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Thursday, December 15, 2005

SAT-3 is underutilised – OSIWA boss

Executive Director, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Mrs. Nana Tanko, has expressed dismay over the underutilization of the SAT-3 sub-marine cable.

Established on May 27, 2002 by the Senegalise president, Mr. Abdoulaye Wade, SAT 3 is portrayed as the world’s first undersea optic fibre cable system around Africa onto Europe and Asia.

The SAT3/WASC/SAFE cable system is certainly a technology and commercial breakthrough of unparalleled significance for the continent. It is proposed to offer a faster, more efficient trading channel between the continent and international markets.

The executive director in an address to recent workshop on “Achieving Affordable Bandwidth in West and Central Africa” organized by her office in Senegal, noted that it is a fact that over $600 million has exchanged hands in terms of repatriation done annually to telcos outside the continent whereas these funds could be used to revive some basic connectivity issues in the regions.

She had invited participants at the three-day event to deliberate on one of the key issues and challenges of today’s information society – access and connectivity to the people on the continent.

“It is true that the SAT-3/WASC infrastructure is nearing its mid-life but is yet underutilized,” she said.

Stressing that the tele-density, which is the ratio of telephone per 100 persons on the continent is still far lower than in most states in the United States (US).

She pointed out that given that access to the internet and to information for instance, would ameliorate the poverty situation that most Africans are faced with, “it has not yet become real to most of our country men in the rural areas. How then do we ensure that poverty is aligned to lack of information?”

Mrs. Tanko who spoke at the event held in Le Palm Beach at Sally,
Senegal, further enjoined the workshop on “how do we ensure that increase in
knowledge will lead to a reduction in poverty? Is the mathematical correlation
feasible in today’s poverty stricken continent? How do we take these issues to
the man at the grassroots? and how does increased knowledge lead to transparent
and good governance?”

She recalled that at the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the issues of Internet Governance (IG) were raised with Africa again taking the sidelines in deliberations or not being considered at all in the final outcomes of the summit.

“We see ourselves and our governments increasingly involving in global politics that should be seen to be transparent and inclusive but the outcomes generally favor certain organizations, countries, cartels or groups,” she observed.

Such is the situation the continent is currently faced with, she said, noting that the workshop on “Achieving affordable Bandwidth” was a tall order by itself.

Mrs. Tanko also “wondered what is affordable, how is affordability
judged in relation to the poverty situation in the West African region and to
the continent as a whole.”

The OSIWA boss underscored that these issues are disturbing and the fact that there may be existing solutions to the questions of connectivity, access to information and the rights of access of an average citizen to information.“

At least not within the context of human thoughts especially considering the complex nature of technology and the weave that this has with country specific and global economics as a whole” she said.

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