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Issue 7: Developing Countries - Lessons for Africa

Politics and Technology Converge: Case Studies on the Effects of Regulatory Reform on VSAT Adoption in Developing Countries

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D: LESSONS FOR AFRICA

The country case studies illustrate the influence of regulatory reforms on the deployment of satellite technologies. It is worth noting that irrespective of GDP levels in these countries, VSATS have an important role to play in social and economic development. Developed countries like the U.S. with high GDPs allowed blanket licensing of VSATS long ago and seeing the benefits in business, government, health, education and other sectors. It can also be observed that developing countries like India with low GDPs that are increasingly undergoing policy reforms in favor of VSAT adoption are seeing substantial benefits from their use.

Technological advances tend to be hampered when regulatory regimes do not favor them. The country case studies show that this is exactly the case with VSAT technologies. The key to VSAT adoption has been an environment fostering economic growth accompanied by supportive regulation. This research raises important questions for developing countries, especially those countries in Africa whose governments have required that each VSAT terminal be licensed in addition to the licensing of network operators.

In Africa, high tariffs for international companies operating in-country or across national boundaries will continue to hamper growth in the VSAT market, thus slowing economic growth as well. There is a need to streamline VSAT licensing and reconsider the role of tariffs as a way to stimulate local economies and provide for easier information exchange. This is something that can be done among African countries that will have a chance at enhancing socio-economic development.

The diverse terrain of Africa coupled with the unreliable and high cost of telephone infrastructure pushes planners to think about alternatives. In many cases, the satellite solution is the only alternative for getting interactive communication out to an almost unlimited number of geographically dispersed sites or from these sites to other locations.

VSAT technologies become necessary given the tremendous demand for Internet access, multimedia programming and other essential services by businesses, educational institutions, government agencies and non- governmental organizations. The deployment of the VSAT technology can facilitate the growing climate of democratization in Africa. As the case in India reveals, positive VSAT sector reforms can also pave the way for e-governance. This will increase participation by civil society and make governance more effective and efficient.

With respect to business, the experience of each of the case study countries, especially the Brazilian experience, shows that a favorable regulatory climate can have a positive impact on commercial development. Entrepreneurs and investors in Africa often are hampered by the lack of reliable and affordable telecommunications services. Policies that encourage investment in satellite-based telecommunications can help to overcome these limitations.

African countries often have the bulk of their populations living in rural areas where terrestrial telephone lines are scarce or unavailable. India has faced this situation. Prudent VSAT regulatory reforms and government initiatives have led to several major demonstration programs in which satellites are used to connect rural populations to major city centers. The multiplier effect of these initiatives is the growth of such rural businesses as Internet cafes and telecenters. This can go a long way in helping to breach the information gap between rural and urban folk in Africa.

E: CONCLUSION

Bringing VSAT services to the developing world can be greatly facilitated through policy reforms. The country case studies illustrate the extent to which government offices can play an important role in opening the door to telecommunications development. China and India are each good examples. In strong private-sector economies like Brazil and Israel, private enterprises play a larger role. When government and business work together, the positive results are obvious.


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Ghana | China | India | Brazil | Israel | Lessons for Africa

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