Potentials and challenges in the provisioning of broadband services in Serengeti. : ICT for rural development - sustainability of a broadband island in rural Tanzania
Access to high speed communication networks is taken for granted by many people in developed parts of the world. Broadband is becoming an integrated part of the modern infrastructure and Internet access is considered a human right in some of the most developed countries. Access to broadband communication networks has a lot of potential for undeveloped areas but is very rare in these locations. In places with poor transportation and bad roads efficient ways to communicate could make a great difference.
In places where a national broadband network is missing dependency on national coordination can be circumvented by the creation of broadband islands with limited or no access to the Internet but high speed links locally. If relevant services are available locally this can drastically improve local communication. The ICT for rural development program (ICT4RD) aims to introduce sustainable broadband services in the Bunda and Serengeti districts in rural Tanzania through the creation of such a broadband island.
For this purpose the two district capitals Bunda and Mugumu have been connected with a fiber optical line and a number of users have been connected in each town.
They also share a narrowband Internet link in Bunda with a capacity of 128/64 kbps that offers the users narrowband access to the internet.
A number of services have also been installed on the servers in Bunda and Mugumu.
The primary goals for this thesis is to improve the relevance of the current network for the local users through means of bandwidth optimization, improving the local content, implementing local services and identifying critical aspects to ensure long term sustainability. To achieve these goals a field study was performed at the pilot site in Tanzania and information gathered through interviews, observations and external research. Services and systems were prepared in Sweden and tested, implemented or demonstrated on site. Important activities performed on site included gathering of requirements for bandwidth optimization using a caching and proxy server, testing of a videoconferencing system for the healthcare sector and demonstration of a recently developed reporting system for the local governments. A great demand for local content especially for the educational and healthcare sectors was also identified. There are however problems and room for improvements in several areas to ensure the sustainability of the network.
More users need to be connected for the network to have a potential of becoming financially sustainable in the long run. To achieve this, content and services offered should be relevant to potential users, issues with the stability and availability of the network need to be resolved, communication between different stakeholders need to be improved and efforts should be put on teaching local people how to use computers by educating them and offering free of charge or very cheap introductory access to computers courses.
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