Telematics for Development
Founded in 1996, the Telematics for Development Projects are a series of projects that have engaged in research on and program implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) projects in various international development sectors.
The Projects have had activities in fourteen African countries and Afghanistan, and have collaborated with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Africa Union Commission (AUC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Commission on Human Security, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Ford Foundation.
Since 1996 our activities have sought to support the increase in access and quality of telecommunications services while lowering the cost to individual consumers, especially for those in under-served areas.
Once markets started to de-monopolized, three things were necessary to move toward affordable quality service:
• Reduction in capital intensity and risk of deploying ICT infrastructure,
• Reduction of ICT firm operating costs, and
• Organization and aggregation of consumer demand.
To further these objectives we worked with regional and national telecommunication policy and regulatory authorities and other ICT stakeholders, conducted research to elucidate issues and solution paths relevant to the objectives in various local contexts, and based on these experiences and research results designed and delivered decision support training for a better understand of the continually evolving technological, regulatory, and business landscapes.
In the mid 1990s, in a project with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, we focused on impact indicators and other metrics to better understand the effects of ICT in African countries. In the late 1990s we partnered with USAID and stakeholders in Kenya and Rwanda to support telecommunication market liberalization, and in the early 2000s we engaged in a series of ICT policy and regulatory training and capacity building, reform, and research efforts. These efforts contributed to the de-monopolization of telecommunication services in Kenya and Rwanda.
The Telematics for Development Projects also contributed to, supported, and hosted a number of high-level policy and regulatory conferences. This includes the 1999 Conference on ICT and Inequality, hosted at University of Maryland, accomplished in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The Conference helped conceptualize issues of ICT inequality in the African development context and served as the framework for the inaugural UNECA Africa Development Forum in 2001.
In 2007, in cooperation with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, we hosted a strategy session the Ministerial Workshop Building African Global Competitiveness in Information and Communication Technologies with a participating delegations headed by more than ten African Telecommunications Ministers.
From the late 2000s to early 2010s we engaged with multiple African national and regional telecommunications policy and regulatory authorities in capacity building activities. These included the 2008 ECOWAS Workshop on Cable SAT 3 –WASC-SAFE and First Mobile Roaming Conference in Abuja, Nigeria and the 2013 Cheap and Plentiful Broadband – Clearing the Last Blockages in cooperation with the Africa Union Commission and the UbuntuNet Alliance, in Lilongwe, Malawi.
From the early 2010s onward, based on our earlier policy reform and research experience and coinciding with the growth of telecommunication markets in Africa, we engaged in more direct focus research on the causes and location of blockages to increased access and reduced cost of telecommunication services and solutions paths to remove them.
The Telematics for Development Projects have contributed to several publications including Negotiating the Net: the Politics of Internet Diffusion in Africa (Lynne Riener, 2007), “African Information Revolution: A Balance Sheet” Telecommunications Policy 2003, and Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet (National Research Council, U.S. National Academy of Science, 1998). We have well over thirty working research papers on both ICT and conflict analysis, such as Cheap and Plentiful Broadband in Sub-Saharan Africa: Clearing the Last Blockages (2013) and Regional Terrestrial Networks and Complex Liberalization (2011).
The Projects have developed more than 100 training modules in conflict management, computer science, and telecommunications policy in partnership with more than a dozen African Universities. We have also designed and implemented trainings for bi-lateral and multi-lateral international development organizations. Most recently we designed and implemented Broadband and Economic Development at the 2013 USAID Economic Growth Officers Training and the Telecommunications for Development at the December 2013 USAID E3 Infrastructure Workshop.
The Telematics for Development Projects are housed at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland, College Park, and are directed by Dr. Kelvin Wong.