by Cesare Borin (tranlated by Betsy Dugas)
An IGF2009 Workshop on satellite access in developing countries
During the next Internet Governance Forum ( IGF) to be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt 15 to 18 November 2009, there will be a Workshop sponsored by New Humanity and NetOne on access to satellite communications as a key to providing connectivity projects for capacity building in developing countries.
It is a topic which has been discussed far too little in previous IGF.
The IGF, which is convened by UN Secretary-General on the recommendation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), is in its fourth round and will take place in Africa, the continent that symbolizes the digital divide.Already in 2003 the WSIS had taken up the challenge “to harness the potential of information and communication technology to promote the development goals of the Millennium Declaration.”3 (MDGs).
The ability to access communications infrastructure thus becomes “a central enabling agent in building the Information Society. Universal, ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to ICT infrastructure and services constitutes one of the challenges of the Information Society”4.
In particular, technologies that use the satellite can make a "quick" contribution, providing access in areas where adequate communications infrastructure is lacking.
The WSIS Action Plan states: " Governments should take action, in the framework of national development policies, in order to support an enabling and competitive environment for the necessary investment in ICT infrastructure and for the development of new services to ... Encourage the use of unused wireless capacity, including satellite, … to provide access in remote areas, especially in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and to improve low-cost connectivity in developing countries.".
Consistent with these goals, the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2007 launched an initiative for a study which has as its goal the definition and validation of a model for capacity building projects that use satellite communications.
The project "Capacity Building through ICT" was awarded to a consortium of TNO, Avanti Communications and two NGOs (IICD and ActNow Alliance).
A reference model for capacity building projects
The model definition started in March 2008 with identification of sectors in the developing countries where capacity building projects through ICT might have the most added value.
Based on this analysis, existing projects have been studied and their lessons-learned gathered, taking into account both technical issues and human and organizational aspects. These inputs have been bundled with the experience of members of the consortium on similar projects, to produce a first iteration of a reference model.
This model, a structured set of guidelines, has been applied to two capacity building projects in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) (in Mali and the Ivory Coast), in order to verify model consistency, significance and usability.
In late October 2009 the Group completed the validation phase having collected the observations and recommendations made by local project teams on usability and effectiveness of the model.
Some of the main results will be discussed with workshop participants.
Looking for a Business Model for Sustainability
During the study it became clear that in developing countries there is a lack of proper business model(s) to address the mismatch between Civil Society requirements and corporate satellite provisioning.
On one side the providers operating in sub-Saharan Africa have very high cost (up to 10 times the cost in Europe), on the other hand, local institutions and NGOs need broadband access for their projects, hospital services, distance learning, media production, etc.., often precisely in places where it is unthinkable that in the short term conventional infrastructure will be in place (eg. backbones via fiber optics or radio).
During the IGF workshop we will seek to discuss and evaluate potential solutions together with representatives of governments, the private sector and civil society.
One possible solution could be the aggregation and intelligent management of demand, allowing access to satellite capacity on the part of a group of different users (NGOs, schools, hospitals, Internet cafes, etc.) and simultaneously assigned to multiple groups, bandwidth on the satellite dedicated to a particular market segment in order to share the costs.
The satellite providers could activate an appropriate type of service, in order to distribute access with time-division plan, integrating the usual pattern of sharing of capacity.
In turn, governments could support this initiative with appropriate international standards or regional agreements.
The workshop will be held October 17, 2009 and will have as speakers Betsy Dugas (USA) - New Humanity, Bernard Key (Ivory Coast) - ACIM and CHR, Jenny De Boer (The Netherlands) - TNO, Marina Russo (Italy) - ActNow Alliance and Martin Nkafu (Cameroon) LATS.Flyer
Live Webcast (channel 4 - !7 Nov - 14:00 Egypt local time)