Steve Song at the All Things Open blog announced that he would have the fortune to meet with Yochai Benkler, renowned professor of entrepreneurial legal studies at Harvard Law and Principal Investigator of a comparative study on broadband initiatives commissioned by the FCC, in order to present an overview of the attempts, successes and failures of open access policies in Africa.
In the spirit of crowdsourcing information, Song asks his readers to put forward different perspectives on open access in Africa. Since the announcement of EASSy in 2005, open access has become a hot-button issue. EASSy is not a misspelling of easy; the East Africa Submarine Cable System, purports to “close the final link” in the digital divide—an initiative that aims to connect eastern Africa to the rest of the world using high-bandwidth fiberoptic cables. (To view a summary of African undersea cables, click here.)
Open access refers to the practice of separating physical access to the network from service provisioning in order to enable competition at every rung of the communications infrastructure ladder. The antithesis of open access would be a communications monopoly; for example, when Telkom South Africa controlled the only undersea cable, SAT3, in 2007, and also controlled the only existing fixed-line local loop.
In today’s information economy, open access is considered crucial for Africa’s development potential. If only open access were actually easy.