Archive for December, 2009

Best weather on planet earth?

Having lived there for over a year, Bunia (DRC) stays on top of my list. I do have a soft spot for Africa, and best part, it has opened up its entire bureaucratic authoritarianism to connect the world. Well, I know there have been loads of improvements in parts like health care, education and food security, but then I have to cling on to the things when it comes to communication.

Don’t fall flat when you hear a total of seven (Cable Systems) undersea fibre optic cables, with an aggregate capacity of 10.94 terabytes (10,940 gigabytes), have landing stations along the entire coast line around Africa. As referred in last September in Allafrica.com , submarine fibre optic cables landing in Africa include SAT-3, 120 gigabytes, Main-one, another cable system – 1.92 terabytes, Glo-one, 640 gigabytes, East African Submarine Cable System (EASSY), 1.3 terabytes, South Asia Telecom Cable (SEACOM), 1.2 terabytes, The Eastern African Marine Systems (TEAMS), 640 gigabytes, and the largest of them all, West Africa Cable System (WACS), 5.12 terabytes. This WACS, according to another report, the capacity will rise to around 10 Tb/s by the end of 2011, or 120 times the 2008 capacity.

TEAMS, according to the said source, is being constructed at $82 million; EASSY, $235 million; Main One, $240 million, SEACOM, $600 million, whiles WACS, SAT-3 and GLO1 are equally multi-million dollar projects. It feels great when Africans are reaching out for endless possibilities, cutting the bureaucratic channels, common sense regulation, sometimes others tend to miss.

And, here on the West Coast of Africa, some other cable systems including SAT-3 (14,000km), WACS (14,000km) and Main one (14,000 km) connect Europe to South Africa, stretching from Portugal, with several landing stations along the western coast of Africa down to the south; Glo1 (9,500km) connects United Kingdom to Nigeria, landing in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Ghana. Can you believe that?

And then, to the East of Africa there is EASSY, which connects South Africa to Sudan, with several landing stations along the eastern coast; SEACOM (15,000km) connects France to India, with at least seven landing stations in Africa, from South Africa through the eastern coast to Egypt in the north.

According to TEAMS, which is 4,500km long cable system and links Kenya with the United Arab Emirates, with possible (some have come up already) landing stations in Rwanda, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

How about a pictorial? At least, you might say, seeing is believing!

It is for real! Africa is connecting! What is it happening there? Click for more.

Let me go back to Stanford’s brilliant work on Internet end-to-end performance monitoring solution at IEPM. This group at Stanford monitors network connectivity and end-to-end performance for sites involved in Internet2, the U.S. D.o.E funded laboratories, laboratories throughout the world, and Institutes and Universities throughout the world involved in data intensive science. What else do you see there?

PingER monitors over 165 sites in 50 African countries!

Guess what, just yesterday, Tunisie Telecom has brought digital independence (similar concept like Digital Bangladesh) to Tunisia by landing the country’s first 100% African-owned subsea cable in Europe connects North Africa to Interoute’s pan European next-generation network, via Interoute’s landing station in Sicily.

The cable system provides Tunisia with an additional route to the Sea-Me-We-4 and Keltra submarine cables, providing a redundant and reliable international network for its incumbent, (like BTCL here in Bangladesh) Tunisie Telecom. The cable’s total capacity of 3.2 Terabytes/s is more than seven times greater than that of SEA-ME-WE-4 cable that had been serving Tunisia previously. Bangladesh has a lone route to SEA-ME-WE-4.

Too much regulation sometimes kills things. My understanding, light handed approach has been a success case in emerging countries. As per regulation body of knowledge,

Light-handed regulation allows the firm discretion in how it meets regulatory targets. Regulation that is not intrusive, in contrast to command and control or even cost of service regulation. This process is designed to reduce information requirements and high compliance costs, while introducing clear incentives for good performance.

The report by Joyce Sadka says it all.

For me, its about a simple math on demand and supply!

Happy Victory Day!

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I’m pretty good at paying late fees. Keeping additional funding for my university and other utility bills has become more common rather than to go out and pay within the timeframe.

Paying from anywhere!

The phrase “go out” has other meanings too. If your office is understaffed, you can’t get out, and even if you manage time to get to some banks (because, they operate even less than our office time), maneuvering the transportation takes hours (even if you own one, I don’t), and the traffic will take almost four hours to get there and come back to your workplace. If you need to buy things, money withdrawal requires you personally being in the bank, unless you authorize someone doing your stuffs.

If you add all up, these household chores (paying all the bills, installments, money withdrawal and late fees like mine) related to money transfer, 30 man hours/month is required equating to 4 business days. Let alone, you traversing all over the city causing traffic congestion every day.

The basic understanding is about more spending, by individuals or corporations or the government, means more demand, more production, more jobs, more prosperity. When money rotates, you get the best value; everybody gets the chance of having it. There are statistics when billions of taka stay in people pocket, doesn’t get its valuation from the financial institution because, even if you want to spend, there is no mechanism, no way!

Sending money for my maid’s parents would have saved them from traveling to Dhaka every month. Thanks to SA travels, for making it easier for millions of people, unofficially. Yes, there is a great demand for it, and then if the services are not approved, people will innovate it!

If people became really aware where their money flows, they may make different decisions about how they spend their money, and communities may make different political, economic, and social choices. Right now, I wanted to buy a report from a consulting farm, legally I can’t! It’s not about that 49 USD going outside of the country, but online transactions are recorded, not the offline one.

How do you automate the whole money flow chain? If I could pay my university not leaving my office, they would have got the money in time. I could have spent some more time writing another directive for my office.

It might sound weird but African nations have developed many fold when it comes to money transaction. Think of award winning M-Pesa, the mobile payment system which works as a branchless banking service, meaning that it is designed to enable users to complete basic banking transactions without the need to visit a bank branch. This M-pesa program alone, is working in Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, South Africa, Afghanistan and even in our neighbouring India. As wiki says “The service enables its users to: −Deposit and withdraw money, −Transfer money to other users and non-users, −Pay bills, −Purchase airtime”, the last two are already here! Telco regulator has approved it long ago!

Please compare the bank account holders with the mobile users as 19 million (most of them have three or four accounts, as these branches are yet to be centralized): 52 million. I’m impressed with all the directives on ecommerce and mobile payment from the financial regulator, Bangladesh Bank. This is the best of the both world for any financial institute starting these services! Previously banks were against telco led mobile payment systems, now they have the approval with bank led/bank focused model, but readiness is in question.

All they have to do is talk to telecommunication regulator and mobile companies integrating their modus operandi to start the services. The telco regulator have initiated the process, the financial regulator have opted for a National Payment Switch (NPS) which has to be in place in two years time creating a common platform for all the banks in internet banking and e‐commerce. There are talks on revenue sharing model on amounts being transacted, business model and MoU would dictate that. But, if you ask me, does your ISP charge you when you buy things online? You pay a flat fee for using Internet only.

They relaxed the option on setting NPS, like when NPS isn’t there, providers are allowed to use interim measures for interoperability among the existing payment networks.

What else do you want?

I’m with you, want to spare more time in productivity for the country. Let the cash roll; let everybody participate in country’s productivity. Let SMEs to start their businesses within the comfort zone of a home!

Taking away four business days – in a month does hurt the productivity!

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