Cover Image
close this bookGATE - 1/84 - Wind Energy (GTZ GATE, 1984, 56 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEditorial
View the documentDear Readers,
Open this folder and view contentsFocus
Open this folder and view contentsWorkshop
View the documentOld craft technologies
Open this folder and view contentsPro...
View the documentInternational scene
View the documentCartoon ...
View the documentReflection ...
View the documentDocumentation
View the documentVisiting card
View the documentNews from Bonn
View the documentNews from GATE
View the documentInformation wanted
View the documentBookbox


Telecommunication and technology decisions
by Peter Habermann

Since mid-century the newly independent nations in Africa and Asia together with the countries in Central and South America, have created a debate mainly within the United Nations system over the uses of modern communications technology. The last two decades saw an increased controversy over the so called "free flow of information-issue". The problems of international bodies to reach agreeable compromises have sensitized Third World countries to the importance information and communication. Out of a multitude of feasibility studies commissioned by Third World governments as well as from trends within the industrialized countries themselves, it becomes increasingly clear that developing countries have to place priorities on the extension of a so far urbanized telecommunications infrastructure to the non-participating segments of their societies.

Especially the increased concern in regulatory standard setting procedures has shifted the importance of the communication debates somewhat away from the UNESCO-Forum to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN forum for standard setting and regulatory procedures in communication system development.

The shift, in a long term perspective, may result in a more advantageous position for developing countries. Freed from the issue of information content and media control, compromises with the ITU discussions still seem to be possible. Industrial countries have technological, manufacturing and operations expertise which are scarce in developing countries. On the other hand developing countries possess a voting majority within all United Nations fore including the ITU and they also constitute a large potential user-market.

So far, the hesitant and by no means unified approach of Third World countries to regulatory and standard setting resulted from the fact that developing countries limited their interests to the development of traditional media television, radio and newspaper. However, during the last five years it was realized that the future of telecommunication infrastructures is largely defined by technological progress.

Two sectors seem to be the focal points of future, and for that matter contraversy, development:
1. Orbit/spectrum planning which determines which country or organization will operate what communication satellite and what land-based radio transmisison frequency will be allocated to which country or institution.
2. Standards for digital networks will largely determine how compatible computer related services (ISDN for Integral Service Digital Network) are with present telecommunication systems in the Third World.

In both sectors standard and regulatory decision making has been initiated within the ITU. It is now up to the developing countries to participate in the decision process.

Orbit/spectrum planning

According to different natural characteristics of radio waves, radio communications can be broadcast from a transmitter directly to a user (land-based radio communications), or can be sent to a relay station circulating in space, retransmitting to the end user (satellite-based radio communications). Both types use scarce frequencies or orbit positions which are not unlimited. Both types transgress national border lines and tend to interfere with each other. International regulations regarding the use of radio communication frequencies and orbit positions are therefore necessary.

The limitation of frequencies and orbit slots for satellites poses severe problems on priority settings for telecommunications. The basic rule is that if one service uses one frequency or one satellite communications channel, this frequency or channel cannot be used by other systems. The problems of priority setting includes the highly political question of whether developing countries implementing basic radio and/or television services should receive special considerations or whether new technologies and services should be allocased in free frequency or orbit slots. At the moment developing countries sense that in future their needs for high frequency radio spectrums will not be met because of the foreseeable increase of established services in industrialized countries. Although it is very likely that clashes between the interests of industrialized and developing countries related to frequency/orbit allocations will develop in the future, the very technological substance of the decisions to be made appears to facilitate feasible compromises.

The best example is the pattern in which the most crucial issues for the next five years, high frequency radio spectrum allocations, is approached. HF-radio is one of the oldest and most utilized form of radio communications. By the very nature of high frequency radio (3-30 Mhz) the available spectrum is limited. Earlier, a technological attempt to limit world wide interference on the short wave bands by limiting transmission output power has failed. Many broadcast services use more than one frequency for their international transmissions (Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow, Radio Peking); most of these broadcasting services are operated by governments which are very reluctant to release allocated frequencies or reduce transmission power.

Short wave bands are not exclusively allocated to radio broadcast but have to share the spectrum with point-to-point services, most of them allocated to military communications. With the development of the INTELSAT system and high capacity submarine cables these services have lost their importance. Gradually, industrialized countries have started to release these frequencies. Developing countries on the other hand regard high frequency radio as an essential prerequisite for the development of national communication infrastructure as short wave radio still consitutes the cheapest and most efficient wide range communication instrument within the electronic spectrum. With the move of service in the satellite channels short wave frequencies have become available for the use in developing countries.

The congested short wave spectrum is not the only problematic area which is currently debated within the ITU system. In the very near future orbit slot allocations for different types of satellite related communication links will have to be planned on a long term basis because congestion within the available allocation slots is rapidly approaching.

However, unlike a radio transmitter which transmits on only one frequency, satellite relays can be used for a number of simultaneous applications. One satellite can provide up-and-down-links for voice, data and television transmission at the same time. However, very early during the development of satellite-technology it became apparent that there will be congestions in specific segments of the orbital arc, for example over the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

It is hoped that the ongoing debates over orbit/spectrum allocations will not result in a stalemate situation between developing countries and industrialized blocks to a point where positions cannot be negotiated any longer. To a certain degree the unsuccessful free flow and trans-border flow debates have shown that ideological positions maintained without any flexibility tend to fragment the issue on hand beyond reconciliation. Possible failures in the orbit/spectrum debates will pose serious threats to the research and development of new technologies badly needed to alleviate orbit/spectrum congestions.

Unfortunately, already the orbit/spectrum debate has made satellite slot allocations an issue of national prestige. Developing countries so far have difficulties to see that slot allocations are by no means a precondition for the development of national communication infrastructure. Existing Fixed Satellite Service like INTELSAT already provide the technological possibility to incorporate a good part of a nation's telecommunications requirements. Third World countries should consider shared satellite facilities as a viable alternative to the request for orbit/spectrum allocations.

Digital networks

While the major issue of orbit/spectrum debates is the separation of communication links in order to avoid interference, the major issue in integrated digital networks is the question of compatibility of various facilities and the question of which services can be made available via these facilities.

Contrary to the attempt of the ITU to regulate telecommunication links on an international basis there had been no similar institution which attempted to put a suitable standardization of digital network facilities into place. Consequently, potential problem areas are expected to be even greater than in the orbit/spectrum debate. Technical experts assume that these areas have not yet even surfaced in order to allow meaningful discussions.

Computer telecommunication networks were first developed in the 60s largely by big American corporations with a need for fast and reliable data transfer. The corporations developed their proprietary systems without too many considerations regarding the compatibility with other similar systems. Technical standards developed by a nearly totally privately owned computer industry was of no concern to the corporate users. These services created internationally quasi closed-circuit data links which were largely incompatible and could only be accessed by a small defined user group. It was obvious that standardization would be needed to allow for an orderly and efficient general use of future data facilities.

The introduction of digital technology within the public carrier systems (telephone, telegraph, telex) began with the digitalization of crossbar switching between telephone lines. Immediately the need for standardization became an ITU issue. The ITU began to develop standard definitions for a universally compatible network which was termed "integrated Service Digital Network" (ISDN).

ISDN is conceived to replace within the next two decades the current global telephone network. Basically ISDN is a huge channel signal ling network which includes massive data processing and storage facilities for network management. ISDN will offer voice, text data and video services over common, shared facilities. According to the philosophy of the ITU, ISDN will work as a public network and its services will be available to a large number of users.

Even more than industrialized countries with their various backup systems, developing countries in the near future will need to have rapid access to economic and technical information from alternative sources. ISDN would be a superior solution for information transfer problems in developing countries. Unfortunately, the state of the available telecommunication lines in developing countries makes it impossible to introduce ISDN without a loss of the desired reliability related to high speed data transfer. The financial cost of upgrading existing facilities is for most developing countries out of their economic range. Although techniques are developed to slow down high speed data transfer to about 8 thousand bits per second, a speed which can be handled by conventional telephone lines, ISDN will still require a high amount of new equipment which has to be interfaced with the existing systems.

In many developing countries ISDN is not known even as a concept. Actual needs for high speed data transmission and multi-national connections have not been identified as yet. However, standardization procedures are in full swing within the respective ITU bodies. It is mandatory for developing countries to identify as fast as possible telecommunication needs.

If developing countries fall to embark in the nearest future on an appraisal of their telecommunication requirements vis a vis the proposed ISDN it is conceivable that a major part of international telecommunication links will be routed around their ancient telecommunication networks, which simply will not be capable of providing the technical facilities to interface with ISDN.

The importance for participation of developing countries in ongoing and future ISDN discussions can not be over-stressed. ISDN by its very technological design is meant to replace analogue telephone communication links within the short period of 30 years. ISDN will probably revolutionize existing telecommunication systems to the same extent as the discovery of radio waves.

The formulation of positions vis a vis regulatory and standard issues require a thorough knowledge of present and projected telecommunication needs. Only carefully researched data bases can provide the developing as well as the industrialized countries with necessary information for meaningful decision making which takes into account the demands of the developing countries as well as the requirements of industrialized blocks. It is of paramount importance that these requests and demands be formulated on a long term basis with possibly projection into the first decade of the next century without losing the flexibility which is needed to accommodate newly developed technologies.

The concepts of ISDN and slot allocation enhancement demonstrate clearly that new technologies can and most likely will be available within the next decade.

Governments of developing countries as well as of industrial blocks share the responsibility to put all efforts into the development of regulatory systems which will allow developing countries as well as industrialized countries to benefit from newly invented communication technologies.

Documentation on intercropping

The GTZ Intercropping project has built up a documentation of the relevant literature. This documentation is namely intended for GTZ staff working on rural development projects. But it is also available to all staff who may be interested. University institutes and other development organizations are also provided with information from this source.

The documentation is aimed at facilitating access to the relevant literature and, equally important, selecting the literature that is really relevant to a topic.

The system works on the keyword principle: there are main keywords such as "intercropping" an subsidiary keywords like "pest control".

The keywords can be called up individually or in combinations. Any number of keywords can be combined, making particularly target-oriented reference possible. References to a particular author or year can also be followed up.

Preliminary research results only in the printing-out of bibliographical details and keywords. Specific research results in the printing out of the abstract, too, some of which air very comprehensive. The abstracts will be published annually in book form. Later on photocopies of the articles will be available on request.

The documentation is not limited to the main keyword "intercropping". It will be extended later to cover neighboring fields such as "agroforestry", "soil fertility", "land-use systems" and "farming system research.
Please adress your inquiries to:
GTZ-Project :"Mischkulturen" -Documentation- Forschungsstelle fur Internationale Agrarentwicklung, Ringstr. 19,. D-6900 Heidelberg.

The Rural Growth Centres in Malawi
by Hannah Schreckenbach

In 1978 an agreement was reached between the Malawi and Federal German Governments to embark on a Rural Growth Centres Project (RGCP). Ten Centres were selected for a pilot programme spread over the whole country, but situated mostly in the very remote and also most needy rural areas of Malawi (see map).

The project was designed to achieve three main objectives:
- To help create focal points for development in remote or underdeveloped areas in Malawi by providing social services to the rural population;
- To promote self-help activities and community development to enable the rural people to participate in the development process at the local level;
- To contribute to the integration of the development activities of the various Ministries in rural areas.

At present the planning stage of all ten Centres has been completed and six of them have been constructed and are in full operation (Mkhota, Mbalachanda, Thekerani, Tsangane, Bolero and Makanjila). The remaining Centres of the Pilot Programme (Lob), Neno, Likoma and Chikwina) will be completed by 1986.

The planning and implementation of the Rural Growth Centres Project has been carried out by a German technical assistance team (GTZ and Messrs. APFEL Associated Consultants) together with Malawian counterparts under the authority of the Office of the President and Cabinet.

At the planning stage, District and local representatives were involved in the identification of local needs and the formulation of the actual Centre plans. In addition the local communities contributed at the implementation stage by providing bricks for the buildings, collecting sand, clearing the bush and various other self-help activities.

Experiences with the Rural Growth Centre Pilot Programme

The Pilot programme has so far demonstrated that Rural Growth Centres can attract investment development programmes. They have proved to be an advantage to those who use their facilities and services, in a catchment area of up to 30,000 people depending on the population density in the chosen area, compared to the hitherto very dispersed facilities and services in rural areas. Since they are also in a position to form a nucleus for future local government decentralization it has already been proposed to set up coordinating bodies in the Centres. In order to achieve economy, efficiency, reduced costs and optimal flexibility in the implementation of the Rural Growth Centres Pilot Programme a Construction Unit was formed, attached to the Office of the President and Cabinet. Building costs can thus be reduced considerably and the self-help spirit of the people activated for participation.

Extension of the Programme to the National Level

In 1980 the Malawi and Federal German Government first considered extending the present pilot programme and changing it over to a nationwide, long-term National Rural Centres Programme (NRCP).

The Programme document has drawn on the experiences of the pilot programme. It has also been worked out in close cooperation with various Ministries, such as those of Agriculture, Health, Local Government, Education and the Department of Town and Country Planning as well as with Projects, such as the National Physical Development Plan.


The main aim of the National Rural Centres Programme is the further development of Rural Growth Centres with the following objectives:
- To coordinate the development activities and sector programmes of the various Ministries and Government departments in order to achieve a spatially integrated provision of social and economic services and facilities in Malawi's rural areas;
- To provide and improve social and economic services in the rural areas and to improve the social and economic interaction between the rural and urban areas;
- To create focal points for development in rural areas;
- To contribute to the decentralization of Government administration and act as promoters for community development.

Centrality Level

The field of operation of the NRCP will be on the level below District/ Main Market Centres. These are the Rural Market Centres and Village Centres. It is assumed that under the National Rural Centres Programme about 150 Centres would be identified and developed over a longer period of time. These Centres will then fulfill the important function of a linkage between the rural areas and the District/Main Market Centres and urban areas.

Drawing: Hannah Schreckenbach

Physical Programme

The identification of Rural Growth Centres will be done according to selected criteria, amongst which the agricultural development potential and an already developing settlement will be predominant. It is expected that the National Physical Development Plan will provide a proper framework for the preparation of District Development Plans, which will be the major instrument for the selection of RGC's.

What facilities should a Rural Centre have? In general the aim is a type of "basic package" for Rural Centres which is chosen according to the identified needs of the people and local conditions and which will help upgrade existing services and provide complementary measures such as primary school, sub- or primary health centre, multipurpose Centre hall, extension service classrooms and offices for various extension services, market, facilities for the promotion of small-scale enterprises, post office, staff houses, standpipes for drinking water supply, sanitation, afforestation or woodlots, landscaping and other outdoor installations.


It is hoped that donor funds can be identified for a considerable number of RGCs. Other centres may be implemented by spatially oriented Malawian sector programmes.

A major contribution to the realization of the National Rural Centres Programme will be the self-help contribution from the rural population which benefits from the Rural Growth Centres. The self-help spirit is well developed in Malawi. An excellent example of this is the active participation of the people in digging trenches (very often through solid rock) and laying pipes for the gravity-fed rural water supply programme which has been very successfully implemented in some parts of Malawi.

The Rural Growth Centres will play a very important part in the rural development of Malawi. Their success is an example for other developing countries to follow.

A visit to the Rural Growth Centre in Thekerani
by Hannah Schreckenbach

Thekerani is situated at an elevation of about 1000 metres in the south of Malawi. Already the journey by car from Blantyre to the Centre transmits breathtaking views to the visitor who is seeing this country for the first time.

At the beginning the gentle winding road passes through undulating hills, covered as far as the eye can see with a green carpet of tea fields, showing a vivid pattern of all shades of green interwoven with a network of dark lines: the pathways of the tea pickers as they pass through the fields in a wide row picking tea leaves. In between the fields windbreaking patches of forest trees, pines, gum trees, flowering trees, nut trees and shrubs add to the attraction of this beautiful landscape. In the distance the mountains around Blantyre and the Mulanje massif in the east soar up to 3000 metres in a blue haze. The road approaching Thekerani climbs through steep hills which are terraced and covered with banana trees.

From the guest-house of the Centre in Thekerani where we spent the night (and experienced the first rains of the season), the view extends to the Shire river basin in the south, to the hills of Mozambique beyond and to the Mulanje mountain in the north-east. Unfortunately Mulanje did not show us his face. Haze and rain clouds covered the massif.

The Rural Growth Centre is located on a hill, the village lies on another hill in front of the Centre. A forest of tall gum trees, some beautiful jacaranda trees, etc. forms the landscape between post-office, market centre, with carpentry workshop, grocery and butcher's shop, and the area behind.

A community centre with library, extension service offices and sports fields lies beyond. A primary-middle school and junior secondary boarding school are also attached to the Centre, as well as a primary health unit. Staff houses are arranged close by. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in the forest was part of the village and is now part of the Centre.

Thekerani RGC makes a clean and neat impression. It is bustling with life in the morning on market days when the market opens. From the surrounding villages and settlements people come walking to the Centre from far away. A bus company operates a bus service down the hills to Bangula, a town on the Shire river.

The post office operates a Savings Bank which has introduced a banking service to the area. The existence of the carpentry workshop is attracting other trade and small-scale enterpreneurs to settle in the Centre.

Here are quite obviously opportunities for introducing appropriate technology aspects into a Centre, for producing, testing and demonstrating implements and tools suitable for agriculture and production development as well as disseminating appropriate technology, such as biogas technology, by using the school and health unit toilets for producing biogas in suitable plants to be utilized for cooking in the school and health centre kitchen.

Other avenues for income-generating activities for the people of Thekerani could be the use a banana tree stems and waste.

A foreigner is received very kindly by the people of Thekerani and one soon feels that the inhabitants of the village and the surrounding area have identified themselves with "their" centre and are proud of it and thankful for the services and opportunities it offers them.