[p2p-research] Developing countries falling into 'broadband gap'

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Fri Nov 6 17:45:40 CET 2009

From: plenary-bounces at wsis-cs.org [mailto:plenary-bounces at wsis-cs.org] On
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Subject: [WSIS CS-Plenary] 'broadband gap'

Developing countries falling into 'broadband gap'
Ola Al-Ghazawy
29 octobre 2009 | EN

Much of the developing world is falling behind with broadband access
[CAIRO] Limited access to broadband Internet is crippling the spread of
information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the developing world
and widening the already significant digital divide, a report has warned.
Bandwidth availability is low and the cost of broadband Internet is high in
many developing countries, says 'Information Economy Report 2009', released
last week (22 October) by the UN Conference on Trade and Development
Prices can reach more than US$1,000 per month in countries such as Burkina
Faso and Kazakhstan. Australia, a country with little more than 20 million
residents, has more broadband users than the whole of the African continent.
This broadband gap deprives developing country businesses of economic
development opportunities such as call centres and offshore offices.
"Broadband access is almost a must for companies with international
branches," Ahmed Ali, a software engineer at computing giant IBM's Egypt
branch, told SciDev.Net.
While major companies such as his use a satellite Internet connection,
smaller companies that provide offshore services for businesses in other
regions need a fast communication channel.
"If broadband is not sufficient then it will be a problem for them and may
hinder progress of their work," he says.
But the mobile phone market is booming in the developing world despite the
economic crisis, the report found. Mobile phone penetration reached 100 per
cent in countries such as Bahrain, South Africa and Qatar. Growth in mobile
use increased more than eightfold in less than ten years.
Mobiles are becoming the preferred mode of communication over landlines and
are increasingly fulfilling ICT needs.
"We now see three and four mobile service providers opening up in these
countries to fill demand. For many people, it is becoming an important tool
for business as well as accessing the Internet," Ahmed Momtaz, a
telecommunication engineer at Vodafone Egypt, told SciDev.Net.
The report suggests governments can work with Internet providers to narrow
the broadband gap by
promoting competition to bring down prices and the sharing of infrastructure
to reduce costs by preventing duplicate efforts. Governments can also
promote Internet centres to offer access to people in poorer regions.
The UNCTAD report also calls for the expansion of underwater fibre optics
network, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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