved. With the further legalization of satellite television reception (TVRO) equipment in Africa, it is likely that regional television and broadcast data services will now be able to find large enough markets to operate economically.

The ultimate expectation is that RASCOM will launch a satellite of its own. The economics of the venture appear sound, given the large amounts African countries are paying to international service providers. But there are now a number of potentially competing initiatives such as ARABSAT and AFRISAT.

ARABSAT launched its first two satellites in 1985, now 19 Arab countries make use of the satellite services including a half dozen in Africa. The satellite covers the whole of Africa in the S band and North Africa in the C band.

Despite its initial financial problems, ARABSAT has maintained its commitment to reducing costs for the broadcast media by leasing transponders for TV programme exchange at a fixed annual rate, regardless of the number of broadcasts or participating earth stations. Also, four transponders are provided to transmit 20 TV stations in digital compressed mode at no extra charge.

AFRISAT is a recently formed private U.S. company aiming to put up a commercial satellite for African use. It has announced that it wishes to co-operate fully with the ITU and other interested parties in making sure Africa has full access to the benefits of space communications systems.

Another U.S.A. based company - Worldspace/Afrispace - has allied itself with Motorola to establish a worldwide satellite system which will beam digital, CD-quality broadcasts to all of Africa. Motorola is designing the 'Starman digital/analog' radio that will be needed to receive the broadcast, but it will also receive standard broadcasts. The project is expected to get underway in 1996.

The CIS countries have in the past launched a number of geostationary and LEO satellites with footprints over Africa. Many of them are relatively old and have developed declining orbits which make tracking them difficult. However with the deteriorated economic situation in the CIS countries, bandwidth is being sold very cheaply.

The worldwide air transport electronic communications co- operative - Society Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautique (SITA) - is taking on a wider role in telematics in Africa. Comprising most of the world's international airline operators, SITA claims to have the most widespread data communications network in the world, covering 213 countries and territories. For some years SITA has supplied the data circuits to special clients such as the UNDP and now with the wave of liberalization taking place in the African telecommunications sector, SITA is actively looking to optimize its network through marketing its services to third parties. South Africa is so far the only site in Africa of a public access point to the SITA network, but the service is expected to roll out shortly in Angola, Cameroun, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The national PTO in South Africa, Telkom, is the 27th largest telecommunication operator in the world. Since the end of the sanctions era in South Africa, Telkom has been looking north to sell its expertise and infrastructure. With its high capacity international links and sophisticated ISDN services, Telkom is in an attractive position to sell bandwidth to other parts of Africa, especially through satellite connections. In October 1994 it demonstrated its Spacestream VSAT service in Lagos which can integrate voice, data and images on a single link.

Uganda is one of the few less developed countries in Africa to take a progressive role in telecommunication development. It was the first country to license the use of LEO satellites for health telematics use, it has recently halved the tariffs for international calls and substantially liberalized commercial access to the telecommunication sector. Capitalising on the potential of VSAT connections and it is working with a commercial company to establish a VSAT ground station hub which will serve as a downlink point for terminals anywhere on the continent.

Transnet, South Africa's government owned transport, shipping and rail parastatal corporation, has recently leased transponders on PanAmSat's planned Ku-Band Southern African satellite, which will allow it to use VSAT technology to connect to other countries and to remote areas inside South Africa. Transnet has developed a wide range of expertise now being marketed in the rest of Africa and it is known for its skills in the installation of telecommunication infrastructure in harsh climatic conditions.

Aside from the activities of RASCOM and the other satellite bandwidth providers to improve telecommunication capacity in Africa, there are three different proposals to lay an undersea fibre optic cable around the continent. These are AT&T's Africa One, Alcatel's West Coast Africa cable and FLAG's Strategy for Africa. Connecting to each coastal African country and to the global fibre optic network, the idea rests on generating enough demand to cover the estimated US$Ź800 million implementation costs. While the demand is likely to be there in the long term, the availability of short term financing to start the project is still in question.

The proposals differ little in technology and reach, but FLAG's proposal stands out as being more likely to gain acceptance. FLAG's idea is to simply contract AT&T or Alcatel to lay the cable and then operate it as an extension of FLAG's existing global infrastructure, selling circuits on demand to the African PTOs. The AT&T and Alcatel projects propose that the African PTOs purchase and operate the entire installation themselves, financed from a combination of vendor subsidies, preconstruction capacity commitments from multinational corporations, export credit loans and borrowings from African donor agencies.

While the latter proposals offer a greater degree of long-term control over pricing, the financing and maintenance costs over the long period before traffic has built up sufficiently are much higher. With the difficulties of raising international finance for Africa and the lack of an already established entity to operate the network (unless RASCOM could do it) the FLAG proposal seems more likely to succeed.

As an indication of the cost savings that are expected when the cable is in place, FLAG's charges (in regions where it operates) are about US$ 13,000 per 64 kbit/s international circuit as a single one time payment for 25 years' access. Currently this amount would buy less than 6 months access time on the average 9.6 kbit/s international circuit in Africa.

To improve the demand for the high bandwidth that will be available, FLAG is encouraging the establishment of 'shared telecommunication facilities'. These are telematics centres specially equipped to make use of the international fibre optic potential. According to FLAG, a basic setup would comprise 200 high-speed workstations, 20 videoconference workstations, 30 distance learning stations, 2 rewritable optical disk jukeboxes, 5 high resolution colour scanners, 5 fax machines and 50 high speed modems connected to telephone lines. Rented on an hourly basis to the business community with discounts or subsidies for the public sectors, these facilities could become low cost national telematics hubs for the participating countries.

Eskom, South Africa's national electricity supplier, is also likely to provide fibre-optic capacity in the Southern African region. It maintains an autonomous telecommunication network that services its own communications requirements. Although its backbone is currently based on microwave links, Eskom plans to run fibre optic cable down all new electrical cables laid, including those planned for linking Botswana and Zimbabwe into the Southern African grid. The grid is expected to expand into a continent wide network in the longer term as projects to tap the electricity generation potential of the Congo come on-stream.

3.3. The African Telematics Infrastructure

Until recently telematics users in most of Africa have had very little option but to make expensive international calls to access the only services available - in Europe and North America.

Public access packet switching services have recently been installed by many PTOs as their response to users' needs for data services. There are now 21 African countries which have a public packet switched data network (PSDN): Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, C™te d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Gambia, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Tanzania and Ethiopia are known to be planning an X.25 service. The predominance of packet-switched networks in West Africa is partly due the presence of foreign oil firms in the area.

PSDNs are relatively cheap to use in Africa for intercity links but very expensive for international ones. As there have been very few local public access hosts, and almost none connected to the PSDN, most development oriented users in Africa have not been able to afford to use electronic communication tools. Those that have had sufficient funds have either used the PSDN sparingly or found it cheaper to direct dial without going through the PSDN. With the advent of high speed modems, data can be transferred so much faster over the traditional dial-up telephone network that the volume charges imposed by the PSDNs make them uneconomical by comparison. Kenya's PSDN (Kenpac) charges about US$ 19 per kilosegment (about 64 kbit) which is relatively low compared to some other countries (the Seychelles charges US$ 30/ksegment). The cost per minute for an IDD call from Kenya to Europe is about US$ 3.50, during which time the same amount of data could be transferred, if not more.

For higher volumes of data or for applications that result in almost continuous data flows, leased lines, although still expensive compared to rates in the industrialized countries, are usually more competitively priced than direct dial or the PSDNs.

The same RINAF study cited earlier found that the average cost of 9.6 kbit/s leased connections between the five countries was US$ 8000/month. It had a very high range however, varying from US$ 1416 to US$ 10,615/month for the half circuit and in most cases rates in one country were double the rates for the other half of the circuit:

country1<->country2 country1 country2 total total US$/month US$/month US$/month US$/year ---------------------------------------------------------- ------- Zambia<->Kenya 1,416.60 2,357.00 3,773.60 45,283.20 Kenya<->Nigeria 2,357.00 4,500.00 6,857.00 82,284.00 Nigeria<->Senegal 4,500.00 10,615.00 15,115.00 181,380.00 Senegal<->Algeria 10,615.00 *5,000.00 15,615.00 187,380.00 ---------------------------------------------------------------- - TOTAL 41,360.60 496,327.20 * estimate (data not available at present)

In most African countries a 9.6 kbit/s analogue line is the maximum speed of leased lines currently available. In some cases 4.8 kbit/s is the maximum speed guaranteed by the PTO. However it has been found that V.32bis (19.2 kbit/s) and V.34 (28.8 kbit/s) modems can be used on some of these lines to improve throughput considerably, in some cases up to the maximum 28.8 kbit/s possible. In other cases, while the local leads may be able to handle 28.8 kbit/s transfers, the multiplexer on the local exchange may allocate a more limited amount of bandwidth, effectively negating the advantages of a higher speed modem. Also, voice grade lines may have specialized voice compression software running on them to maximize voice channel capacity and this can also reduce data traffic speeds, especially where full-duplex protocols are in use.

3.4. General Status of Telematics Development in Africa

Despite the relatively inhibiting environment for telematics described above, the 1990s has seen a substantial growth in activity. In many places the telecommunication infrastructure has improved significantly over the last decade (especially on international circuits). The region has probably received US$ 5-10 million in international assistance for telematics infrastructure building and training projects this decade and a number of local communication services have been established.

Scepticism about the potential of the African infrastructure to carry sustainable telematics activities initially limited the available support and interest. But local services for basic electronic mail are now proving to be viable in so many African countries that virtually the entire continent could be fully connected to the Internet through public access local hosts before the end of the millennium.

About half the African countries have reliable daily electronic mail links to the Internet. Current estimates indicate that there are over 3000 users connected to these systems, which are mostly open to the public even though they are usually operated by national universities and research centres. These origins reflect the great importance of electronic communications for this sector, and also the availability of skills there to support it.

Twenty countries in Africa still have no known local connectivity to the Internet (Landweber), although there are probably a few users in most of these countries who can connect by dialing a host in another country.

Where local services are available these are almost entirely based on store and forward, daily direct dial links to Internet service providers off the continent or in South Africa. In most cases calls are initiated by the remote end because of the lower costs and improved call completion rate. A few systems use the PSDN to connect to the remote service provider. This usually results in more frequent connections and higher levels of reliability, but the sacrifice in terms of the greater cost has discouraged most systems from using this method.

Full Internet connectivity has been available in South Africa for the academic and research community since 1992. In 1994 an academic and research host was connected to the Internet in Algeria and public access Internet hosts became available in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zambia. Except in the case of South Africa, there are no local dial access points to these hosts outside of the capital cities. In South Africa, there are local Internet hosts in all of the large metropolitan centres and some hosts are connected to a PSDN, allowing local access from more than 60 cities and towns.

Internet connections are in late stages of implementation in Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. The concentration of connectivity in Southern Africa is largely due to the very low tariff charges for leased lines to neighbouring countries from South Africa, the presence of a relatively low cost Internet connection there, and large numbers of users of the store and forward systems previously in place who are now in a position to share in the costs of the leased line.

There are of course a substantial number of large corporate and government electronic networks on the continent, some of which are now formally and informally extending their services to a wider user base. Also, new initiatives are rapidly emerging on the continent and full Internet public access links are likely in about a dozen more African countries by the end of 1995.

3.5. Telematics Development and Support Initiatives

Following a number of successful, small-scale telematics projects which demonstrated the viability of low cost electronic communications in difficult conditions, a growing amount of support has been forthcoming for consolidating these gains and expanding the available connectivity. Most of these projects can be divided into two categories:

1) Assistance provided to those responsible for local services aimed at a particular sector of users,

2) Assistance given directly to a defined user group, such as newspapers or agriculture research centres, to obtain connectivity.

In the latter case, if the users are being assisted to connect to a local host then these projects also assist in infrastructure building because they contribute to the long term sustainability of the local initiatives. While there is a considerable degree of overlapping support for many of these projects, it lacks concerted co-ordination.

Currently the major funders for local infrastructure building projects in Africa have been the United Nations, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada and the French overseas research organization - ORSTOM.

IDRC, a public corporation of the Canadian government, has taken the lead in financing African telematics initiatives. NGONET and ESANET were two successful IDRC projects conducted in 1992 which demonstrated that the technology for deploying electronic connections throughout Africa is readily available and can be implemented at relatively low cost. IDRC has also assisted with funding for the HealthNet project (see below), as well as the African Regional Standards Organization Network (ARSONET).

Building on the experience and success of the earlier pilot projects, IDRC has made US$ 600,000 available for a three-year project which started January 1993 to promote computer-assisted networking throughout Africa. Called Capacity Building for Electronic Communications in Africa (CABECA), the project aims to have an impact in up to 24 African countries and is executed by the Pan African Development Information System (PADIS) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) headquartered in Ethiopia.

By assisting local hosts in building a strong base of users from as many sectors as possible in each country, CABECA hopes to accelerate each national network's development to the stage where there are enough users to share the cost of a full service leased line Internet link.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has initiated two major telematics infrastructure building projects in Africa - the Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) and the Small Islands Developing States Network (SIDSNet).

The principal objective of SDNP is to promote connectivity between the users and suppliers of information of direct relevance to sustainable development and in particular to support the implementation of Agenda 21. The establishment of local SDNP electronic information delivery hubs is a major component of the project. With this aim, the specifications for a SDNP node kit have been developed and equipment, software and information have been distributed to three nodes in Africa.

SIDSnet is being supported by UNDP to examine the feasibility of establishing an electronic network for assisting the social and economic development of the small island developing countries such as Cape Verde, the Comoros, Mauritius, Sao Tome & Principe and the Seychelles. UNDP has initiated a series of visits and meetings with a range of interested parties in these countries resulting in an assessment of the possibilities for establishing a network with a budget of US$ 6.5 million, for which funds are currently being raised.

UNESCO's training and support activities for development of education, science, culture and the circulation of information, and in particular, its Intergovernmental Informatics Program (IIP) are projects which have had direct and indirect impacts on telematics use in Africa. Recently, IIP has placed more emphasis on addressing some of Africa's electronic communications needs with its Regional Informatics Network for Africa (RINAF) project which started in 1992.

The aims of this project are to assist in national network development for the public sector with an emphasis on science and education. It is hoped that US$ 12 million will ultimately be raised. In co-operation with other infrastructure building initiatives, RINAF's immediate goal is to assist in the establishment of five regional nodes and ten national nodes, for which approximately US$ 900 000 has been made available by the Italian Government.

The French Government foreign research organization, ORSTOM, initially set up Rˇseau Intertropical d'Ordinateurs (RIO) in 1889 as the electronic communications network for its researchers. In 1992 it was decided to open the network to anyone involved in research and development. Since then, the network has grown substantially with nodes now established in 12 French-speaking African countries which service about 500 users from 60 organizations (called partners). There are another 200 users in the Pacific and the Caribbean. There are no permanent connections to the Internet as yet; however, RIO is raising funds to put full Internet resources in 10 African capitals which they estimate would cost about FF 3 million a year (US$ 570 000).

Aside from the value of the communications infrastructure RIO has established in very isolated countries such as Madagascar and the Congo, the network is important as a source of skills and expertise in networking which can be transferred to indigenous organizations in the region. It is one of the few sources of TCP/IP and UNIX expertise which will be increasingly needed for extending full Internet connectivity to the rest of Africa.

The World Bank is a more recent supporter of initiatives in Africa and is now embarking on extensive programme for local electronic network development on the continent. So far local infrastructure support has been given to the emerging national public access hosts in Mozambique and Zambia. Zambia has been the largest recipient of funds which were used to pay for the necessary equipment, expertise and one year's leased line costs to connect the host to the Internet via satellite to South Africa. Ostensibly the support was provided so that the World Bank could obtain better connectivity with its local participants in the major health projects it is administering in Zambia, but the rest of Zambia's telematics users were also expected to benefit. At the end of the year it is hoped that sufficient users will have been built up to share the high costs of the leased line (US$ 65,000/year).

The Bank has also recently funded a dial-up connection via the U.S.A. to the Internet and a local campus TCP/IP network for the national university in Guinea.

These initiatives are relatively small by World Bank standards, and it is generally believed that the Bank is interested in funding even more substantial network development, such as the proposals from the Internet Society to provide high speed satellite Internet links to a number of developing countries. (see below).

The Association for Progressive Communications' efforts to assist local network development in developing countries has resulted in providing low cost dial-up connection points and technical support for emerging systems in Africa. Because of the low cost of connections with South Africa, the APC node there - SANGONeT - provides an Internet connection hub for the local hosts in Malawi, Mauritius and Zimbabwe. In London, United Kingdom, which generally has cheaper and better international connections to the rest of Africa, the APC node - GreenNet - provides links and support for the local systems in Angola, Cameroun, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.

The academic network in South Africa - UniNet - also supports dialup and leased line connections to hosts and users in other parts of southern Africa such as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The principal contribution of the Internet Society (ISOC) to telematics development in Africa has been the week-long technical training workshops held in 1993, 1994 and planned for 1995. Financial support is available for participants requiring it, and about 20 African technical and administrative staff have benefitted from the programme. ISOC plans to expand its support for developing countries by holding regional workshops and by supporting the development of a major funding proposal to assist African countries to connect to the Internet. The proposal has the interest of the World Bank, USAID and the U.S. White House (which estimates that it would cost US$ 17-20 million to connect 20 developing countries to the Internet in a sustainable manner).

Among the sector specific telematics initiatives in Africa, health informatics has been one of the major recipients of support. These services have been pioneered by HealthNet, a project of Satellife - a U.S.A. based non-governmental organization established to assist health communications in developing countries, particularly Africa. Satellife shared the costs of launching a LEO satellite with another development organization - the U.S.A.'s Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) and then purchased its own micro-satellite. HealthNet has established low-cost ground stations for its users in 14 African countries - Botswana, Cameroun, Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A ground station has also been installed at the hub site in the U.S.A. which is connected to the Internet to provide wider connectivity for the users.

Since the start of the project the terrestrial telephone network in Africa has improved substantially and about half of the HealthNet sites are now connecting via international direct dial which is a more expensive option, but because of the limited bandwidth of the satellite, provides the higher volumes of data throughput now required to cater for growing numbers of users.

The Health Learning Materials Project (HLM) is the World Health Organization's (WHO) largest telematics related project in Africa. It aims to use electronic communications for transmitting health education materials. National HLM projects within the Ministries of Health are in the process of being connected in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Also, WHO Representative Offices in Benin, Ghana, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda are included in the project, known as HLMnet.

The scientific community has also been in the forefront of the development of telematics in Africa. With budgetary constraints causing delayed or non-existent circulation of scientific journals, electronic communications can be a vital link in maintaining contact with peers, exchanging data sets and accessing the services of remote computers.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science - AAAS - has taken a number of initiatives in assisting the African research and academic community to make use of telematics tools for improving access to science and technology information (STI). Its Sub-Saharan Africa Program has held three regional conferences and workshops on electronic communications, networking and informatics (see bibliography). The proceedings have been published and include a directory of African electronic information services.

Agence francophone pour l'Enseignement supˇrieur et la Recherche - AUPELF-UREF - is the French-speaking higher education and research agency based in Montreal, Canada, which has established a series of information centres for 14 universities in Africa. These Syfed (Syst¸me francophone d'Edition et de Diffusion) centres are well equipped documentation centres which provide access to locally stored databases (on CD-ROM) as well as online data and electronic mail services for their users through packet switched access to the Minitel videotex system and through temporary connections to the Internet over the PSDN. Preferential tariffs have been obtained for commercial database access from the suppliers resulting in costs of US$ 1-2 a minute for searches which are subsidized by the centre. Free access is given to university graduates and staff.

The Technical Support Unit (TSU) of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS), have combined with the Integrated Information Systems on Environment Programme of the UN Sahelian Organization (UNSO), to initiate a number of telematics projects. The first project investigated the current state of electronic communications in Africa resulting in the publication and distribution of an electronic mail guide to Africa. To promote the development of electronic networks French financial support has been raised to assist in starting a network dedicated to agro-hydro-meteorology in West Africa called CILSS. The aim is to connect the regional Centre - AGHRYMET - in Niger and its national components in the nine west Sahalian countries. It also plans to establish similar networks for the Regional Centre for Survey and Services in Mapping and Remote Sensing (RCSSMRS) programme in Kenya with the International Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), and funding has been found to put the centres directly on the Internet.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosts a full Internet connection at its head office in Nairobi which links via the Kenyan PSDN to an Internet service provider in Norway. Primarily used for in-house communication purposes, the system is also being tested as a gateway for the users of local hosts in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. One of the priorities of UNEP is to arrange for a 64 kbit/s international leased line from Nairobi, so that there is more cost effective access to the UNEP environmental databases. UNEP has also supported the connection of its African InfoTerra country representatives to the nearest local host.

The Second African Conference on Research in Computer Science (CARI'94) held in Burkina Faso in October 1994 brought together a large number of scientists who were unified in their support for access to the Internet. At the conference the following statement received the total approval of the audience and was signed by 65 participants from 22 countries including 18 in Africa:

"Electronic Information Networks developed in the framework of The Internet, allow free access to information and communication on an international scale. They represent an important opportunity for developing countries. They undertake to help in its development by all possible means and particularly:

- by promoting electronic communication technologies, - setting up required equipment - according to their means - and to put them at teachers' disposal of every discipline, - by improvement of links between their organizations, - by a coordinated action toward the international funders."

While the benefits of telematics in education have been well established for some years, little has taken place in this field in Africa, probably because of the very poor computer resources at most learning institutions, and the focus on basic education priorities. Most of the activity in this area has focussed on improving the resources of university and national libraries. For example, the Project on Document Supply for Anglophone Africa -PDAA - initiated by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is to establish a method for document delivery systems between industrialized countries and developing ones. Several Nordic countries have agreed to fund nine pilot projects to set up electronic links among African libraries as well as from Africa to others worldwide. The links are to be based on the Internet and will be financed during the initial setup and training phases, thereafter maintenance and financing of the leased line will be the responsibility of the library.

There is little flow of news and information between African countries, leaving those living in the region isolated from what is happening in neighbouring countries. This has had major implications on development within the region, for which the free flow of information and ideas is an essential ingredient. Ironically, media organizations in Africa receive most news and information about their regional neighbours from northern news agencies, publications and electronic media.

One of the reasons for this problem has been that the media relies on swift and economical communications to enhance the gathering and dissemination of news and information. The traditional techniques for this such as postal mail, fax, courier and voice calls, are expensive, slow and unreliable in Africa. As a result media organizations have been among the first to see the potential of electronic communications to improve the flow of information internally, and also as a means of dissemination to subscribers with electronic connections. Newswire services in particular are now making use of telematics to cut the costs of telex and fax transmissions.

Africa Information Afrique (AIA), an independent newswire service based in Zimbabwe, was one of the first of these organizations to use electronic mail as the basis for distribution to its subscribers as early as 1990. Fax and hardcopy newsletter publication was available to those without electronic mail.

To assist with extending these applications to the small and independent news organizations in Southern Africa, the Media Institute of Southern Africa is developing an electronic network (MISANET) for its members. Equipment and technical support is being supplied to members so that they can connect to the nearest local host. Once this is done, they will start sending each other news stories from their respective publications. The exchange of photographs, economic data, media freedom and other human rights information is also envisaged, while MISA members will also be able to communicate with each other and compare notes on issues affecting the independent media.

In a similar initiative, the Panafrican News Agency (PANA) is currently undergoing a major reorganization and expansion of services, including improving its communications network which now has 13 countries using satellite equipment to receive stories instantly. Over 100 earth stations are to be installed as part of the initiative and it is also planning to set up a full Internet connection to its head office in Dakar, Senegal. Funding is still being sought for the project, known as RAPID - the French acronym for African Regional Network for Integration and Development - which includes plans for a comprehensive database on Africa ranging from politics to the weather.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has decided that SADC activities would benefit substantially by having access to an electronic information network to link the sectoral co-ordinating units to their representatives in each country. Accordingly, discussions with potential funders have taken place and although the precise nature of the project has not yet been finalized, it is expected that strategic support will be given to the emerging local hosts in the member countries so that they can upgrade their services to a full Internet connection.

At the 1994 annual African IT Forum in Cambridge, delegates proposed setting up an African Information Systems Federation to link IT professionals throughout the continent. The Federation's objectives are developing communications standards, favouring appropriate training in the use of electronic messaging systems in Africa, and lobbying governments to adapt (or adopt) national legislation to meet the requirements of e-mail.

The Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa (CPSA) is a leading proponent of telematics use for religious organizations in Africa. The CPSA has been using electronic mail with church offices and Bishops in southern Africa since 1992. The 1994 Anglican world forum in London in November decided that the expense and difficulty of supporting remote users to link to a distant central host was unviable and that the use of local hosts, especially those connected to the Internet, should now be supported.

4. BRIDGING THE BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE DEVELOPMENT OF AFRICAN TELEMATICS

This section outlines the major problems that are reducing the potential of telematics use in Africa and attempts to identify some of the solutions.

4.1. General Problems

4.1.1. Low Levels of Development

The low economic and development status of most African nations will continue to be a major problem for telematics users for some time. Adverse terms of trade, ever increasing debt burdens and continuous outflows of capital have reduced local economies in many countries to very low levels. As a result, the markets for goods and services are relatively small and the availability of skilled and experienced managers, technicians and users is small.

While the demand for telecommunication and telematics services remains largely unsatisfied across the continent, the predominantly rural population has such low income levels that adequate returns on new investment are unlikely in many areas.

Even where telecommunication and telematics projects are economically viable, external finance agencies often tie funds to economic factors and policy requirements outside the control of the potential recipient of funds. Multilateral funding agencies lend to governments directly and must review the entire debt situation of the country regardless of the viability of the particular project.

Government finance is often even harder to obtain. With funds stretched already, governments are reserving available finance for the high profile sectors such as health, transport and housing.

As a result there is great need for massive general uplift in the economic status of most African countries, but these problems are largely beyond the scope of this study and will so not be discussed further here.

Because of the small size of telecommunication and telematics markets caused by the low levels of economic development, regional co-operation is a very important avenue which can be used to improve the situation. Perhaps more than any other continent, Africa could benefit from regional co-operation. If groups of countries can combine their purchases for equipment and services, costs can be cut substantially. Furthermore, scarce expertise and high cost international links can be shared and appropriate technical standards developed.

It may even be beneficial for the continent to establish large regional PTOs which shoulder the R&D costs necessary, achieve sufficient economies of scale and provide one-stop, uniform availability of international and possibly national network services.

Telematics also has a particularly important role in addressing the problems caused by the scarcity of local expertise associated with low levels of economic development. With the minimal international communications costs achievable through the use of the telematics tools, much expertise can be accessed 'online' through the networks.

Telematics can also address the 'brain-drain' issue caused by low levels of development. Africa has seen a steady exodus of its brightest minds who have been unwilling to remain isolated from their peers and the international developments in their fields of expertise. Low cost electronic communications tools can attract them back to their home countries because it allows them to keep in close touch with their friends and colleagues around the world.

4.1.2 Obtaining Preferential Treatment for the Public Sector Telematics Users

Encouraging access to reduced cost services for public sector telematics users has long been promoted by organizations such as UNESCO. The counterproductivity of subjecting those entrusted with the development of a country to high communications costs is self evident, but no clear public policies have emerged to guide those in a position to reduce those costs. Where subsidies and discounts have been given, they are usually based on special relationships between the supplier of the service and those negotiating for a reduction.

The following examples provide an indication of the type of support that has been successfully obtained:

-In Columbia discounts of 15-35% for national calls and 15-25% for international calls are provided to higher education bodies for use of the PSDN.

-In the Dominican Republic the PTO provides free access for researchers connecting to the Internet over the PSDN. - In Lesotho, the national University has negotiated a 50% reduction in the tariffs for its international leased line to the Internet.

-In South Africa, the PTO provides free calls for school children to call a resource centre during a weekly educational broadcast.

-Among several developing countries, Indonesia and Oman provide substantial discounts telecommunication discounts for press use.

-In France there is a public policy on assistance to the press and so the PTO grants news agencies and daily newspapers a 50% reduction for leased telex lines. The same reduction is offered through state budget subsidies for national switched telephone use, leased lines and ISDN services.

In the past, when PTOs had a monopoly on services and were basically arms of the state the procedure for providing preferential support was relatively simple - if the PTO did not give a discount directly, then it could be achieved through re-direction of funds between government departments. However the political and economic climate for PTOs has changed considerably over the last decade. Now that PTOs are becoming more independent from government, are more commercialized and in some cases competitive, the process has become much more difficult to implement and to justify to cost conscious service providers. Furthermore, it has been found that recipients of discounted services may be in a position to demand the same level of service that is provided to full-fee paying users.

Instead of attempting to obtain ongoing subsidies and discounts from PTOs for public sector telematics users, the consensus today is that eliciting short-term support for building infrastructure and market presence is generally a more productive approach to the problem. Co-operative projects involving support during the initial periods when users are unable to absorb the full costs, can become self supporting in the longer term. This strategy addresses one of the major barriers to telematics network development, namely the high cost of establishing and operating the facility while the user-base is built up to economic levels. Once this is achieved, the on-going costs for users are usually relatively low and can generally be met through existing budgetary allocations.

One of the best examples of this is in the U.S.A. where the Internet was initially financed through taxpayer funds (when it was primarily a military and then research and education network) before becoming a commercial operation, having built up sufficient users from across all sectors. In South Africa, the academic network - UniNet - was first largely financed by the state, but as the network has grown, support has been reduced (to one third of the budget in 1994 and one sixth in 1995). UniNet in turn applies this principle to its service for primary and secondary schools which currently have free access to the network.

In less developed African countries the knowledge of telematics network provision may lie to a greater extent in the hands of the users rather than the PTOs. In these cases joint projects where the PTOs provide initial support for the development of user-defined networks can be a viable approach. PTOs could, for example, bear the costs for housing and operating the equipment, or they could respond to user requests for establishing public access points (kiosks) and local points of presence in outlying areas where user numbers are likely to be lower for longer periods. Avoiding complex volume based usage fees and establishing simple flat-rate tariffs, which organizations can much more easily budget for, can also be a form of preferential support.

Another important strategy is to obtain relaxed regulations for equipment and services which are not usually sanctioned for general use. For example, Satellife has been able to obtain special permission to operate the satellite ground stations needed by its HealthNet users in many African countries. In Mozambique, television broadcasters are able to operate their own infrastructure independently of the national PTO.

In Africa's highly regulated environment and small markets, relaxing the rules regarding the carrying of third party traffic and allowing the consolidation of traffic from commercial and public sector sources would also have a large impact on the initial viability of telematics services. In many African countries the number of public sector users is likely to be so small that high bandwidth international leased line services would be impractically expensive unless they can be shared among a larger group, expanded by users from commercial and other sectors.

4.2. Problems for Funders and Service Developers

The agencies responsible for telematics service development -primarily international funders and the recipients of their finance - have a key role to play in improving the climate for telematics development in Africa.

4.2.1. Improving Co-ordination

A particular problem of telematics service provision in Africa is that there are a large number of telematics development projects which are insufficiently co-ordinated with each other. Multiple foreign consultants with similar expertise are sent to the same country, different types of equipment are provided for the same tasks and parallel communication links are established.

This results in initiatives which waste valuable human and financial resources through duplication of efforts and telematics services. Setting up and maintaining similar infrastructures dilutes the resources that could be made available to create a single better supported and more self sustaining project. It can also result in competition for users which further reduces the potential for sustainability and enhanced services. Although competition can be beneficial in larger markets, the relatively low levels of demand likely in most African countries (at least in the initial stages) suggests that competition should be delayed until later phases in the evolution of national telematics services.

The major reasons for duplication of initiatives are:

-Many projects in this fast moving field are unaware of similar initiatives to provide connectivity to users in the same country or city. This situation is improving as local initiatives become more well established and Africa develops less of a 'frontier' image.

-In the competition for finance and support, many project initiators and funders wish to preserve the individuality and identity of their projects, and so are unwilling to merge their initiatives. The cost advantages of consolidation, especially on international connectivity based projects, coupled with greater awareness on the part of the funders should assist in reducing these problems.

-Many projects have different technological and implementation philosophies which result in incompatible approaches. The increasing standardization of technology, the move toward open systems, and the growing number of electronic and other forums for dialogue is helping to reduce this problem. However, the fast rate of technological change and the competitive nature of the vendors still engenders centrifugal forces which need to be addressed by each project.

To eliminate these problems, funders and the other actors involved will need to actively co-operate to rationalize competing, parallel and overlapping initiatives.

Telematics service developers must also be careful that their projects do not conflict with existing local initiatives. If there are established telematics projects which are catering to the same sector of users as a large foreign funded initiative, the local initiative may be forced to close down because the better resources which may be available from the internationally funded service can encourage the users to switch systems. Assessments of local conditions before a project is implemented and co-operation with existing initiatives will be essential in avoiding this problem.

The Buenos Aires Action Plan adopted by the World Telecommunications Development Conference organized by the ITU in Buenos Aires in March 1994 includes two programmes which aim at the co-ordination and promotion of telematics in developing countries. Programme No. 12, "Development of Telematics and Computer Networks", provides a framework for co-ordinated co- operation among all the organizations involved in this area as well as other private or public sector partners including the PTOs. Programme No. 9, "Integrated Rural Development", focusses on the establishment of community telecentres in rural and remote areas which will provide telematics services. More detailed plans for these programmes are now being developed and this symposium could be used to review opportunities for co- operation within this field.

4.2.2. Appropriate Planning

It is especially important for regional initiatives to take into account the great variety of local conditions when planning a project. Uniform implementations are unlikely to be effective in Africa where conditions vary so much from country to country. As a result project planners must spend more time assessing the local environment and be prepared to use a variety of technologies and institutional structures.

To provide the necessary information for appropriate planning it will be necessary to conduct a thorough survey of existing conditions and initiatives in Africa. The gathering and dissemination of this information should be made by a single agency.

The necessity of ensuring the long-term sustainability of a telematics initiative is self-evident, however the methods for doing this are not as obvious. Many projects set up systems which have substantial running costs from the start (such as the rental on a leased line), but an active user base takes time to establish and any hitches along the way can turn in to large cost overruns. A carefully planned and phased approach is therefore necessary so that any problems can be worked out before high operating costs are incurred and sufficient numbers of users are available to share the ongoing costs.

Careful planning in the allocation of sufficient resources is also essential. Once a telematics project gets off the ground and is operating reliably, the user base can grow very quickly due to the popularity of the services provided. If this growth is not anticipated, problems can occur with the availability of user support staff, and with rocketing traffic costs on dial-up systems or clogged leased lines as more experienced users learn how to make use of international information servers. Also, incoming dial-up lines can become saturated by the growing number of callers. If the availability of new lines to cope with the demand is limited, substantial user frustration can occur.

It is almost impossible to be accurate with estimates of growth in telematics traffic but it is best to over-estimate needs -history has shown that growth in data communications has continually been greater than expectations. A reasonable assessment is especially important in planning hardware purchasing decisions and training requirements. Inadequate estimates in these areas can result in higher upgrade costs later. If these cannot be met by the available budget, users can become unproductive when equipment slows down through overload or when software is changed. However, a short planning horizon - about two years maximum - is necessary because changes in technology in this field are so rapid that networking decisions must be continually revised.

Telematics service providers have to operate in a business-like fashion even though their facility may be a non-profit one. However business administration skills and the culture of service provision are often not present in the organization providing the service. This can hinder cost recovery and disappoint users. Therefore project developers should include the transfer of marketing, management and legal skills in their initiatives.

If the project's aim is to build up a critical mass of users, a useful strategy to assist the process is to make provision in the budget for initial subsidies for equipment and access costs. Many user organizations remain unconvinced of the benefits of telematics or do not place a high enough value on information and so may be unwilling to allocate resources for the service. By being able to offer a zero cost entry to the telematics environment it can be much easier to encourage participation while the users evaluate the benefits of the project. Once this has been done, it is easier to extract financial support from them for ongoing costs and for investments in equipment.

Project planners also need to be aware that many of the recipients of their assistance may be reticent about using computers. They may not yet be comfortable with the technology or they may view computers simply as tools for typing letters and reports which would normally be the job of their secretaries. To address these concerns project leaders should emphasize the use of computers as a general purpose communication tool like the telephone and demonstrate the ways in which telematics technology can improve the user's ability to carry out their jobs.

Most telematics development projects focus on establishing services and bringing on users in the capital cities while ignoring the requirements of those in outlying towns and rural areas. Communication needs in these locations are often much greater than those in the capital and so if the initiative aims at real development for the region, special efforts must be made to accommodate these users through budget items for national travel by trainers and the establishment of smaller telematics facilities in other centres.

4.2.3. Improving the Lack of Available Skills

In an evaluation of the IDRC's pilot project to establish local hosts in four African countries (NGONET Africa) it was found that the availability of technical support for maintaining the operations of the host was one of the most important factors determining the viability of the project.

Technical skills are scarce and valuable in Africa, and every effort needs to be made to spread these skills among more people and retain skilled people in the organization. For the public sector this can be particularly difficult because the ability to pay salaries commensurate with experience and skill is much lower than in the private sector. As a result there is a continual attrition of skilled people who receive training in the public sector and then move over to the private sector. To cope with this, as well as the general low level of skills available, ongoing training programmes must be one of the major components of any telematics initiative. To help retain staff who have been trained it can be beneficial to give them some form of increased job recognition for their new skills.

With the spread of telematics use to every sector of society, technical skills are now being developed at the elementary and secondary school levels in industrialized countries. Although cost concerns and emphasis on basic literacy may prevent the introduction of telematics in African primary schooling, secondary and undergraduate university programmes should also incorporate telematics training in their courses where possible.

Training programmes to initiate users in telematics skills and to improve their use of telematics systems are equally important. In addition, it is vital that follow-up sessions and hand holding are carried out after initial training to deal with new problems that arise and refresh users' familiarity with less frequently used functions.

Documentation to accompany the training is also very important. Many network systems are poorly documented, being installed by skilled consultants with little time or motivation for writing detailed documentation. Implementation plans should therefore explicitly require the development of full documentation of the local installation and allocate the necessary budget for all materials.

Application software documentation for standard packages is usually adequate, especially when combined with the online help that is normally available. Many common packages now have a range of third-party books published about them; these are often much better than the original documentation, but can be expensive. However most users are averse to reading manuals and sessions with a skilled trainer are usually more productive.

4.2.4. Addressing the High Cost of Services

High cost is probably the largest single barrier to the effective use of new telematics technology in Africa. Ironically, the cost of telecommunication on the continent is in part encouraging the implementation of telematics facilities. The high costs of calls on long distance lines increases the relative advantage of data communications over voice - in the past when international links were expensive in developed countries, the bandwidth available was used primarily for telegraph traffic with voice calls an occasional luxury.

There are a number of ways in which the costs of network traffic can be reduced:

a) Increasing the number of users.

The cost of expensive international links can be shared among greater numbers so that the benefits from volume discounts and reduced connection overheads are accrued. Related to this, the consolidation of all out-of-country traffic through a single international link can bring similar benefits. The basic volume dependency of the costs of bandwidth provision means that overlapping network infrastructures should be minimized as much as possible.

In particular, the provision of PTO data communication facilities should be rationalized. Ultimately, it is not in the interest of the users to 'bypass' the PTO with their own networks. This drains an already slim user base away from the universal carrier based service, making them less economic to operate and also gives the carrier the excuse not to take the risk to provide reasonably priced telematics service since the users have already satisfied their requirements.

b) Using off-peak times and other tariff reduction regimes when initiating connections.

Many PTOs offer lower telephone charges after business hours which can be used for less urgent traffic and for traffic to different time zones. Also, the cost of international links to different countries are not uniform, so routing traffic via the lowest cost international connection can be cheaper. For example, telematics services in Zimbabwe route all international traffic through South Africa which is 90% cheaper than a link to other African countries or to Europe and North America.

c) Initiating dial-up calls from the cheaper side of international links.

Countries rarely charge identical amounts for calls made between them - for example, during off peak periods, calls to Mozambique from South Africa cost 10% of the cost of calls made in the other direction. As a result considerable cost savings can be made by choosing the best direction for initiating connections. Because the cheapest direction is usually outgoing from countries which are more developed, call completion rates are also usually better when calls are initiated from this side of the connection, yielding further benefits in efficiency. However, the benefits of this strategy can be reduced when there are foreign currency restrictions in a country incurring costs on the remote end which must be met in hard currency.

d) Using the most appropriate protocols for high cost or low quality links.

The efficiency of the communications protocol effects the volume of data that can be passed through the link. Some protocols are intrinsically far more efficient at using bandwidth and coping with line noise, connection interruptions or satellite delays. Their use can substantially reduce the costs of traffic and improve the capacity of scarce lines to service a greater number of connections.

e) Recovering the costs of transmission from the sender.

Telematics services can now deliver connections across many different networks, making charging for traffic complex and difficult. The low cost of the technology, the high density of users, and the public sector roots of the Internet have resulted in a system which appears to be virtually free to most of the end users in the developed nations. In addition, the lack of any traffic costs for data transmission on networks such as the Internet has caused substantial problems for many African users who have had to foot telephone bills for overzealous and frivolous communications from users elsewhere (usually in the North) who are not aware of the high costs.

Systems to filter traffic flowing from low cost networks to systems connected over high cost international direct dial links have been discussed for some years by network service providers to developing countries, but the initial financial support needed for their development has not yet been found. Filters can give users at the end of a high-cost link control over which messages they wish to receive over the link and can allow the implementation of billing systems to charge the sender for the cost of delivery. When financial accounting systems are in place it is even possible to consider charging the users of low cost systems more than the cost of delivery in order to subsidize the high transmission costs of resource-poor recipients.

Until at least some of these systems are put in place it will be problematic to publish widely accessible directory services for many African users and there will be a continuing financial burden on them from unsolicited transmissions.

f) Reducing the volume of traffic

The concept of 'filters' described above could also be extended to designing new protocols for data transfer between all users connected to systems with permanent leased line links. Most electronic mail systems in use today are based on transmission of all the data to the remote users' equipment. This is inefficient when the user does not necessarily wish to keep copies of all the data locally. Instead, a user on a system connected by permanent links should simply transmit a notification of the message and its contents to the recipient, who can then choose to read or copy it in full from the sender's system. A similar system has been implemented in the Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) used for accessing broadcast newsgroup messages from a single host, so some of the tools needed for this design have already been developed.

Also, multiple transfers of identical data across the same link often occur when different users request the same file from popular public file stores. On small permanent links this uses up scarce bandwidth and on dial-up links it can be an expensive waste. As a result there is a need for system operators to maintain up to date local stores of the most popular software and information sources. Tools have also been developed to reduce the problem by automatically distributing single copies of new files added to the major international file banks to 'mirror' systems placed at strategic positions on the network. Unfortunately these mirrors are often not as well publicized as the originating service which still tends to attract many users who are not aware of the more local access point. File access software needs to have additional facilities designed into it to automatically direct the user to the nearest or lowest cost location for duplicated data.

On a simpler level, many users of a local host may be subscribed to the same electronic mailing list, resulting in the flow of many duplicate copies of messages across high cost links. To reduce this possibility, local redistribution points for popular mailing lists should be established by system operators.

Reducing the volume of traffic at certain times of the day can also be important on low bandwidth permanent links. If these are clogged with ad hoc newsgroup updates and users' file requests, more urgent electronic mail can suffer unacceptable delays. During office hours the link should be reserved for electronic mail and any other more urgent information requirements, while slack times at night can be used for updating mirrors and the local online newsgroups.

Finally, improved software facilities can also be developed to allow users of store and forward dialup links to make easier use of the network navigation and retrieval tools (WWW, Gopher, etc.) that full Internet users have access to.

4.2.5. Improving the Reliability of Services

Ensuring the reliability of services is vital to the long term sustainability of any telematics project. Users will not be inclined to pay for services that are erratic and undependable. This becomes increasingly important when users switch from other forms of communication (such as fax and courier), and the telematics service becomes part of their day-to-day operations.

Strategies for improving reliability range from maintaining the availability of technical and user support, to reducing hardware operating temperatures, maintaining duplicate equipment, keeping off-site backups of data, protecting leased line and dial-up phone lines from lightning strikes and guaranteeing stable electricity supplies for equipment.

Experience has shown that dial-up and leased line failures are one of the most common forms of network service interruptions, necessitating the development of close working relationships with the PTO to encourage rapid response to problems. Backup circuits can also be maintained, but this is too costly in most circumstances.

Software upgrades and system development often take place on 'live' systems, which can also cause service interruptions while the configuration is fine tuned. Many of these problems can be avoided if duplicate systems are maintained, one of which is used for testing new procedures and software before installation on the live network. The availability of a duplicate system is also important in reducing downtime when hardware failure occurs.

4.2.6. Improving Availability of Meta-Information

To make most effective use of telematics services, users must know where to find the information they need. With the explosive growth of networking and information sources, this 'meta-information' is still scarce, even in developed countries. In Africa the problem is exacerbated by the region's isolation, which makes it harder to obtain information from alternative sources, and by the greater need to make efficient use of network capacity - requests for data and files by trial and error can be too slow and expensive to be useful.

A particular deficiency for African users is the lack of a comprehensive directory of other users in the region. Local hosts usually maintain lists of their own users but there is no system in place for circulating these to other hosts. There are directory systems for hosts fully connected to the Internet but as this is not the case for most hosts in Africa, these services are of little value.

This problem is likely to decrease steadily as more systems upgrade to full Internet connectivity, but there will still be many systems using dial up connections for some years to come. In order to accommodate them in the future and improve the current situation, a regional telematics body should be assisted in developing a system for circulating user lists and in establishing a comprehensive database of users accessible for query by electronic mail.

4.3. Problems for Users

4.3.1. Improving Sensitivity to User Requirements

The rapid development of telematics technology and the isolated position of most African countries means that many key decision makers are not yet aware of the value of the technology and the contribution it can make to development goals, especially through us in the public sector. Users familiar with the technology who can demonstrate its benefits have a vital role to play in sensitizing major policy makers in government, international funders, potential service providers and PTO managers.

With the spread of telematics use into more and more spheres of society, re-evaluation of its significance indicates that users need to elevate the levels at which policy is debated. The World Telecommunications Advisory Council (WTAC) has suggested that the role of telecommunication in overall national development should be raised to the highest political level - this should be applied to telematics as well. In addition, the level of awareness among the general public needs to be raised in order to stimulate discussion on policy and to make politicians more responsive to the needs of the public sector.

After the top level decision makers, sensitization should focus on PTOs. In particular, many PTOs do not yet understand the impact that accessible services can have on the development of their networks in terms of increased revenue, or in terms of their impact on economic and social development. Furthermore they are unclear about the nature of the services that are required. Many believe they must recoup the costs of the investments they have made into public packet switched data networks and are unlikely to consider initiatives that use direct dial and leased line systems for general use. In contrast, many PTOs in developed countries are now providing Internet services directly to users.

On a regulatory level, the lack of awareness of the move toward the development of shared broadband multimedia networks based on the Internet poses serious barriers to their implementation in Africa. Many PTOs and governments have inhibitory policies on earth station ownership and the sharing and resale of bandwidth which are necessary to establish these networks.

These problems are exacerbated by inadequate dialogue between public sector users and the PTOs. The users have become frustrated with the limitations and high cost of existing services, and the PTOs have serious constraints in satisfying user demands, especially when users are unable to make their needs clearly understood. Many of the local hosts that have been set up in Africa are unofficially carrying third party traffic which further reduces the users' incentive to communicate with the PTOs.

Addressing this divergence in views will be very important in ensuring the smooth evolution toward national information highways which are accessible to the public sector. This should involve the identification of appropriate institutions to carry out further sensitization and support for greater co-operation among operators, service providers and users. Individual users will also need to become more involved in explaining and promoting telematics services to PTOs and policy makers.

For PTOs in particular, users need to show how existing services, such as the local PSDN and long distance calls, are not threatened by telematics applications, how electronic networks can become self-sustaining after a short period of time and how the more a system is used, the less it costs per kilobyte sent and received, resulting in increased overall demand for bandwidth from the PTO.

4.3.2. Addressing Low Bandwidth of the Available Services The capacity of dial-up and leased line links in Africa is likely to be limited by the poor telecommunication infrastructure for some time. To cope with this there are a variety of strategies that users can take.

Even if an international leased line link is available, it may be a low bandwidth 9.6 kb/s link in which case using a courier company to deliver a big data set (more than 100 megabytes) on tape can be quicker and cheaper than using the leased line. In addition it frees up the leased line for more important interactive functions. This situation can be seen in Zambia where the 9.6 kb/s leased line costs about US$ 65,000 per year. Even assuming continual use at maximum bandwidth, this corresponds to about US$ 2000 per gigabyte. Since 100 megabytes takes more than 24 hours to download at 9.6 kb/s it would be quicker and cheaper to ship the data via express delivery on tape. Airmail of a single 1.44 MB diskette containing up to 4 MB of compressed data can also save considerable expense for less time sensitive information.

Since costs are highly dependant on the volume of traffic passing over expensive or low bandwidth links, volume reduction techniques are of special importance in the African environment.

Data compression systems have long been used to reduce the size of data files and advances in compression techniques have continued to improve. Standard compression techniques such as ZIP, JPEG (image) and MPEG (video), and compression built in to modems (V.42bis) are now widely used to reduce the actual volumes of data required to move across links and therefore costs can be dramatically reduced. Since most telematics application development occurs where link costs are low, few applications have built-in support for commonly used compression standards. Although MPEG and JPEG have been widely accepted for video and image compression, there are a large number of compression techniques used for other forms of data which can cause compatibility problems. Training programmes should therefore familiarize users with the operation of these tools, and further efforts should be made to standardize the use of compression utilities.

4.3.3. Coping with Unreliable Services

African conditions result in frequent line failures due to the use of old equipment, harsh conditions and lack of skills in maintaining the infrastructure. There is little the user can do about these except to develop good relations with the PTO so it is responsive to problems. Where the budget is available and the usage critical, backup lines can be maintained and used in the event of failure.

Because lightning is a prevalent problem in many parts of Africa, effective isolation from power surges is necessary when setting up telematics equipment. Metal oxide varistors (MOVs) installed on power and telephone lines are very effective at cutting down on power surges induced by lightning strikes, but proper earthing of all equipment is vital. Even with good earthing, copper cables stretching between buildings will still cause problems and usually it is necessary to install optical isolators at each end of the link of the circuits to avoid burning out valuable equipment. Alternatively fibre optic cable can be used which is immune to this sort of problem but is significantly more expensive.

General protection against brown-outs and spikes on power lines is usually also necessary in Africa for computer equipment, especially where power tends to fluctuate and where centralized data servers must be specially protected. Critical installations should also have an uninteruptable power supply providing backup power to allow users to shut down their applications. 'Intelligent' backup systems which automate shut-down procedures are now reasonably priced but it still may be necessary to set up diesel or solar driven power supplies for situations where electricity is unavailable for long periods.

Where systems of 'power rationing' prevail (when an area experiences regular daily or weekly power outages) a simple car battery backup system can be used. This type of system makes use of a bank of 12 volt batteries which are trickle charged from the mains when power is available. When they are needed, the batteries can either feed power directly to battery operated laptop type computers, or via an invertor to convert to 240 volts.

4.3.4. Addressing the High Cost of Telematics Equipment

Although telematics equipment has reduced in cost dramatically over the last ten years, and continues to fall, costs are still relatively high for African users. Since there is almost no local manufacture, African users must pay for shipping and import duties on equipment which are often taxed as luxury items. In addition, smaller volumes and the perception of telematics technology as being 'business equipment' further increases the price.

An important step in reducing these costs could be to obtain exemption from import duties. Some countries already exempt educational donations but a more wide ranging exemption for all of the public sector needs to be obtained. Because of the general importance of telematics in development, a case has been made for the elimination or at least lowering of tariffs on all data communication and computer equipment. However, these initiatives will not be successful unless African governments agree to use import tariffs in these key areas as a stimulus for development rather than as a source of revenue.

A related issue in African countries with soft currencies is the need to improve the availability of hard-currency allocations for the import of telematics services and equipment. Users in many of these countries cannot easily import low cost equipment and make use of the services provided by other countries because the state is unwilling to provide them with sufficient exchangeable funds. Given the importance of telematics use in the public sector, governments in these countries should be encouraged to make special allocations of currency for these purposes.

Co-operation between users to pool orders for equipment can also reduce costs by facilitating volume discounts on purchases.

For the public sector it should also be possible to obtain further cost reductions from suppliers. For example, educational discounts on equipment are common among computer hardware vendors.

Use of appropriate telematics software can also reduce costs. Because electronic communications systems evolved out of the academic environment there is a large amount of free or public domain software that can be used in place of commercial packages. In Africa this is particularly important because of the scarcity of foreign currency and funds in general. These packages usually come with the complete source code so that modifications for local conditions can be made. Although support for the software can be more difficult to obtain because the supplier is not financially responsible for a satisfied customer, local support for many commercial packages is not available anyway in a large number of African countries. Also, 'online' support for free software is provided by thousands of users who participate in the online discussions about the programmes they use.

Despite the strategies outlined above there will still be many Africans, especially in the public sector, who cannot afford the cost of equipment. To address their needs for telematics services it will be important to establish self-sustaining resource centres where they can obtain access to the required service. In addition, information circulation initiatives which use electronic means should also consider hard copy distribution methods to reach a wider range of users.

4.3.5. Encouraging the Involvement of Leadership

The success of telematics development projects is very often dependant on the presence of users who are especially committed to the project's goals. If these 'champions' are in top levels of the organizations participating in the project then it has a far better chance of success.

An effective strategy for engaging the leadership is to make special efforts to assist them in understanding the technology and finding ways in which it can help them in their own management functions. Continuity in leadership is also important as changes in top-level management can stall or delay a project.

Champions need not necessarily be the organization's executives, in many cases enthusiastic users who have mastered the technology can play a key role in encouraging the involvement of others.

4.4. Problems for National Government and Telecommunication Operators

4.4.1. Raising Resources for Telecommunication Network Development

For national governments, telecommunication and telematics technology can be viewed as a public asset. Like mineral wealth, it can be exploited for the public good in a number of ways, some of which yield more public benefit than others. The consensus today is that government owned PTO monopolies are not the most appropriate vehicles for this exploitation. In the same way, the state today very rarely operates any mines yet mining rights are still treated as a national asset, allocated to operators by the state according to clearly defined rules aimed at extracting the maximum benefit from the resource for the public. Mining rules have developed over more than a century of experience with input from all the stakeholders, but with the relatively recent and rapid permeation of telecommunication into almost every sphere of activity, the ground rules in this field are still at an early stage of development and the significance of all the issues is not yet widely enough understood.

An unregulated telecommunication sector is not in the public interest for many reasons and this is reflected in the presence of strong regulatory bodies, even in the countries with the most liberalized telecommunication sector - the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom (the FCC and Oftel, respectively). These two countries are still unusual even when compared to other developed countries, most of which still have telecommunication monopolies and are only beginning to grapple with liberalization.

In Africa, most governments must manage economies and telecommunication infrastructures which are far less developed, but the policy issues they face are similar to those elsewhere, namely, to what extent should the monopoly PTO be subject to competition and how to proceed with the process of liberalization. If these issues are proving difficult to deal with in the developed world, it can be imagined how much harder they may be to solve in Africa.

Establishing effective systems of checks and balances is a particular problem for the state. In industrialized countries, regulations are generally successful in enforcing the accountability of service providers to the public sector. But in less developed countries where information is often dependant on the private agents concerned and the availability of independent expertise is scarce, regulations can be difficult to formulate, let alone enforce.

Nevertheless, the need to raise funds and expertise for network development means that more and more African countries will be required to liberalize their telecommunication sectors. Allowing private ownership in certain markets or allowing PTOs to engage in joint ventures with foreign companies are so far the most common forms of network commercialization in Africa. This has been particularly prevalent in data communications services. For example, France Telecom's subsidiary, France Cable & Radio, which is probably the most predominant joint venture partner in Africa, has established telematics projects with the PTOs of many French-speaking countries in the western and central regions of the continent. In Chad, Morocco and Niger, it has provided electronic telephone directory and videotex services. FCR is also involved in an assistance plan for a data transmission network in North Africa and has also been active in setting up local PSDNs in Chad, C™te d'Ivoire, Egypt, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

One of the major problems that the authorities face is how to create the necessary incentives for PTOs to supply unprofitable services which the state has a commitment to support, while at the same time maintaining a competitive environment. For example, telecommunication planners and economists have been unable to explicitly balance the costs with the benefits of low density services in rural or urban areas, but there is growing evidence that a single additional rural connection has substantially more benefits on society than yet another circuit in an already densely wired urban area. However, the convergence of media and telematics tools with basic telephony and their more widespread use is substantially increasing the aggregate demand for telecommunication based services. This will make high bandwidth ISDN type services more economic to install in densely populated urban areas and basic telephony and telematics services in the rural areas.

4.4.2. Meeting Conflicting Demands for Different Telecommunication Services

Unfortunately for PTOs, demand for telecommunication services is not uniform across the population. While some demand higher bandwidth connections, greater reliability and more sophisticated services, rural populations simply want access to a basic telephone. With limited funds, PTOs must prioritize their network development plans. They may have to decide whether to invest in international services to obtain foreign currency and service business demands, or concentrate on expansion in the capital and other major centres for residential requirements, or focus on extending service in rural areas.

With telematics and telecommunication technology continuing to improve in performance and decrease in price, the degree of external assistance required to ensure the development of uneconomic services is steadily dropping. However some form of state intervention may still be necessary. This can take the form of tax rebates for particular telematics services supplied, special 'contracts' from the state to install the services, and/or approval of non cost-based tariffs which allow the cross-subsidization of the uneconomic services.

Radio technology will also be increasingly important for meeting the demands of users located in areas where the local exchange is saturated. These systems provide a means of quickly and relatively cheaply by-passing the local exchange, but licensing procedures and tariffs for this sort of service have yet to be established.

4.4.3. Increasing the Bandwidth of Leased Line Connections

As multimedia services involving the transmission of images, video and sound become more widespread, PTOs will be faced with growing demands for high bandwidth services. Currently in most African countries 9.6 kb/s is the maximum available for any national or international data line. This is barely enough for a half-dozen simultaneous interactive sessions and can hardly be expected to serve a large population of users. Duplicate lines can be installed, but this requires substantially greater setup and maintenance costs and does not provide the efficiency and volume discounts associated with higher bandwidth connections. As it is, many 9.6 kb/s international leased line links are only marginally cheaper to operate than regular daily scheduled IDD calls.

Existing digitalization programmes will assist in improving available bandwidth but appropriate long term planning will still be needed if the anticipated demands are to be met. If PTOs are unable to finance bandwidth improvements themselves, it may be necessary for the state to provide additional funds to assist in establishing these services.

4.4.4. Addressing the Duplication of Telecommunication Infrastructures

The number of separate national and international trunk routes between two points are subject to substantial duplication which can either be dealt with by making use of the additional capacity, or by working to eliminate duplication where it is unnecessary.

Older metallic cable and microwave links are now being superseded by with fibre cables leaving redundant infrastructure. This is already the case in Botswana and South Africa on national trunk routes and in many other African countries in metropolitan areas. If the infrastructure is still being maintained for backup purposes, possibilities can be explored for making it available to groups who do not need the higher capacity fibre links.

Some national and international networks have been built up for internal use, either completely independently, or in conjunction with the national PTO's network. In many countries the railways, airlines and electricity authorities and other government departments have developed such networks. Now that they are well established and increasingly benefiting from developments which provide more bandwidth, the cost advantages of carrying greater volumes encourages them to offer third parties access to them. Another source of overlapping networks are the international and national commercial PTOs which are able to establish networks which compete with the domestic PTO in countries with liberalized telecommunication sectors.

Bolstered by the general acceptance of GATT, this will be increasingly common even though the most appropriate structures for the participation of these other networks have not yet been established. Complete freedom to compete may be the simplest and quickest option, but the size of the African markets indicate that the overheads in duplicating infrastructures (human resources especially), and the dilution of demand across separate service providers could reduce the resources available for generally improved services. It will be necessary for national governments to carefully evaluate the relative advantages of complete liberalization over more controlled development of services.

4.4.5. Cutting the Cost of Access to Telematics Services

Fibre optics and digital processing techniques are already improving traffic flows in many African countries. Increasing the capacity of the telecommunication network to carry higher volumes of traffic is primarily a cost saving feature. Although it is associated with high bandwidth applications such as sound and video, these uses could be serviced, although much less economically, with multiple low capacity links.

Even before the African fibre optic cable is in place (see Section 3), PTOs can take advantage of the lower costs provided by the emerging global fibre optic network. ONATEL, Burundi's PTO, is planning to consolidate most of its foreign traffic through a single satellite connection which is downlinked in Italy to the global fibre optic cable network as it passes through the Mediterranean. Surrounding countries will also be able to make use of the facility to reduce their own costs.

On a national basis, even although current microwave links can be upgraded to cope with substantially more traffic, the advantages of optic fibre in 'future-proofing' to meet eventual expected demand are apparent. This means that policy makers should require that fibre be incorporated as a matter of course in all major infrastructure construction projects - roads, railways, canals, and electricity links. On international and national links to remote areas, use of the new satellites being launched is also expected to reduce costs. PanAmSat's PAS-3 will be launched in mid 1995 offering 38 dBW C-band coverage to the whole continent, and an additional Ku-band spot beam at 52 dBW will be directed at Southern Africa. Intelsat is also launching a satellite with African coverage in 1995.

4.4.6. Reducing the Cost of New Technology and Equipment

Many large equipment vendors have been able to take advantage of the lack of competition in many African countries to sell at above market rates. This is done through building on special relationships with the political decision makers (who have until recently controlled most of the PTOs) and bilateral aid packages which specify vendors. In addition, vendor incentive packages are developed which appear to provide relatively low cost equipment, but lock the client into expensive ongoing support requirements and migration paths. The Missing Link report of the Independent Commission for World Wide Telecommunications Development identified the lack of manufacturing facilities in developing countries as one of the key factors for the inadequacy of telecommunication services. Local manufacture potentially offers substantial cost savings on equipment but with the increasing complexity and use of integrated circuitry, much of the equipment's value cannot economically be made on the continent. Financing of local manufacturing facilities faces similar if not greater problems than financing network development. The economies of scale are so much smaller, and if GATT is generally adhered to, protective import tariffs are likely to disappear.

An alternative for reducing equipment costs is to engage in co-ordinated group purchases. If a sufficient number of PTOs can agree on a joint procurement policy, negotiations with suppliers can be more effective, greater volume discounts can be obtained and PTOs can benefit sharing the skills developed in operating the same equipment.

A further way of cutting equipment costs for the PTO is to encourage the subscribers to provide their own equipment for attachment to the network. This requires liberalized regulations in the equipment market which has already been implemented in quite a few African countries. The supply of dial-up modems in many countries is no longer the responsibility of the PTO and this has also been extended to leased line network terminating units (NTUs) in some cases. A regional type-approval body for equipment would also reduce the burden on PTOs for testing and administration.

5. RECOMMENDATIONS

The recommendations outlined below are derived from the discussion in section 4. They summarize the various concrete actions that could be made by the different groups which have an interest in improving the potential of telematics use for development in Africa.

5.1. Funders and Service Developers

International funders and service developers will be one of the principal agents to define the telematics landscape for the public sector in Africa. As described in section 4.2.1, many of these organizations will need to co-ordinate their initiatives and reduce the degree of overlap of existing projects to achieve the maximum benefit to users. To ensure the success of this, they should establish a worldwide information exchange system to allow them to improve their co-operation.

Aside from improved co-ordination, it is recommended that:

a) Finance agencies should give higher priority to telecommunication and telematics related projects, providing them with soft loans where possible. In view of the growing importance of telematics use in national development, higher levels of funding need to be made available to the international and national bodies which support telematics development projects.

The inappropriate planning described in section 4.2.2 has reduced the beneficial impact of many telematics development projects. To address this problem it is suggested that:

b) Finance for related projects should be fully integrated into a carefully considered and sustainable development plan for each country and its public sector.

c) The incorporation of telematics into national development plans for key sectors such as agriculture, education and health should be encouraged.

d) Funders should request the incorporation of telematics components in all development funding proposals.

5.2. Telematics Users

a) Public sector telematics users should co-operate with users in other sectors to build low cost local Internet hosts.

A full leased line Internet connection for local hosts is achievable in the short term in almost all African countries. It has major cost advantages and a vastly improved range of information services when compared to dial-up, store-and-forward electronic mail systems. However, the high tariffs on international leased lines and other increased operating costs means that these must be shared among a larger number of users than is needed for the viability of a dial-up system. In many cases there are unlikely to be sufficient numbers of public sector users to cover these costs, especially in the initial stages of network development, and so they will need to co-operate with commercial and individual users in order to build sufficient aggregate demand.

b) Users should press PTOs to support the use of alternative access methods in the local loop when the existing infrastructure is unable to cope with demand.

Where old manual telephone exchanges require the use of an operator to initiate a dial-up link (which makes telematics services almost impossible to operate) and where automatic exchanges are saturated or unreliable, users should make PTOs aware that there are alternatives provided by the use of low cost radio based point-to-point links. Users should expect PTOs to allow them to bypass problematic exchanges where necessary, to offer to provide the equipment if necessary and to work with the PTO to install it.

c) Users should form well organized institutions to represent their interests.

Public sector telematics users originate from a wide range of organizations which do not have traditions of close co-operation. In order to improve their individual access to telematics services it is necessary that they recognize their common interests and establish appropriate bodies to represent them. These could be called National Public Sector User Councils (NPSUCs). They would act as advisory and advocacy bodies to ensure that internally and externally generated capacity building and sectoral networking initiatives can make the best use of the local infrastructure to the benefit of all users.

Many countries in Africa have national computer users' groups and some have national telematics or telecommunication users' groups. These may seem appropriate vehicles, but they are usually heavily populated with private sector entities whose concerns are not necessarily congruent with those of the public sector.

The tasks which an NPSUC could undertake are:

1) Improving co-ordination by operating as a focal point for all telematics initiatives, providing information about the existing local infrastructure and giving guidance on implementation procedures.

2) Providing representation to existing national (state and private) and regional bodies to:

- improve the co-ordination of telecommunication network infrastructure building by PTOs and other state or private bodies involved in telecommunication;

- lobby for specific infrastructure building initiatives which improve access to telematics services; - increase awareness and improve decision makers' understanding of the importance of telematics;

- promote the preferential support of the development of telematics services for the public sector; - pursue the reduction of import tariffs on telematics equipment;

- negotiate for improving the availability of foreign exchange for purchase of necessary telematics equipment and services;

- increase foreign and national public and private sector funds allocated to the development of telematics services and to the training of telematics workers;

- increase public sector co-operation with other related advocacy bodies such as associations of information technology professionals, computer users' groups etc.

3) Monitoring current usage levels and tariffs of international and national networks to promulgate strategies for combining the traffic from separate networks into a smaller number of lower unit cost high-volume routes.

4) Advising local users on: local sources of telematics equipment and services and on installation, training, telecommunication provision and available online information sources, directory services etc.

5) Fund raising and making other special efforts to assist in network expansion to sectors that are less well endowed such as schools, community centres and rural areas.

6) Sensitizing decision makers and ordinary citizens to the importance of telematics in the economic and social development of the country.

7) Liaising with PTOs and educating them about local telematics activities and equivalent initiatives elsewhere.

8) Conducting co-operative bulk buying of equipment and services for users.

9) Monitoring the latest developments and test/evaluate new software and services for users.

10) Organizing training sessions for users and demonstrations for decision makers.

11) Providing a drop-in access point to the Internet for users without computers or telematics equipment.

12) Maintaining a directory of telematics users in the country.

13) Assisting in the formation of unified sector based user groups at levels below the NPSUC and encourage them to provide input into the NPSUC's activities.

14) Providing legal expertise for users who need to confirm the legality of electronic communications with the legislators or to obtain assistance in issues relating to copyright.

15) Encouraging the development of a continent-wide African Public Sector Telematics User's Council which would:

- assist with the formation of and support for national initiatives within a regional context; - improve co-ordination among continent-wide projects; - promote special projects (such as software development for African conditions) to international funders; - represent the NPSUCs at worldwide forums.

5.3. National governments, PTOs and International Development Agencies

State bodies, PTOs and international regulatory and standards guidance agencies have a variety of roles to play in improving the telematics environment for the public sector in Africa. Although the most important priority is the improvement of the telecommunication infrastructure as a whole, this is largely outside the scope of this study. There are however, some areas which relate more specifically to telematics use.

These include:

a) Support for the establishment of a national and worldwide system for monitoring and analyzing telematics traffic patterns, costs and tariffs.

The implementation of such a system would provide the basis for comparing telematics service costs within and between countries, give information for planning or improving information highways and indicate where support is most needed.

b) Supporting a reduction or elimination of import tariffs and other forms of taxation on telecommunication and telematics initiatives in the public sector. In addition, where soft currencies prevail, special hard currency allocations should be made for telematics users in the public sector.

As described in section 4.3.4, telematics equipment and services are often classed as luxury items, subject to maximum levels of taxation. This is counterproductive given the importance of public sector telematics use in national development and should therefore be eliminated where possible.

c) Supporting the consolidation of international trunk routes through rationalizing existing telematics networks and improving the co-ordination of the development of new ones.

The operation of multiple telematics networks and duplicate trunk routes substantially reduces the cost benefits which can be obtained through volume discounts on bandwidth and through sharing of common facilities. While developed countries have sufficient markets to warrant separation of public sector and commercial traffic routing, demand is likely to be too small and costs too high in the short term for this to be viable in Africa.

d) Assisting in the development of simpler and more appropriate regulations for the use of mobile and VSAT satellite terminals.

Small scale satellite technology will be of major importance in meeting the telecommunication capacity requirements of telematics users in many African countries where the infrastructure is undeveloped, especially in areas outside the capital cities. Currently the use of this technology in Africa is often discouraged because it is viewed as bypassing the PTO services which could normally be used for this purpose. However where PTOs are unable to provide the bandwidth at comparable costs required by users, regulations should be developed and license fees established to permit its use.

5.4. International Network Service Providers and Networking Technical Bodies

While a range of available telematics technologies is generally appropriate for use in Africa, as described in section 4.2.4 (e) and (f), most network operation tools have evolved in high-bandwidth, low-cost environments. To assist users in high-cost/low bandwidth situations, enhancements should be carried out by international bodies with the technical expertise and experience to ensure that they are generally applicable to developing country conditions.

The major enhancements would be to:

a) implement applications and administrative structures with the existing networks that allow filtering and cost accounting on a per-user basis for traffic flowing over high cost links, and

b) develop more efficient protocols for using leased line networks over low bandwidth infrastructures, and

c) develop better tools for using the advanced network navigation and retrieval applications over store and forward dialup lines.

In addition, to address the existing isolation of many African countries it will be necessary to:

d) develop effective regional support centres for dealing with developing country information and service requests, and

e) standardize directory services so that an Africa-wide user directory and meta-information listings can be efficiently implemented.

6. STRATEGIES FOR FURTHER ACTION

To ensure that the above recommendations are fully carried out, an interim 'Telematics for Development in Africa' co-ordinating committee comprising a representative range of interested parties should be appointed to conduct the following activities:

a) Establish a permanent African based body or decide on the use of an existing one to take responsibility for ensuring the implementation of the recommendations but, especially to:

- maintain the co-ordination of the different international network building and financing efforts;

- assist in the development of the national representative user bodies (NPSUCs, see section 5.2).

b) Establish the sources of funding for the above.

c) Promote the decisions of this Symposium at appropriate up-coming international and national events. d) Pursue the establishment of an online conference and electronic mailing list which involves all sectors and agencies. While there have been a number of such electronic forums set up on an ad hoc basis, usually around a specific project or group of users, an effort should be made to provide a single, more universal venue involving all PTOs, regulators, users and funders concerned with telematics development in Africa.

e) Work with users and service providers to help them clarify their needs and identify the barriers to effective telematics access. If necessary, this can be done through organizing sub-regional meetings, especially where user groups are united across national boundaries.

f) Organize the publication of materials explaining how telematics can be used for development in Africa, providing examples of successful implementations and raising the major issues that need to be addressed. These should be provided in electronic format and hard copy for those without access to telematics facilities.

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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.
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