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 Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1999 From: Chris Lowe, _Oregon Humanities_ <email@example.com> Regarding Robert White's proposed Ethiopian coffee scenario: I think that the cost structure described must turn on shipping the beans green and in bulk. Once coffee beans are roasted they go stale relatively quickly. I think the costs of retail shipping of roasted beans to individual N. Am. or even European consumers from Ethiopia with sufficient speed that connoisseur consumers would be happy would be prohibitive. This would be true either for the co-ops, or for the present exporters, who seem like more likely to get into a position to use the internet than the co-ops. Also roasting N. American style requires specific equipment and training in using it, in which co-ops would need to invest. Possibly some sort of marketing of "authentic Ethiopian-style roasting" could find a specialty market, but I doubt it would be economical. Possibly the co-ops could market their green beans in bulk more directly to N. Am. or European roasters. Apparently at present the overhead costs of exporting are absorbed by the exporters. The question for the co-ops would be whether it would be worth investing in the facilities, machinery, and training or hiring of skilled personnel, in order to gain whatever might be gained by cutting out the wholesale exporters. Which would mean some loss to the latter & thus perhaps more redistributionn within the Ethiopian economy rather than net gain. *****  Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 From: David Coplan, U of the Witwatersrand <031DAVID@muse.wits.ac.za> Afrophiles: Yes, getting the Net up to speed in Africa is a problem, but no, it isn't an essential African Thing. It is a matter of resources. 95% of all websites in Africa are in South Africa. Egypt is next with 2%. The rest share 3% The net depends on infrastructure - wiring and phones etc., and since Africa is only reponsible for 1% of world GDP the resources are simply not forthcoming. Universities do not have money for it because the societies around them cannot justify such expenditure on the sector, unless one really wishes to argue that universities are entitled to be arrogantly elite institutions that must be publicly provisioned far beyond the general social level. Colleagues at African universities nevertheless carry on, even here in chaotic Johannesburg. I love the comment by our colleague who observed that the electicity comes back on eventually. I just wish it would happen sooner and more often at U. Ibadan which I have been trying to reach without success all week. Then again, it's better at the U. than in the city of Ibadan itself where there is no piped drinking water and the nights are illminated with millions of kerosene tin candles, not the glow of the video monitor. Yet our comrades there remain in good spirits. Why not then the rest of us? Peace & Good Will to all our people, in or out of Africa. *****  Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 From: Don Osborn <firstname.lastname@example.org> The realities regarding internet - and ICTs more broadly - in Africa are multiple. Major cities offer more opportunities than smaller ones, but ICTs are still accessible by few; most universities are "underconnected;" and rural areas, of course, generally have nothing. In Bamako I can use one of two internet "cafes" for about $2-3 an hour (1500 FCFA at Bintta & 2000 FCFA at Spider; a student pays 1000 FCFA at Spider; $1=600 FCFA). This is a lot for most Malians, but still the 5 computers at Bintta & the ~20 at Spider are almost always in use, mainly by Malians (though foreigners are a significant proportion of users). I'm not sure why, but the hourly rate is half or less of what I paid at a "cyber-cafe" in Creteil near Universite Paris XII (1 FF / minute; 40 FF per hour paid in advance; 1 FF = 100 FCFA). Across the river here in Bamako, the Universite du Mali is not connected but, as I understand it, there is a project to establish a link. Up country in Timbouctou a "multipurpose comunity telecenter" has been set up with computers, internet, fax, & telephone (a brief description appeared in the December "bYtES For aLL" newsletter [e-distributed from India] and on the GKD discussion list - http://www.globalknowledge.org/english/archives/mailarchives/gkd/gkd-nov99/0 017.html ). Interestingly, there is mention of expanding this to "701 rural communities," although it isn't specified how this would be done or what kind of ICTs would be involved. The availability of ICTs, even basic phone service, to rural areas, of course, has many practical benefits. To give an example of interest in the context of this discussion, an article entitled "Are Developing Countries on the Brink of a Digital Abyss?" in the April _Information Technology in Developing Countries_ ( http://www.iimahd.ernet.in/~subhash/current.htm ) mentioned that the first thing farmers do when given access to phones is to check prices of their produce. In Chile, Mexico, and the Philippines, were able to use this information to increase profits by about 15%. So the example of selling premium Ethiopian coffee, or even handmade crafts, etc. over the internet may not be too farfetched. However, there are obviously big questions. Where is the funding going to come from even if the prices of equipment fall? Who would really benefit from the investment (and what effect would it have on funding for other programs benefitting the poorest)? Would increased computer availability presume use only in international/official languages (thinking here for instance of "701" villages in Mali)?