[Kictanet] Shuttleworth urges telecoms reform

Bill Kagai billkagai at gmail.com
Sun Feb 26 09:45:22 EAT 2006

By Alastair Otter | 24 February, 2006


Ubuntu Linux founder and entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth yesterday hit
out at the African telecommunications sector saying the current
"cartels" as they existed are not able to deliver effective and
affordable bandwidth to the continent.

Shuttleworth, who was speaking during the opening of the Idlelo2
conference in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday, listed bandwidth as the number
one item on his list for an effective ICT strategy for the continent.

Shuttleworth said he had recently spent five weeks travelling through
Asia studying how the different countries used technology to boost
their economies and was amazed to see how South Korea had grown their
economy through "ruthlessly" driving down the cost of bandwidth.
"South Korea now has the cheapest broadband in the world and the
result has been an explosion in innovation. I urge all
[telecommunications] regulators here to go there and learn."

The anchor point of any effective ICT strategy on the continent had to
be bandwidth, he said. "Bandwidth is the lifeblood of the digital

Competition, he said, is a key component of making bandwidth more
affordable but simply licensing second and third operators in a
country was not sufficient. Rather, he said, countries in Africa need
to make better use of their existing wired infrastructure which is a
national asset."

He urged national telecoms regulator on the continent to unbundle
their national infrastructure and develop specialised strategies to
deal with the international, regional, metropolitan, last mile and
rural legs of the communications network.

"We have more than 15 year's global experience in bandwidth and it is
now time to move quickly on these issues," he said.

Shuttleworth said that one of the fundamental challenges still facing
Africa was the continental access through the SAT-3 -- and soon the
EASy -- undersea cables.

"SAT-3 is an inefficient cartel ... and unfortunately it appears that
EASSy (East African Submarine System) is going down the same road and
it will not be able to deliver efficient bandwidth."

"I urge telecommunications regulators to develop a commercial strategy
for delivering effective access to the continent," said Shuttleworth.

Shuttleworth said the other two legs of an effective ICT strategy
would be free and open source software(FOSS) and skills development.

He said that while there would always be a place for proprietary it
was important for people to be aware of the alternatives. Rather than
seeing the promotion of free software as a battle against proprietary
software -- in particular Microsoft -- it was important to understand
that free software just represents a new way of operating. A model in
which it is not so much about the "product" as it is about the

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