The right to communicate: at what price?

Foundation Networks and Development (FUNREDES)

This is the title of a study conducted by ITU and UNESCO which
concluded with a document presented at the World
Telecommunication Development Conference (Buenos Aires, March,

Why are the results of that study relevant to the Internet community? What are the main points worth considering?

The subtitle of the report says: "Economic Constraints to the effective Use of Telecommunications in Education, Science, Culture and in the Circulation of Information". It is targeted at what is called the "Unesco Communities of Interest" (researchers, teachers/students, information specialists, people involved with cultural matters, and the people of mass-media). Apart the last segment, which have not yet been massively involved in the Internet, it is clear that the target represents a majority of current or would-be Internet users. Obviously the focus is on the South.

What is at stake, from the network point of view, is the tariff issue and the type of relationship between national networks and the Telecom Operators. One of the objective of the study was to find a "gateway of understanding" between the telecommunication consumers and the telecommunication operators. During the final meeting on the study (ITU/Geneva, November 1993), three full days of frank and direct exposure made representative of the two groups (especially members of the ITU Tariff group, from the operator side, and a balanced mixture of Unesco community and region from the user side) reach enough agreements to state together common recommendations.

Among the keywords which surfaced from these recommendations, I select:
-improved dialogue,
-requirements at regional level,
-"most valued customer" status,
-"joint venture" and partnership,
-aggregating demands,
-innovative tariffs,
-incremental costs based tariffs...

More information on the subject or how to get a copy of the 109 pages report can be obtained from Unesco (John Rose, piros@frunes21.bitnet).

A side consideration derived from that experience: to discover how much the Internet could help alternative press agencies from the South in their struggle for affordable communication.