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UN Tech Group Finds Most Expensive Broadband 89

destinyland writes "In the Central African Republic, broadband internet service costs 3891% of the average monthly income. 'Put another way, a month's broadband service costs more than three years' average wages in the country,' notes one technology blog, 'compared with less than two hours' earnings in Macau.' A United Nations' technology group released the figures in a new report in advance of a September 19 summit on the digital divide in developing countries. ('We are trying to avoid a broadband divide,' said Dr. Hamadoun Toure, the secretary general of the UN's International Telecommunications Union.) Their agency noted that the rate for broadband penetration is below 1% in many poor countries, with monthly costs higher than the average monthly income. 'By contrast,' notes the BBC, 'in the world's most developed economies, around 30% of people have access to broadband at a cost of less than 1% of their income.' And the report also estimates that there are 5 billion cellphones in the world — though some people may own more than one."
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UN Tech Group Finds Most Expensive Broadband

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  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jmoen ( 169557 ) <<jmoen> <at> <foco.no>> on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:42PM (#33482164) Homepage

    I have been to many african countries and the only way the are able to communicate with work, family and friends is through mobile phone. There is no infrastructure for wired communications and the postal service is almost non existant or cost a furtune (also there is a lack of places where you can pick up the mail). You can be in the middle of nowhere and you find a mobile phone mast and people with mobile phones. Many of them do in fact have several phones, one on each major provider, as the providers not always peer with each other or the peering is defunc. Mobile serivce is cheap as long as you call people on same carrier, thus another reason for more than one phone.

  • Re:Um...yeah. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:52PM (#33482190) Homepage

    My experience is that Africa is concerned with looking modern more than actually being modern.

    The average rural African citizen hears from the politicians that cell phones and internet are the indications of modern life, so they support the "ultracorrupt asshats" who promise to bring them such things. They manage to live their lives without decent infrastructure already, so why bother building more?

    Clean water? There's a stream nearby that only has six ducks defecating next to it. That's good enough.

    A sewage system? There's a nice ditch that's cleaned by floods at least once a year. That's good enough.

    Televisions? Yes! America has them, and Barack Obama is going to buy one for every American! We need them, too!

    As awful as it sounds, I think this will eventually lead to a fully modern infrastructure, but it'll be different from the Western norm. In Ghana, one of the largest employers is the telephone company, who builds cell towers in the middle of nowhere connected via satellite. That means a push for service roads, stable electricity, and a network of independent distributors of pay-as-you-go credits. It's certainly not fast, but the trickle-down economy is working a little.

    (While volunteering in Ghana, I was actually told "You are American? You have Obama! He will buy a TV for all Americans!")

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:20PM (#33482296)

    I don't understand what you mean. Comparing cell phone prices to average income in a country tells you something about effective availability of cell phone communciation in that country. I don't think it's meaningful to say that it's "unfair" to do so. Who is it being unfair to?

  • Re:Um...yeah. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by m50d ( 797211 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:27PM (#33482320) Homepage Journal

    What's going to reduce corruption and produce stable infrastructure? Democracy, an interested populace, and prosperity through economic growth. All things that getting broadband out there is going to help with.

    Sure, you could try and bring them up by going through the exact same development path we did - but that's going to leave those nations permanently x years behind. The best way to bring a society forward rapidly is investment in science and technology, and there's no sense going for anything but the best.

  • Re:Um...yeah. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <DesScorp@noSpAM.Gmail.com> on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:42PM (#33482374) Homepage Journal

    While volunteering in Ghana, I was actually told "You are American? You have Obama! He will buy a TV for all Americans!"

    Why were you surprised at this? You've got Americans thinking he'll pay their bills for them too [youtube.com].

  • by Thing 1 ( 178996 ) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @06:17PM (#33483892) Journal

    But in the poorest countries, things are different. Massively accessible broadband would not improve jack squat until people can actually read and write, until they are not dying of hunger and disease.

    I wonder ... perhaps their governments could create some videos, in the native language, to teach skills? This would not require the population to be able to read and write. (Getting to the site with the instructional videos, though, might require a bit of effort... Like perhaps creating an XO-like device, which when first started will show a video describing its operation.)

    The idea being, they can use this advanced technology to bootstrap themselves into the present, or even future, instead of taking the same slow laborious path that we took. Shoulders of giants, and all that.

    In fact, the skills that are taught in these videos could even be "reading and writing," helping the citizenry climb up to first-world levels of technology that much sooner.

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