Group Projects

Network Access

Ebony L. Milton | David Wendland | Daniel Cureton | Calvin Wright

Access to information and the speed to which that information can be accessed have become critical factors not only for business, but for personal reasons as well. In today's Internet and communication centric world Network Access has become an intricate part of everyday life. When investigating the readiness of a developing country for entering the networked world, 19 categories are evaluated. These 19 categories are grouped together in to five major topics: Network Access, Networked Learning, Networked Society, Networked Economy and Networked Policy. Our team was selected to evaluate the portion of Argentina's and Brazil's Network Readiness with regard to Network Access. The topic Network Access groups the following six categories:

Information Infrastructure. For most communities in the developing world, a lack of access to voice and data services remains a significant impediment to Networked Readiness. Communications infrastructure is deployed with widely varying local and regional rates of penetration, depending on factors such as geography and/or income levels. Local network access may be provided by any one of a number of media that make up the communications network (including twisted pair copper wire, coaxial cable, wireless local loop, satellite, fiber optics and mobile wireless).

Internet Availability. Internet access is enhanced by competition among Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that operate locally. The range of services offered, number of dial-up lines (which helps determine ISP capacity) and transmission capacity all influence an ISP's usefulness. The availability of leased lines is particularly important in making the Internet available to the business community. Finally, in many communities in the developing world, public access is essential to making the Internet available to greater numbers of individuals and firms. Telecenters, Internet cafes and community information centers assume great importance in making the Internet available to those who do not have personal access at home, school, work or elsewhere.

Service and Support. A strong customer service orientation is important in determining the success of network deployment. Long waiting periods for installation and repair and a lack of support services by telephone companies and Internet providers pose major obstacles to Readiness. The quality and number of technical support professionals are essential in maintaining the network and providing service.

Network Speed and Quality. The available bandwidth, both for individuals & local access and for a community's connection to the Internet backbone, determines the number of users and types of online activities the network can support. Bandwidth-intensive activities, such as large file transfers or video streaming, may be unavailable to communities with constrained access to the network. The quality of the network, including servers, also determines its usage. High numbers of mainline faults, poor connections, dropped connections and packet loss can render any network useless or operationally sub-optimal, thus discouraging use of and investment in new technologies.

Hardware and Software. A vibrant market with numerous hardware and software options can encourage more specialized usage of the network, including ICT solutions that are tailored to local needs. More widespread retail and wholesale distribution channels for both hardware and software increase opportunities to use the network within the community. The prices of hardware and software are particularly important in the developing country context, where generally low-income levels cannot support high-priced consumer items.

Internet Affordability. The prices which businesses and individual consumers pay for Internet access are in most cases determined by a combination of fees for basic telephony and ISP services. In communities where the sum of ISP and telephony fees is prohibitively high, a disincentive to network usage exists, and access is curtailed. Pricing packages can be structured in ways that are conducive to Internet usage per minute or hourly pricing (unlike flat rate pricing) for both Internet and telephone service can limit users' time online and therefore inhibit the use of the network for many activities such as e-commerce. The provision of tiered pricing packages can improve the affordability for many subscribers by allowing them to purchase only what they need.

The six categories of Network Access are further divided in to four distinct stages of development (stage 1- stage 4). Each stage has specific measurable requirements associated with it. Stage 1 indicates that the country as made very little or no progress as it relates to the that category where stage 4 is drastically different and much closer to what you would expect to see in developed countries like US, Western Europe and Japan.

A rating of stage 1 for overall Network Access is as follows:

  • Little or no telecommunication infrastructure.
  • The availability of the information and communication technology (ICT) services is almost non existent.
  • The lack of availability results in the costs being too high so personal and small/medium businesses cannot use them.
  • From a speed and quality standpoint, most phone calls are unsuccessful, limited services beyond basic e-mail.
  • No distribution/sales points of ICT hardware and software within the community and even most businesses cannot afford to use them.
  • Service and support of the phone mainlines take at least 4 years to be installed, six months for reported failure correction and virtually no software developers or technicians in the community.

A rating of stage 4 for overall Network Access is as follows:

  • Strong and widespread access to telecommunications and network services, high teledensity level, strong wireless community
  • More than two local ISPs per 1MM people, high bandwidth solutions, reliable dialup, availability of leased lines to businesses
  • Competitive and affordable rates to phone and internet/network services, free ISPs available
  • Almost no dropped calls, few faults per year reported, strong backbone to support high speed services with low packet loss of network data
  • Software and hardware market is fully developed with local needs and languages met. Retail availability of hardware and software solutions is strong
  • Main phone line installs are usually completed in days from time of order, multiple methods for customer service communication (e-mail, call, etc), maintenance and service of ICT systems are widely available.

In short, when evaluating a country's Network Access we are looking at the availability, cost, quality, the services, support, and maintenance. Network Readiness requires access to an adequate network infrastructure, without it a developing country is virtually disconnected and cannot communicate with the rest of the networked world. Following the existence of a strong infrastructure the availability, affordability, speed, available hardware and software and service/support all play major roles in the determination of how the network is used and applied. Shortcomings in either network speed or network quality will have significant repercussions on the ability of customers to access information through the network, thereby discouraging use and adoption new technologies.

Argentina and Brazil are well on their way to competing in the global IT market place. The overall rating of Argentina is between 3 and 4. While the country's Network Assess is strong from the perspective of Internet availability, Infrastructure, Speed and Quality the main limiting factor for Argentina is their current economic situation that puts the networked products out of reach of many individuals. Brazil's overall rating is just slightly lower coming in at a solid 3. Brazil needs to focus on service and support as well as hardware and software availability issues. The infrastructure is continually strengthening and the government is starting to put measures in place to promote network access to all. The following table list by Network Access category what stage the country would fall.