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Warning: Slow progress in Iraq’s telecoms

A leading US adviser to the Iraqi telecommunications network reconstruction effort is circulating an extensive critique of progress there, charging that Iraq badly lags on development of core fibre infrastructure, faces a massive ICT training shortfall and has erred in rewarding politically-influential US vendors with supply contracts.

Bob Fonow, who completed a 18-month stint as senior consultant, telecoms and IT at the US State Department in Baghdad earlier this year, also charges that the recent military surge has seen the US Department of Defense command excessive influence in telecom reconstruction, often in areas where it has insufficient expertise.

For example, Fonow talks of a “very pleasant buck sergeant” assigned to advise the Ministry of Communications regional director in Tikrit who’s job back home in Arkansas was to stack Wal-Mart shelves, while a reservist Navy captain software executive from California was assigned the task of booking meetings for a visiting Defense official. Fonow also charges that the so-called “fusion cell” or consensus approach exercised by the US military may be counter-productive in telecoms, retarding decision making and discouraging the civilian sector from standing on its own feet. Read more.

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