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--> Case Studies on Electronic Networking Perhaps no information technology generates as much interest as networking. Bringing electronic networking and Internet capability to a country opens avenues of communications that create hundreds of other opportunities. Computer-based communications provides a means to bridge time and distance to facilitate inter-personal communication. People who have the need or desire to communicate about a particular subject can do so without being either physically present in the same location (as in a conventional meeting), or even available at the same time (as in a telephone conference call or a video teleconference). Electronic communication is in everyday use in many organizations in Africa; however, getting it into place in a new environment poses many challenges. Complex economic, social, political, and legal factors affect the use of the technology and present barriers to its successful implementation. The telecommunications systems in many African countries are suffering from deteriorating equipment and inadequate investment. Telecommunications costs are high in relation to other costs, and participation in some computer-based communication activities can require scarce foreign exchange. Still progress is being made. In the last year or two several African countries have gained full Internet connectivity. Others are creating local networks and adding users one by one until they build a user base large enough to sustain an Internet connection. In the meantime, the users and the system operators are learning valuable skills. The case studies in this section describe the difficult processes that five system operators have gone through in order to build the networking capability in
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--> their countries. These five projects are interconnected since the project managers were introduced to the technology by many of the same people and through many of the same megaprojects. Their individual stories are unique, however, because each author overcame different technological, managerial, and infrastructural constraints. As one author wrote, networking tends to sell itself. The more users you have online, the more users you have waiting to be connected. So, almost one user at a time, these authors are helping to build Africa's information highway.
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--> Electronic Networking for the Research Community in Ethopia by Lishan Adam Lishan Adam has a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and a M.Sc. in Computer Information Systems. He is working towards his Ph.D at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. He has worked in the information field for the last six years, focusing mainly on technology for accessing information, which includes electronic communication networks. Currently, he is the coordinator for the Capacity Building for Electronic Communications in Africa (CABECA) project. His research interests include electronic communications for grassroots institutions, networking technologies, and techniques for building qualitative information systems and networks. Background and Context of the Project This case study describes the challenges faced in setting up a research communication network in Ethiopia. It covers the activities I undertook and the constraints I faced while expanding electronic connectivity to a research community. It also discusses the lessons I learned in the process. Ethiopia is located in the horn of Africa and shares borders with Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. Addis Ababa, the capital city, is often called ''a city for Africa" because it hosts two major organizations: the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). UNECA is the African regional arm of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. UNECA has established and sponsors a number of African institutions to promote all aspects of socioeconomic development of the region. The Pan African Development Information System (PADIS), one such regional institution under UNECA, was created to build both information and networking capability in African countries. PADIS was instrumental in setting up a national electronic network in Ethiopia and in connecting members of the research community to each other locally and with colleagues worldwide.
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--> BOX 1 Under-use of Equipment A recent survey conducted prior to linking colleges outside of the capital city with the network showed that one college received a few modems in 1993 and did not know what to do with them. The modems were locked up in cupboards for two years! There are only a few advanced research institutions and two major universities in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa University, the country's largest university, administers most of the colleges. The Agriculture University of Alemaya, in Harar Province 500 kilometers east of Addis Ababa, is the next largest research center. Health research is undertaken by the medical faculty of Addis Ababa University and at two other research colleges in Gondor and Jimma. The country has several teacher training schools and research centers. The level of scientific and technological information (STI) and infrastructure in these research centers varies. Some colleges lack the most essential resources, such as paper and ink. Others use computers and connect to the local electronic networking host. The need for STI and communication is great, especially by colleges outside of Addis Ababa. The Current STI Environment in Ethiopia Ethiopia is the second poorest country in Africa, having been devastated by long-lasting war, drought, and mismanagement. The national STI environment is generally weak, reflecting the poor economic situation in the country. The transition1 economy is too weak to support the population, which is growing at an annual rate of 3.1 percent, with the fertility rate mounting to 7.5 percent. The STI environment has suffered from the poor economic performance during the last twenty years. All STI centers, including university libraries, have been unable to expand and keep up with demands. There were hardly any books coming to the country during the previous socialist government. According to the head of the Addis Ababa University libraries "most collections are those of the 1960s." Those were the "golden years" of library collection development—when resources were made available to support new acquisitions. Most colleges are not equipped with computers and other information technology tools. The more remote the college from the capital city, the less it is exposed to computing technology. (See Box 1.) Under-use of existing equipment due to lack of training and low quality of maintenance is also common. Lack of knowledge about different hardware contributes to the under-use of computer accessories. Computer equipment is generally expensive. A non-error correcting, 2400 bps modem that costs $ 40.00 in the United States costs the equivalent of $ 200 in Ethiopia. The local price of accessories is between 400 percent to 1500 percent more than the original cost. A bureaucracy for clearing equipment through customs
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--> exasperates most possibilities of getting it through mail order or from friends residing in foreign countries. One additional problem, unique to the country, is related to the use of Ethiopian script. Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries using its own script. The shortage of good, easy-to-use software that is adaptable to local script is a major problem. Generic native-language software interfaces that allow easier storage and retrieval of textual information in local languages and scripts are not well developed. Modern tools, such as Windows [Byte, 1994], that have features for processing data in all languages simultaneously are not readily available in Ethiopia. A lack of good training schools and colleges in computing technology has created a chronic shortage of trained personnel in advanced networking, although Addis Ababa University now offers courses in computer applications and system design. Due to the lack of incentives and of an enabling environment, one seldom finds dedicated computer "gurus." The culture for competition and independent effort to solve complex computing problems is not well developed. Several small computer companies were set up during the transition period but they have not become a source of objective advice in computing technology. Most companies focused on generating quick income through computer applications training. Qualitative and advanced services in networking and local area network (LAN) management are not available at these companies. Due to the lack of a good professional background, techniques such as application development, system integration, and networking are not practiced. The telecommunication sector is another underdeveloped area in the country. National telecommunication service in Ethiopia is owned by the government. Analog telephone2, digital leased lines, and radio links to rural areas are major services of the national operator. There is no modern communication technology. Rural telecommunications is still operator assisted. Packet switching and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) are under consideration. A three to five year queue is usually the case for individual households that wish to install a telephone. Business and international organizations may get telephone lines within one to three months when lines are available. Some institutions have to wait for months to get direct lines. The above national STI environment dictated the type of network technologies we chose to use, as well as the pace at which we could install and apply them. Policy, regulatory, management, and cultural problems were by far the most challenging—even when compared to the technical bottlenecks faced in setting up electronic mail links to the research community. All the same, electronic networking in Ethiopia was started during one of the most rigid governments in Africa.3 Project Description Networking activity in the country began under a project funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC) entitled "Computer Networking in Africa." The aim of the project was to assess the viability of networking between
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--> African institutions. The specific objectives of the project in Ethiopia were to: improve the exchange of scientific information within Ethiopia by establishing a working, efficient, and reliable electronic network that brings contact with other networks locally, regionally, and internationally; develop human resources in electronic networking through training, transfer of skills, and university teaching; develop corps of skilled users in the country through training, trouble-shooting, and ongoing technical support; establish a national scientific network that supports all levels of technologies (Fidonet, UUCP, and TCP/IP, which stands for transmission control protocol/Internet protocol and connotes a full, interactive Internet connection) for various categories of colleges and users under different situations; and set up an Internet link through development of the user base that justifies the cost of a TCP/IP connection. Project Experience and Implementation The first activity of the project in Ethiopia was initiated in September 1991, when the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission, which coordinates the national STI networks, participated in the first African workshop on low cost networking. The workshop provided training on low cost communications technology and charted connectivity strategies among research institutions in Africa and those in Ethiopia. Subsequently other academic institutions (universities, colleges and faculties) began to link to the main national host.4 To date the main national host serves over 1,000 users drawn from NGOs, research institutions, government, business, and others. Researchers evolved from network-"hesitant" to power users. For example, a connection was made to the chemistry department of Addis Ababa University at the beginning of 1993. At that time, a professor said openly "this is a waste of time and of computer resources." In 1995, the department became the top user of the national hub and a center for network support to Addis Ababa University users. Network usage and development activity at the university intensified in October 1993, immediately after a workshop was organized for participants drawn from various departments of the Addis Ababa University. The workshop created conditions for setting up a steering committee to promote networking within the university. The steering committee evolved from a few actors to a full fledged university-wide networking group. It established a networking committee to promote networking in the country and develop connectivity to the Internet. The research community became the second largest user of the national network (See Table 1.) It constitutes 14 percent of PADIS installed sites and 26.2 percent of total local users.
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--> TABLE 1 Composition of PADISnet Users (April 5 1995) User Category Number of installed sites Percent of total sites Average number of users Total number of users Percent Research and academic 39 14 7 273 26.2 NGO 91 32.7 4 364 35 Government 11 4 4 44 4.2 Business 16 5.75 3 48 4.6 Individuals 48 17.25 2 96 9.1 International 72 25.9 3 216 20.7 Media 1 0.4 2 2 0.2 TOTAL 278 100 - 1043 100 Source: PADISnet registration forms. In addition to developing a sound user base that would eventually justify the upgrade to a full Internet connection, one of the major activities of the project at the beginning involved experimenting with a mix of technologies to select the hardware that was most appropriate for working with poor telephone lines. We conducted the experiments using a mix of technologies to arrive at appropriate solutions. We evaluated the following four connection techniques during the process: long distance dial-in to UNIX hosts in North America; UUCP6 link through a leased line by running a gateway software; packet-radio connection to health institutions; and Fidonet7 based mail connection to Internet using GnFido gateway in London. Our first attempt to link researchers in the country used long distance dial-in to UNIX hosts in Canada and the United States. Access to large academic networks such as BITNET was the main interest at the time. A direct dial-in to a UNIX server at Carleton University in Canada was made every day to collect and send messages to the research community. Rudimentary terminal access programs such as Procomm were used to link to the Carleton server. This turned out to be one of the most frustrating means of making connections as the lines broke at almost every trial. Successful connections were so rare that the connection was discontinued after a few months. The cost of telecommunications mounted every month. The cost was made up of: long distance telephone charges; low speed connections (successful connections were at 300 bps); and additional procedures required as a result of long distance dialing and line breaks (i.e., transferring files several times after line breaks; login procedures to packet switching network in the U.S.).
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--> Paying enormous bills every month for long distance connections forced PADISnet to switch to a more cost effective site. While exploring sites, a link using the United Nations Alternate Voice and Data (AVD) leased line to the Institute of Global Communications (IGC) became cheaper and more attractive. The IGC link enabled us to convert local Fidonet messages into UUCP format before leaving the PADIS host via a gateway software. This created conditions for developing local expertise in running gateway software and in experimenting with UUCP packets. However, since the line was devoted to UN communications (voice and fax), it became slow and inadequate for data communications. PADISnet was given only a 15 minute window to send and receive UUCP messages. This was an inconvenience and resulted in the final suspension of the connection after ten months of operation. Another technology used for STI connectivity in Ethiopia was a HealthNet link. PADIS helped to establish this link and to secure its ground station license. The HealthNet ground station, which links to a low earth-orbiting (LEO) satellite operated by SatelLife, was licensed in April 1994—after 18 months of negotiation with the national telecommunications operator. The ground station was installed at a teaching hospital, one of the largest in the country. This connection was not used as effectively as hoped due to the following difficulties: Unreliable power supply. Fluctuation in electric current at the site of the ground station led the system to crash from time to time. Very complex software. A home-written Fidonet software made configuration difficult. Lack of documentation and troubleshooting tools heightened the problem. Synchronization of systems. The HealthNet system is composed of a receiver, transmitter, modem, antenna, microcomputer, satellite, and software. Failure in one or more of these systems resulted in a complete crash of the node from time to time. Lack of an overall plan for user support. The national HealthNet node did not come up with a plan for introducing the technology, connectivity, or regular user support. Low bandwidth. The uplink and downlink speed of the modem and satellite pass time was limited. With growing user demand for bandwidth-intensive documents, such as reports with graphics or images, the system became inadequate. Marketing. The failure to develop an expansion plan and lack of marketing of the services limited its use in the country.
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--> A direct Fidonet connection to the Association for Progressive Communications (see description on page 189) in London using public telephone lines remained the most attractive of all the above techniques. This connection is currently our main link to the global networks and provides all store-and-forward Internet services. Due to a lack of knowledge about the potential of store-and-forward technology, researchers mainly use the email and bulletin board services of the linkage. Some students and a few researchers are exploring other potential services such as: searching the PADIS database using email query; accessing the Hornet bulletin board system (BBS); batch Internet services such as ftp, gopher, and archie through mail; and conferences and Fidonet echo mail. The Hornet BBS is perhaps the most unique application of low cost technology in Ethiopia for information exchange. Hornet offers an introduction to the potentials of electronic information systems and provides a reservoir of background information and discussion on the Horn of Africa. [Parker, 1994] The bulletin board offers: Fidonet conferences (or echoes) to as wide an audience as possible, with no on-site software set-up necessary; a mechanism to exchange information and skills among users of the PADIS system; and a central store of information, files, help, useful Internet addresses, and so on. Simplicity and minimum hardware requirements on the users' side make the BBS more popular. Prompted by this offering, a number of research institutions, including the Addis Ababa University and the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission, are setting up a scientific bulletin board system. Local bulletin board systems connected to information reservoirs, such as databases and tools on CD-ROM, are found to be the most useful tools for STI networking under the local infrastructure. During the last two years, increasing user demands for real time connections, the need for joining the Global Information Infrastructure (GII), and congestion of the host telephone line forced the national node to look for a better technology. At the time of this writing, the node is exploring full Internet connectivity and/or other intermediate solutions. The effort to get a full Internet (TCP/IP) connectivity is hampered by three major problems: high cost of leased lines; institutional and national constraints; and
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--> financial resources to cover implementation and running costs. Leased Line Costs The national telecom operator provides leased lines at a very high tariff. Table 2 shows approximate monthly charges for international leased lines to the United States and South Africa.8 TABLE 2 Cost of Leased Line from Ethiopia to Selected Countries Type of circuit Country Cost/month 19.2 kbits analog USA $4,700 19.2 kbits analog South Africa $6,200 64 kbits digital USA $11,700 64 kbits digital South Africa $15,500 Source: Action plan document of a committee for Bringing Internet To Ethiopia (BITE). National Infrastructure and Political Constraints The low level of infrastructure as well as policy-specific problems continue to hamper the progress of setting up full connectivity to global networks in Ethiopia. Changing the attitude of the government and of the PT&T (the national telecommunication provider) remains one of the most challenging tasks. Some of the national infrastructure and political constraints we face include: competition and unwillingness of the national telecom operator to endorse operation of national cooperative or private nodes; low participation of government institutions in overall network implementation; lack of knowledge of electronic communication by government officials that results in delays to approve research network (see Box 2); education structure and low value accorded to information management, transmission, exchange and use; and lack of a critical mass of trained UNIX experts or "gurus." Despite the above problems, the project continued to work towards improving network access to researchers. The bottom-up approach for building a network (starting from users, soliciting institutional support, and then approaching the government) helped us bypass an often difficult bureaucratic structure in the country. Eventually, the increase in the availability of local "hand holders" and troubleshooters encouraged expansion of the network. The local troubleshooters created
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--> BOX 2 HealthNet in Ethiopia Often government policies work against the introduction of new technologies. Lack of understanding can lead to delays and other frustrations. For example, it was a painful process to secure a HealthNet ground station license for Ethiopia. The process took over 18 months. Simply clearing the ground station equipment from customs took over a month. An engineer from SatelLife, who could have been used for training and set-up, ended up running between the national telecom operator's office and the Ministry of Health. The license was approved with a traffic compensation fee of $350 per month. The ground station, which was donated as national asset to aid in the transmission of health information, was instead treated as a CNN hub. The word "ground station" was found to be misleading for technicians who did not bother to know what a packet radio connection to low earth orbit satellite was. The traffic compensation fee was waived six months later. institutional champions and then the institutional champions helped users get around configuration problems. In time, we motivated others to get connected. Reliability of the network has also contributed towards the diffusion of networking technology in Ethiopia. Network reliability is a function of good systems operators (sysops) running the node, advanced computing technology tools, and reliable telecommunication infrastructure. PADIS' effort to make the system reliable by hiring additional system operators9 and acquiring the latest technologies favored the situation. Other factors that contribute to further network expansion include: the availability of dedicated local champions and the availability of simple network learning tools, such as the Hornet Bulletin Board System. PADIS management played a major role in leading and supporting networking in the country. The availability of information10 at PADIS provided incentive for several users to seek connection to the network. PADIS made its resources available via the network to satisfy users who wanted to go beyond electronic mail. Individual willingness—especially from top government officials—to embrace existing technology and their demand for better services are perhaps the major motivating factors for expansion to a full TCP/IP. Influenced by their former contacts (usually at universities or NGOs in developed countries) researchers who are not connected demand quicker and better connectivity. Contact requirements and realization of benefits of networking compelled several users to demand email services even under difficult circumstances. What are the major benefits that prompted researchers to look for electronic networking?
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--> The Worldwide Web Server Our knowledge of the Internet has grown and we are aware of the rapid growth of the Worldwide Web (WWW) and the trend towards storing more information in hypertext form. Around April 1995, we installed our own WWW server. The ZAMNET homepage is accessible as www.zamnet.zm and contains pointers to information about Zambia, about ZAMNET, to the ZAMNET Gopher, and to a small but growing number of pages developed for ZAMNET's customers. For example: articles from the Post Newspaper are currently published twice weekly before the paper actually reaches the streets; the Zambia National Tourist Board has published information about travel and tourism; and the University of Zambia has published the text of a short leaflet giving background information about the University. We plan to develop all of these areas. In particular several commercial customers are interested in posting information about their companies and services within our WWW pages. Provision of Training Facilities and Courses When ZAMNET was formed in 1994, it occupied one small office within the Computer Centre. In April 1995 we got our own offices that include a training room with capacity for nine networked personal computers. The room was equipped in May with seven multimedia Compaq personal computers and we have set aside three mornings per week to provide training to ZAMNET customers. In addition, this facility has been used to provide sensitization seminars to the staff, deans, and administration from each of the schools at the University. When not in use for training, it is open for these members of University staff to book for an hour at a time, and is also open for members of the public to use at a rate of $7.00 per hour. User Documentation The Internet is a new concept to many people in Zambia and there are few books or magazines about it in the bookshops in the country. Since it is important for customers to have access to information that helps them make the best use of the service they are buying, we decided to provide a book, The Internet Tour Guide, with the ZAMNET subscription. In practice, as explained above, the software included with the books has not been very useful and the books are very American in style and language. However, there are few alternatives until we can produce our own software specific guides. We have spent some time producing detailed
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--> installation instructions for the software that we distribute and these certainly appear to have reduced the number of queries that we field during customer installation. Computerized Accounting The initial chart of accounts was put together by an accountant who has subsequently kept an eye on our progress. We are using Mind Your Own Business (MYOB), a small business accounting package developed in the United States. While quite easy to use, it has been not been adaptable to the multicurrency system we operate (we accept payment in Zambian Kwacha and in U.S. Dollars). We are considering replacing it with a package better suited to our own particular requirements. Determining a Pricing System No two Internet service providers use the same method to charge for their services. Our own method of arriving at our fees was to draw up the budget over the next few years; decide how much emphasis we wanted to put on the basic subscription, the cost of international electronic mail, and the cost of connect time; estimate the number of customers and projected growth rate in each category; and to fiddle with the parameters until we could be sure of breaking even within one year. Since we need to support our traditional users, we added a two-tier pricing structure for commercial and one for non-commercial customers. The resulting fee structure—which entails a signing-on fee, a basic monthly subscription, a per kilobyte charge for international email, and a per hour charge for connect time—has been well received within the country, although we have received some criticism from without. We are always reviewing these fees and plan to increase the free connect time to two hours per month. As yet ZAMNET is not sufficiently financially sound for any radical discounting of the prices. Marketing of the Product To promote ZAMNET to a largely unaware population, we employed a graphic artist to produce a leaflet and eight page brochure. This determined the ''corporate image" of ZAMNET and its style has been copied on price lists, business cards, and advertisements. Over 1,000 brochures have been distributed so far. Advertisements have been placed in the Times of Zambia, Productive Farming, and Profit Magazine . However such has been the interest in the Internet that ZAMNET has benefited from free publicity in articles in all three of Zambia's leading newspapers, plus a lead article in Profit Magazine.
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--> BOX 3 ZAMNET Salaries Even at the relatively (for Zambia) high salaries being offered by ZAMNET, recruitment of the right quality staff was difficult. The package on offer of a two year contract with a salary but no fringe benefits was perhaps not so attractive in a country where housing and transport costs are so high and many employers still provide housing (or housing allowances) and transport to senior information technology professionals. Staff Recruitment The recruitment of the administrator/bookkeeper with a full Association of Accounting Technicians qualification and solid accounting experience proved a lot easier than the recruitment of the technical staff, although an initial plan to recruit a part time administrator was revised when it was fully appreciated just how much would be involved in administering the ZAMNET service. (See Box 3.) Of only 30 applicants for the post of communications technician, six were suitable to interview. Few of these had UNIX experience, and none had any practical experience with internetworking technology. While one member of staff was recruited from the Computer Centre and had been involved in the development of the system from the beginning, the only external recruit is very much learning as he goes along. Results, Impact and Benefits of the Project As part of the billing process it has been necessary to gather comprehensive statistics about the use of the ZAMNET system from the very beginning. A very simple analysis of the connection time and email statistics reveals very rapid growth of the service. ZAMNET is growing at roughly the rate of one new account each day and at the current rate this will lead to ZAMNET more than doubling in size over the next twelve months. Table 1 shows the growth in the number of interactive accounts and the connect time that those accounts have generated. Growth has been constant—with accounts connecting to ZAMNET for an average of just over four hours per month, although the average number of connections per month has increased from 38 in March to 46 in June. This increase perhaps reflects the increased regular use of the system for electronic mail rather than Internet browsing. Table 2 shows the steady growth in the volume of email, although it should be noted that the mail volumes include mail from the Fidonet system which, unlike the connect time data, would have been present before March. Nonetheless the
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--> TABLE 1 Growth of ZAMNET by Month, January 1995 to June 1995 Month Number of Accounts Number of Connections Total Connect Time (hours) January 5 32 5.12 February 26 875 135.08 March 93 3,510 390.26 April 112 4,415 503.87 May 168 6,926 800.77 TABLE 2 Growth of ZAMNET by Month, March 1995 to May 1995 Month International Local Total Count Size Count Size Count Size March 3,505 7,629,575 2,057 7,316,013 5,572 14,945,588 April 4,103 8,535,996 2,522 8,300,020 6,625 16,836,016 May 5,633 13,571,732 2,422 7,498,555 8,055 21,070,287 volume of international mail being sent has nearly doubled in two months. This does not include incoming mail. Interestingly, while the volume of mail to international destinations has increased steadily the volume of mail to local users has remained nearly constant, perhaps reflecting the international requirements of the newer users, and the benefits of ZAMNET in economizing over traditional communication methods (fax, telephone and courier). A Breakdown of the Users The majority of urban users of the non-commercial Fidonet service prior to ZAMNET's formation have now subscribed to the Interactive service. Those remaining with Fidonet include: Users in rural areas (notably the health community) from where telephone calls to Lusaka are expensive, and telephone line quality is often too weak to support interactive communication. University users who will remain on the Fidonet system until the installation of the campus network has been completed. Long term users of the Fidonet system who are due to leave Zambia shortly and therefore do not wish to upgrade to the new interactive service. Some United Nations agencies that are currently planning to connect their own network directly to ZAMNET with a local leased data circuit but, in the interim, would prefer to continue to use the technology with which their users are familiar.
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--> Looking at the geographical and categorical breakdown of the Fidonet and interactive subscribers, it is clear that the vast majority of users of both systems are Lusaka based. (See Table 3.) While this is not surprising, the significantly smaller concentration of users on the Copperbelt, Zambia's other major urban area, is more unusual and perhaps can be explained by the greater difficulty in fully supporting a service to users who are based outside of Lusaka. It will be necessary to consider a point of presence on the Copperbelt to rectify this and also to consider ways in which greater support can be provided to rural users. TABLE 3 Users by Province Province Fidonet Interactive Total Lusaka Province 38 165 203 Copperbelt 6 12 18 Southern Province 7 4 11 Western Province 7 3 10 Eastern Province 5 1 6 Northern Province 3 2 5 Northwestern Province 0 3 3 Luapula Province 1 1 2 Central Province 0 2 2 TOTAL 67 193 260 Analysis of the new interactive subscribers by category is particularly difficult. (See Table 4.) Beyond learning that companies are commercial, no attempt has been made to determine the line of work in which a subscribing company is involved. Many of the private individuals joining ZAMNET as non-commercial subscribers are attached to development organizations or international NGOs and use their points professionally. Again we have made no attempt to survey the uses made of email and so further analysis is impossible. BOX 4 Email to Fax Service ZAMNET has recently reached an agreement with GreenNet in London that allows ZAMNET customers to send email messages to fax machines. These messages are delivered to London via the Internet and are then delivered from there at the cost of the delivering phone call. For faxes to Europe and to North America, this results in a total fax cost of less than 50 cents per page. An informative acknowledgment email message confirms to the sender whether or not the fax has been delivered. Delivery times are usually less than 20 minutes after the email has been sent, which is perfectly satisfactory for ZAMNET's customers.
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--> TABLE 4 Users by Category Category Fidonet Interactive Total Private 2 53 55 Health 30 18 48 University/Research 18 11 28 Development 6 18 24 Agriculture 8 9 17 Religion 1 15 16 Government 0 6 6 Education/Schools 0 5 5 Environment 0 5 5 Tech Training 0 2 2 Journalism 0 1 1 Other 2 4 6 Commercial 0 46 46 TOTAL 67 193 259 Apart from the 55 private individual accounts and 46 commercial accounts, the largest category among the rest of the accounts is in health. As indicated by the number of accounts still using Fidonet, many health and agriculture accounts were users of the previous non-commercial service. Since the new ZAMNET service was put in place there has been a growing interest from a number of religious organizations active in Zambia (most of whom have head offices in the United States or Europe), and encouragingly recent interest from the Ministries of Finance and of Foreign Affairs. Feedback ZAMNET has received very positive feedback from its customers within and outside of Zambia. Zambian expatriates write to us saying how proud they feel that Zambia is only the fifth African country to establish a full Internet service. Starved on information about their home country, they are eager to see expanded news and information services through ZAMNET. ZAMNET customers within Zambia are particularly pleased with the cost savings that communicating by email has brought. With international telephone calls to North America and Europe billed at $7.00 per minute, the ability to make a cheap local telephone call and send an email message for about 20 cents per page is very attractive. To find that this message is delivered reliably and within minutes is an added bonus. (See Box 4.) Media Coverage As the Internet has received more and more coverage in the international media, ZAMNET has correspondingly come under the spotlight within Zambia.
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--> The Zambia Daily Mail, the Times of Zambia, and the Weekly Post have all published articles about the Internet and its arrival in Zambia (the Post subsequently subscribing to the ZAMNET service). Profit Magazine, Zambia's leading business magazine published a full leading article about ZAMNET complete with a front page image of some example WWW pages captured from the Internet. The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation has regular computing and business programs that make reference to information technology and the Internet. We hope that a full interview with the Managing Director of ZAMNET will be broadcast soon, while plans exist to connect ZNBC to ZAMNET in the near future. Further afield, the efforts that Zambia has made to provide an email service and to establish a full Internet connection have been mentioned several times on the African service of the BBC World Service. In fact when the BBC began using email and started accepting questions to their Pop Science program, the very first email question that they received came from an email user in Ndola, Zambia. Analysis of Lessons Learned Just four months after the ZAMNET product was made available to the public, its existing infrastructure is already creaking. Its communications link to the rest of the Internet is becoming congested at certain times of the day. Its mail server is overloaded and does not have the memory or disk capacity to cope with a significant increase in either the number of ZAMNET customers, or in the number of Internet users from outside of Zambia accessing its information services. Without a doubt the main area where ZAMNET might have been launched differently was in its technical capacity. Capital Funding ZAMNET's initial budgets should have been significantly higher and included items vital to the provision of a high quality, high volume, large customer base service. Namely, in hindsight, we should have begun with a SUN workstation, VSAT communications, a router capable of handling asynchronous communication, and a full set of equipment to provide backup in the event of system failures. While these items would have increased the initial cost of ZAMNET significantly, repayment of that cost could have been spread over a number of years. Staff Training Providing technical support from a position of considerable inexperience has been difficult. While the staff currently in place are learning fast, sustainability of the ZAMNET service is not only dependent upon them but also on the availability of suitable staff to supplement and replace the existing staff in the future. With this
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--> in mind there needs to be greater opportunities for Zambians to learn about Internet technology without having to travel outside of the region. Conclusions and Recommendations ZAMNET is providing an important and much needed service to all sectors of Zambian society: businesses and industries need a fast, reliable and economical communications system in order to compete within the newly liberalized Zambian economy; international development organizations need to keep in regular touch with their projects in the field and their head offices overseas; the academic sector and researchers need access to the latest research and need to keep abreast of international developments in their field; government ministries need an efficient means of communication with district and provincial offices in the fields of agriculture, health and education; and private individuals wish to keep in touch with their friends abroad or simply wish to use the Internet as a vast encyclopedia. Both commercial and non-commercial customers have shown a willingness to pay the fees that ZAMNET has set in order to cover the considerable costs of its service. Because its customers now rely upon its service, ZAMNET needs to ensure its future both technically and economically. At the current, very fast growth rate, the system will be overstretched within twelve months, by which time the customer base should have more than doubled to over 600 accounts. The resulting reduced performance could seriously damage the positive image of ZAMNET. Meanwhile the lack of technical backup within the system leaves the whole service vulnerable in the event of an equipment failure. The downside of this is the capital expenditure involved in safeguarding against possible disasters. ZAMNET urgently needs to look at ways it can improve and upgrade its services. Increasing the Bandwidth The capacity of the Internet link between Lusaka and Cape Town will not be able to support 20 simultaneously connected users without a significant and noticeable deterioration in performance. The most promising option for increasing the capacity of this link appears to be a direct VSAT link from the ZAMNET offices in Lusaka to our Internet service provider in Cape Town, or failing that, an alternative link direct to the United States or United Kingdom. Although continued cooperation with counterparts in the region would be desirable, progress in
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--> negotiations with Telkom (the South African PTT) have not been productive so far. Based on the cost estimates provided so far, we know that the hardware costs of a VSAT link, plus annual rental and license fees should prove cheaper than the line we are leasing from ZAMNET and TELKOM at a cost of over $60,000 per year. The disadvantages of this strategy will be the expertise expected of the technical support staff and the cost of paying for both the existing and the VSAT link during the transition. Indeed it may be desirable to maintain the existing link to provide redundancy in the event of failure of the VSAT connection. Increasing Dial-up Access With the current customer base, we have rarely observed more than eight ports on the Portmaster modem server active simultaneously. Further expansion to serve 600 customers, while also accommodating increased activity among the existing users, is likely to put severe pressure on our dial-up. This expansion can only be accommodated through the purchase of a second modem server and a further batch of dial-up telephone lines. Over the next year a number of leased line customers will also subscribe to ZAMNET thus putting further pressure on the number of free ports available on the existing system. Covering for Equipment Failures The current system is highly vulnerable in the event of any kind of equipment failure. ZAMNET service would be lost in the event of: the loss of the leased line modem at either end of the data circuit that links ZAMNET to the Internet; the loss of the router linking the ZAMNET LAN to the Internet; or the loss of the Portmaster providing local access to the Internet to ZAMNET customers. None of this equipment is readily available within Zambia and, even if finances were available, the resulting loss of service while replacements were being shipped from abroad could last for several days and have a serious impact on the image of ZAMNET among its customers. Spare items to replace those listed above would cost about $8,000. Increase Capacity on Mail and Information Servers The current mail server is running on a 40 MHz 486 PC with just 8 megabytes of RAM and a 400 megabyte hard disk and is already overloaded. As the number of customers and the volume of local information being provided to users outside of Zambia increases, the burden on this machine will also increase. A
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--> second machine is currently being configured as a News Server to accommodate the growing number of useful log files that the system generates. However this machine is itself only a 25 MHz personal computer, albeit with a one gigabyte hard drive. ZAMNET needs to invest in a much more powerful personal computer with at least 32 megabytes of RAM and another high capacity hard drive. Ideally ZAMNET would seek to obtain a SUN workstation or equivalent, which is capable of running some of the software needed for maintaining the Portmaster and for monitoring traffic passing through the Cisco router. However the cost of such a SUN machine would be $10,000 or more! Expanding the Range of Provided Services There is an immediate need to provide a News Server to enable ZAMNET's customers to participate in the many discussion groups available over the Internet. Work to configure such a Server is currently under way, although the impact of a full news feed on the limited bandwidth of the Internet connection has yet to be determined. It is likely that such a feed would be dependent on the implementation of the VSAT link. As the Internet develops further, other applications will be developed and ZAMNET needs to be in a position to make these applications available to its customers (within the limitations of the bandwidth of its Internet connection). Current examples include "Real Audio" and the ability to communicate by voice over the Internet. Increasing Technical and Administrative Support ZAMNET currently employs just three staff, one administrator and two technical support staff. This team is severely stretched in its efforts to provide support and to develop the ZAMNET staff. We have decided to employ an assistant administrator to ease the workload. With the anticipated growth, it will be important for ZAMNET to employ at least one additional skilled and experienced technical member of staff within the next twelve months. With both the contracts of the ZAMNET technical staff due for renewal at the same time, the possible impact of these employees departing at the end of their contracts also needs to be anticipated. Looking Forward This chapter was written in June 1995 and I want to provide a quick update. By January 1996, ZAMNET had grown to accommodate 417 interactive accounts. These accounts generated 9,558 connections totalling 1,600 hours of connect time and 12,862 international messages. This is a growth rate of 100 percent in just
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--> eight months. We have taken several steps to ease the growing congestion on both the Internet link and the server computers and to provide protection in the event of system failures: We ordered the VSAT terminal equipment and it has been shipped from the United States. We need to complete some administrative procedures before it can be used but we hope that a 64 kilobaud VSAT connection direct from ZAMNET's offices to Johannesburg will be operational before the end of March 1996. We maintain the Portmaster users table on the WWW server machine using Livington's Radius software. We moved the WWW server from the mail server to a second computer, which has been configured as a News Server, although we still do not receive a full news feed from the Internet. We just ordered a new mail server (a Pentium 120 with 32 megabytes of RAM and a 2 gigabyte hard drive). We have recruited a new assistant administrator. Within the next year ZAMNET plans to increase the number of access telephone lines to 40 and purchase an extra 20 V34 modems and a second Portmaster to serve these lines; employ two additional technical staff, a marketing manager, and another junior administrator; and provide local telephone access to customers based in the Copperbelt. We have proven that the provision of an Internet service is viable and can pay for itself. The costs of expansion require capital expenditure and, ultimately, an injection of capital from investors either in the form of loans or in the broadening of shareholding is required. Most importantly, however, several months before the end of the World Bank funding, ZAMNET is self-sufficient and is able to buy new equipment from its own funds and to guarantee repayment on any loans it requires. This healthy position should enable ZAMNET to significantly reduce its fees within the next three months and to continue to expand services to meet it customers' demands. NOTES 1. The East and Southern African Academic Network (ESANET) is described more fully in Musisi's case study in this volume. See page 158. 2. Moussa Fall gives a more detailed description of Fidonet in his case study in this volume. See page 143. 3. Each member of the Fidonet system has a unique address. This address identifies the zone, the host, and the node. The point number will ensure that a message gets to a specific user in the node's subsystem.
Representative terms from entire chapter: