Access to information
A detailed study of Venezuela’s topography, a trip to Italy, some pieces of ‘public domain’ software, satellite dishes that cross mountains on all-terrain trucks, cables, generators. This is neither a capricious list nor are its elements surrealist digressions. The elements that we have just enumerated are part of an ambitious endeavour that recently became a reality: to break the world wireless connection record by establishing a 279 km long link.
In a country where the majority of the population lives below the absolute poverty level, where political crises and violence have done away with social institutions, does it make sense to invest energies in information and communication technologies (ICTs)? Canadian APC member, Alternatives, firmly believes in this opportunity.
Major South African weekly, the "Mail and Guardian", reports from the APC-organised conference on EASSy, the East African submarine cable. The good news is that excessively high international bandwidth prices in Africa are to be challenged says the M&G but the benefits can be curtailed if operators maintain monopoly control.
A BBC News article published on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s online edition on Wednesday March 15 reports on the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and APC’s reluctance to the way it’s expected to be implemented. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has made its concerns and reservations about the new optical cable project for East Africa loud and clear at a consultation conference taking place a couple of days prior to the article’s release. BBC readers from Ethiopia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Namibia and many other countries are presently commenting on the BBC article which highlighted that "campaigners [such as the APC] fear that the cable might not actually make much difference to consumers because of high prices."
Africa currently has to pay for some of the most expensive bandwidth in the world. All this will change if the proposed East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) cable is built as it will connect countries on the eastern side of the continent and if this new capacity is offered in a way that maximises use and lowers price.
To help make this possible, APC is launching a new website “Fibre-for-Africa” and on March 10 will hold a consultation with more than 80 key stakeholders from all over Eastern and Southern Africa to ensure that access to EASSy
which will serve eight coastal and eleven land-locked countries is ‘easy’, affordable and open.
Africa currently has to pay for some of the most expensive bandwidth in the world.
APC’s member in the Philippines, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, has warned that new laws in that country could act as a threat to communication rights, some 20 years after the People’s Power revolution removed dictator Marcos from power there. On February 24, 2006, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of emergency in attempt to subdue what she said was a possible military coup. The proclamation was lifted in early March, but the
chilling effect remains. Besides there are orders still in effect which curtail the right to communicate.
Achieving affordable bandwidth still remains a major concern for Africa. A workshop in Senegal – organised by the Open Society Institute of West Africa (OSIWA) – stressed the key role various sectors need to play to change the abysmal situation in a continent fighting tough challenges both at home and internationally.
Web Networks has recently completed a working prototype of a unique online tool to deliver literacy, as part of its "In Your Language – En tu Idioma" family of products. "Yodigo" incorporates the "Conditional Cash Transfer" approach to development funding within an interactive, video-based learning environment that can be provided online or on DVD. You can see www.yodigo.tv for more information and to try out the demo, and contact Oliver Zielke (oliver @ web.net) if interested in participating in piloting this tool in the field. Watch for more information next month about the En tu Idioma project and APC partners in Latin America.
The Coalition for the Right to Communicate in Latin America and the Caribbean launched a continental campaign during a panel held concurrently at the VI World Social Forum and the II Social Forum of the Americas in Caracas, Venezuela, on the 26th of January. It was decided to strengthen the actions of all the independent and community media, communications networks, personalities and institutions that fight against the concentration of media in the hands of a few internationally funded companies, as well as in favour of the democratisation of communication.