By Alternatives MONTREAL, Canada, 21 August 2007
The NGO Alternatives revealed the first independent feasibility study on the implementation of a vast infrastructure the size of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the beginning of August 2007. Carried out by Congolese researchers with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the company, Xit Télécom, and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the study proposes, in particular, that the implementation of the network be carried out in partnership with the Société Nationale d’Electricité du Congo (Congolese National Electricity Company – SNEL). The new network could then use SNEL’s extra high voltage infrastructures, and be expanded at the same time as the electric power infrastructures, which would mean substantial savings.
Contrary to some previous evaluations, which assumed expenses of approximately one thousand million dollars, the study evaluates the project at $231 million. It should be remembered that, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the establishment of a real internet infrastructure would not be a luxury, quite to the contrary in fact. In particular, it would enable an improvement in communications in a country four times the size of France, several regions of which continue to be very isolated. The planned network alone would cover over 5,467 kilometres, which is approximately the distance between the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, and the city of Cairo, in Egypt. It would serve every one of the 26 provinces in the DRC, as well as Kinshasa.
For the moment, the deplorable state of communications in the DRC is an undeniable deterrent to development and the fight against poverty. High-speed computer interchanges are via satellite, which is very costly. The rate is sometimes 1,000 times higher than in Europe! The authors of the study, researchers, emphasise the need for an infrastructure that is part of an open access model, so as to maintain the lowest cost, and promote access to the largest number. The planned network should also be able to support several service providers, which would promote competition and reduce access costs.
The results of the study, which was ordered by the Office Congolais des Postes et des Télécommunications (Congolese Posts and Telecommunications Office – OCPT), will be presented to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Congolese private sector and various civil society players, such as the media, NGOs and educational establishments. Founded in 1994, Alternatives is an NGO which works for social justice in Canada and abroad. Present in the Democratic Republic of Congo for several years, the organisation has notably supported campaigns for HIV/AIDS prevention and human rights awareness.
Read the two exclusive interviews with ICT specialists from the DRC and Canada below.
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