Global Dispatches: An international IT news digest

African undersea cable project back on track

LUSAKA, Zambia -- Squabbles that delayed the start of work on the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System have been resolved, allowing the fiber-optic cable project -- which is designed to link Africa to global telecommunications networks -- to move forward.

At a meeting this month, information and communications technology ministers from eastern and southern Africa agreed to give all African nations free access to the undersea system, said Sammy Kirui, chairman of the project management team.

The debate over open access had threatened the US$200 million project because some member countries wanted to charge other nations for access rights -- a position that went against the wishes of African economic development organizations and the World Bank. The Kenyan government announced in May that it was withdrawing support for the project because of the internal wrangling.

At the meeting, though, technology ministers from Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe set a new schedule calling for work on the cable system to begin by September and be completed in the fourth quarter of 2007, Kirui said. The targeted completion date is four months later than previously planned.

Project managers are still evaluating bids from companies that are vying to lay the cable, according to Kirui.