Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Thoughts that rumble

So, the genie is out of the lamp - the first licence for human cloning has been granted, appropriately enough at the Roslin Institute (home of Dolly). So: only the poor will be ugly and diseased by 2100..

Meanwhile, I'm busy at work at the moment and the internet connection is down (typing this at a cybercafe). There was an Invest-in-Nigeria type conference last week attended by Baroness Chalker and the Minister for Africa Chris Mullin. It was all very upbeat-but-realistic stuff. In the Telecoms forum, I got up and asked my usual question about connecting Nigeria to the global IP backbone. And as usual it was over most people's heads. The issue is that Nigeria has to rely on Satellite connections (VSAT as it is known here) for Internet and TV access. This means that a decent broadband connection will set you back US$1000 per month minimum. Meanwhile, the SAT3 connection that links Sub-Saharan Africa (including Nigeria) via submarine cable to Spain, India and Malaysia is hardly being used (except by Haliburton for 'petrol data' and some other companies that have a cosy relationship with the National Telecoms company NITEL). Because of political and commercial wrangling, it looks like SAT 3 is still a loooong way (ie years) from being unbundled from NITEL and set up as a separate commercial bandwith wholesaler. The 'second national carrier' Globacom plans to lay a cable linking Nigeria to the UK. However, I think there is room for more cables (perhaps a trans-atlantic one?)

It's a simple and potentially powerful idea - connecting Nigeria to the global Internet will solve the digital divide issue in one fell swoop. Internet, international calls, more competition in international tv options, cheap voip - all would be solved by two or more functioning cables. Would be good if Blair's Commission for Africa focused on this specific and achievable goal..

Anyone reading this blog who has influence, please pass the idea on in the spirit of open source and transforming Africa.


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