By FN for APCNews GOA, India, 06 March 2007
Montreal-based Alternatives is in the final sprint to release a report on the development of the internet infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The feasibility report by this APC member focuses on the setup of a national internet backbone as well as on the content of a national information and communication technology (ICT) policy for the DRC.
Founded in 1994, Alternatives, an action and communication network for international development, is a non-governmental, international solidarity organisation based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
"We are finally about to release the first draft of our research on internet infrastructure in the DRC on March 12 (2007)," Michel Lambert, programme director of Alternatives, told APCNews, just before leaving for Kinshasa this month.
In terms of ICT development, the document will federalise policies of all relevant sectors: telecommunication, computer science and communication media. It will determine the current challenges, enumerate essential priorities and define strategic axes to tackle these priorities.
In terms of implementation, this unique independent study in the DRC proposes an internet infrastructure, at only 10% of the price proposed by commercial business. “If you are frowning at that prospect, consider catching up on literature related to open access,” insists Lambert.
“Open access infrastructure refers to the pipes, the copper – let’s say, the large artery infrastructure – that is understood as a global public good,” describes Karen Banks of the APC. “The other part of it,” she argues “is the infrastructure at the ends of the large arteries – the wireless and other types of networks that connect to the artery. These also need to rely on a regulatory approach that stimulates investment and maintenance,” she explains. “It needs to be done in way that is conducive to innovation and diversity in ownership – including local and community ownership – of ICT models”. This interpretation, generously documented in APC issue papers, considers internet infrastructure as a critical resource, precisely like water.
The final report is expected in two months. “Since January 2007, we are facilitating the newly created civil society-government commission on ICT policy. That commission is also expected to conclude in March or April 2007," Lambert told APCNews.
Active in over 25 countries, Alternatives – which is an APC member – supports local, community-based initiatives working towards the greater economic, social, and political rights of people and communities affected by poverty, discrimination, exploitation, and violence.
The organisation publishes Le journal d’Alternatives, a high-quality publication inserted once a month in Montreal’s French daily Le Devoir. It is also available on Alternatives’ website.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo – also called the DRC, RDC, Congo-Kinshasa or Congo, and formerly as Zaire, is the third largest country by area on the African continent.
Formerly a Belgian colony, since 1998, the country has suffered greatly from the devastating Second Congo War (sometimes referred to as the African World War. This has been the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.
Some four million people have died as a result of the fighting. The United Nations says a thousand people a day are still dying as a result of the conflict.