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SASEC backhaul network: Progress (or lack thereof)

Since our research pointed us to the necessity of lowering international backhaul costs if the dream of taking broadband to all in emerging Asia was to be realized, I’ve been very interested in the ADB’s USD 9 million project to build a backhaul network connecting Nepal, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Here’s what the ADB website says about the project:

The Project is aimed at enhancing the benefits of ICT and regional cooperation for inclusive growth and poverty reduction by increasing the supply of affordable broadband, skilled ICT manpower, and local content and e-applications, with a special focus on the needs of the poor. It is also expected to help SASEC countries improve their productivity and efficiency and participate more fully in the global information economy. To this end, the Project will establish (i) a SASEC regional network with fiber-optic and data interchange capacity, directly connecting the four SASEC countries; (ii) a SASEC village network expanding broadband ICT access to 110 rural communities in the SASEC countries and providing direct connections among the communities for local networking and local information sourcing; and (iii) a SASEC research and training network to build technical and business skills in developing local ICT content and e-applications (e-government, e-learning, tele-medicine, e-remittance, e-commerce, etc.) that serve the needs of the poor in particular.

Bhutan Today said “Information Highway Project on Track” in the headline.

The ADB website said the project had been approved on 17 Dec 2007 (almost four years ago). Cumulative disbursements (upto November 2011; this month) were 2 percent. Cumulative contract awards were 7 percent.

Not bad for four years.

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