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Enabling Open Access through Universal Access PDF Print E-mail


In view of the ongoing debates about how to reduce bandwidth costs in Africa, and discussions about how the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) should be managed, APC is supporting the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) to develop a series of papers that discuss issues concerning Open Access fibre optic systems and how they can benefit from Universal Access programmes in Africa.

Among other things, this paper:

1) Addresses the factors that inform Universal Access in Africa;

2) Makes the case for Open Access infrastructure in addressing the continent’s connectivity headaches;

3) Examines the flaws that are common in African connectivity programmes, including the shortage of useful content and the failure to create sustainable demand for service;

4) Presents the case of the Ugandan and Kenyan rural access programmes and scrutinises areas that may fail their Universal Service aspirations; and

5) Concludes that regional infrastructure undertakings like EASSy require Universal Access to be correctly implemented and to address demand in order for Open Access principles to prevail.

Several African countries have adopted Universal Access principles as part of their efforts to extend modern communication services to disadvantaged areas. The thinking is that Universal Access will help bridge the digital divide within countries, whereby urban areas tend to have better and often more affordable connectivity compared to rural/disadvantaged areas.

Increasingly, the principle of Open Access is also gaining currency for similar reasons: countries seek to lower the cost of extending connectivity and enhance the affordability of ICT services. Some countries are embracing Open Access not only for regional infrastructure backbones, but also promulgating it for national ICT infrastructure.

This paper questions whether Open Access will bear much fruit if Universal Access does not significantly go beyond the mere provision of connectivity, to creating effective demand.

Open Access_Universal Access
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