I Almost Feel Loathe to Post 8

…when everyone has been having so much fun in comments without me. On Friday the connection, which had been almost unusable for three days, failed completely, and the phone lines too. Vodafone blame Friday evening’s storm, but the problem had started long before that.

Fascinating comment from Sembe:

At 3kbps, you should be using a simplifying proxy server like loband.org. For urgent communications, it might be best to set up a telnet service (using pine for email, lynx for web surfing).

Internet telephony services in Ghana are routed through the SAT-3/WASC cable, which is jointly owned by Ghana Telecom and 35 other telecoms. Local ISPs are assigned 2Mbps bandwidth, and supply it to subscribers at an average speed of 1kbps.

The common alternative is to use a VSAT satellite system, but this is more expensive and is rather clogged in West Africa. Additionally, MTN & Zain are now offering GSM or 3G mobile access.

Things are set to improve, though. Glo has just laid the Glo1 fibre optic cable from UK to Nigeria, which should be operational soon, and the Main One cable from Portugal should be installed by May 2010.

My emphasis.

The sad truth is that every advance in new technology leaves Africa falling further and further behind.

supply it to subscribers at an average speed of 1kbps

. Think about that.

We had a microwave link to a satellite provider which theoretically gave us dedicated 512 kbps – for about $4,000 a month. My UK connection is 20 times faster and 200 times cheaper – so costs 4,000 times less per kbps. In fact our “dedicated” capacity had been sold many times over by the satellite ISP, Zipnet, and speedtests usually showed about 30kbps. Corrked ISPs are part of the whole complex problem

Last night the phone lines came back and I rushed down to post something when the electricity went off. This had happened so often in the last few days that the generator had run out of diesel, while a UPS only survives a few months coping with a dozen outages a day – and that is with a $10,000 voltage stabiliser on the house. [This was written yesterday and attempts throughout the day to post it failed. So I got up at 6am this morning to do it].

All this is in “normal” circumstances. Imagine the logistic nightmare facing the aid agencies in Haiti, with the same kind of level of base infrastructure, and then most of that destroyed by an earthquake.

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8 thoughts on “I Almost Feel Loathe to Post

  • Ed Davies

    You can buy quite a lot of photovoltaic panels and batteries for $10,000.

    Yes, UPSs are not designed to be used much. If power cycles on and off a lot there are much better batteries to use (“deep-cycle”). These are commonly used in off-grid houses. I suspect that pretending you have a good power supply but with intermittent emergencies is not the right way to engineer a system for the circumstances; it would be better to consider the mains supply as an intermittent resource like sun on solar panels or wind on a wind turbine and set things up appropriately.

  • Talat

    Craig you may be aware why there is power shortage in Ghana but let me enlighten the other readers as to why. It was Kwame Nkruma’s dream to build the Akosombo Dam to provide cheap and plenty of energy to power the development of Ghana. But Nakruma’s dream was quashed by different form of colonial exploitation of Ghana’s energy and Bauxite by US multinationals the sort of big “OIL” of their time.

    “Although 20% of Akosombo Dam’s electric output is provided to Ghana generally, the remaining 80% is generated for the American-owned Volta Aluminium Company. The Ghana Government was compelled, by contract, to pay for over 50% of the cost of Akosombo’s construction, but the country was allowed only 20% of the power generated. Some commentators are concerned that this is an example of neo-colonialism.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akosombo_Dam)

    Ghana has had stunted economic development. Ghana became independent in 1957 in same year as Malaysia. The two countries shared many similarities, both relied on agriculture and commodities but Malaysia powered ahead industrially. Any thoughts from you Craig as you are the most informed authority on that country.

  • technicolour

    Talat: interesting post, and hope Craig can make use of it. Something which may interest you is that this is a worldwide struggle. Look at Iceland; one of the last wildernesses in Europe was flooded to build a dam providing energy to Alcoa, and not a single kilowat to the people. The savingiceland.org website has links to other campaigns.

  • technicolour

    “Most people have no idea how primary aluminum is made, how rivers figure into the process, and who suffers as a result of damming. They do not connect their daily can of Pepsi with the mercury contamination of fish in James Bay rivers or the threatened extinction of wild salmon in tributaries of the Fraser River in British Columbia. They have not considered whether the aluminum siding on their houses might be responsible for the wholesale relocation of indigenous peoples from Egyptian Nubia to the Amazonian rainforest, or for the spread of diseases such as schistosomiasis and river-blindness along the Egyptian Nile and the Volta River basin in Ghana. ”

    International Rivers Network http://www.irn.org

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Happy memories of those Telnet and BBS days using 3 1200/9600 baud modems – how did we ever manage?

    I was pleased to note the first news out of Haiti describing the terrible devastation came via the web even though the comms infra-structure, as you mentioned Craig was destroyed.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Hi Craig – i’m no expert on this kind of stuff but apparently the actual speed you get on a broadband line depends on your distance from the telephone exchange, so even in the UK people who’ve paid for 2MB speed broadband may get only a fraction of that if they’re a long way from the nearest BT exchange. So if there are long distances involved in Ghana it might explain some of it.

    Then again my understanding of these things is so backwards that i still think electricity works by magic and electrons are a kind of magical goblin that live in lightbulbs, so i may be completely wrong.

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