GLOSAS Projects
Closing Digital Divide

Paper to be published in
International Institute of Communications (IIC)
London, United Kingdom

(March 11, 2001)

Takeshi Utsumi, Tapio Varis,
Peter Knight, Francis Method, Joseph Pelton

I. Introduction

The dawn of the twenty-first century comes with a digital revolution and economic globalization with a New Economy. We are moving towards a global knowledge society where information, skills, and competence become the driving forces of social and economic development. Effective learning can be greatly facilitated by upgraded multimedia educational materials using broadband Internet applications. The use of these applications for global e-learning and telehealth/telemedicine must be efficient and cost-effective, enabling educational institutions to foster global citizenship and achieve "education and healthcare for all" at anytime, anywhere and at any pace. The Internet will be the main telecommunication media of tomorrow. Broadband Internet holds great promise for improving multimedia e-learning and telehealthcare capabilities in global scale, especially in rural and isolated areas that are not well served by commercial network providers.

A true revolution in e-learning and telemedicine requires high-speed access to the World Wide Web, and the flexibility to offer a variety of media. These might include two-way audio, full motion video-conferencing up to MPEG2 quality, television-quality netcasting, and high resolution image transfer for telemedicine. Such capabilities require medium to broad bandwidth. Developing countries need broadband Internet via international satellite and fiber optic cable. The objective of increasing quality of audio/video delivery, high interactivity, and system throughput can be seen as a global objective of closing digital divide for improving e learning and telehealth services.

As a result of the G-8 meetings held in Okinawa, Japan, in July 2000, important initiatives have been started, and the GLOSAS projects described here fall clearly within the suggestions for action in the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society


The GLObal Systems Analysis and Simulation Association in the U.S.A. (GLOSAS/USA) is a publicly supported, non-profit, educational service organization -- in fact a consortium of organizations -- dedicated to the use of evolving telecommunications and information technologies to further advance world peace through global communications. GLOSAS fosters science and technology based economic development to improve the quality of life.

Over the past three decades GLOSAS/USA played a major pioneering role in extending U.S. data communication networks to other countries, particularly to Japan, and deregulating Japanese telecommunication policies for the use of e-mail through ARPANET, Telenet and Internet (thanks to help from the Late Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldridge) -- which is now called “closing digital divide.” This triggered the de-monopolization and privatization of Japanese telecommunications industries. This liberalization of the telecommunication industry has now created a more enabling environment for economic and social development in many other countries. Now over 180 countries have Internet access and more than 377 million people are using e-mail around the world. American and other countries' university courses now reach many under-served developing countries. GLOSAS has contributed by conducting innovative distance teaching trials with "Global Lecture Hall (GLH)" (TM) multipoint-to-multipoint multimedia interactive videoconferences using hybrid delivery technologies. Thanks to these efforts, Dr. Takeshi Utsumi, one of authors, received a prestigious Lord Perry Award for the Excellence in Distance Education in the fall of 1994 from Lord Perry, the founder of the U.K. Open University. The two year senior recipient of the same award is Sir Arthur C. Clark, the inventor of satellite.

III. Tampere Workshop

With the support of generous funds from Alprint, the British Council, Finnair, Finnish Broadcasting Company, the Ministry of Education Finland, Sonera, Soros Foundation/Open Society Institute, the United States Information Agency (USIA), the United States National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Information and Development Program (infoDev) administered by the World Bank, and many others, GLOSAS and the University of Tampere conducted a highly successful International Workshop and Conference on "Emerging Global Electronic Distance Learning (EGEDL’99)" in August, 1999 at the University of Tampere, Finland <>.

The event brought together about 60 decision-makers and leaders in e-learning and telemedicine from 14 underserved countries who discussed practical solutions for the implementation of affordable global e-learning across national boundaries. They brainstormed and the workshop recommended the formation of the following three interrelated organizations;

  1. Global University System (GUS) (TM),
  2. Global Broadband Internet (GBI),
  3. Global Service Trust Fund (GSTF) (TM).

The group also formulated specific pilot projects focussed on major regions of the world to reduce the growing digital divide between information rich and information poor populations, as realizing “education and healthcare for all,” at anywhere, anytime and at any pace.

IV. Global University System (GUS)

The goal of the GUS is to improve the global learning and wellness environment for people in the global knowledge society where the global responsibility is shared by all. A central theme is the sharing and exchange of knowledge among educational, research, industry and trade sectors. The GUS will (1) seek open, egalitarian and culturally transparent methods to achieve improved learning and healthcare worldwide, cooperating closely with people around the world, (2) harness the emerging technologies of broadband Internet connectivity among institutions of higher learning in developing countries to provide learners of all ages with global e-learning across national and cultural boundaries, (3) nurture the intellectual development of youngsters around the world through creative competition for excellence with affordable and accessible broadband Internet, (4) coordinate and facilitate national and international regional systems which will support and complement the traditional institutions of learning and healthcare, by using conventional methods in tandem with advanced electronic media.

The GUS has group activities in the major regions of the globe. They are developing their pilot projects in;

  1. the Asia-Pacific region (with Manila in the Philippines as its first target, and then with Japan, China, Pakistan, Western and South Pacific),
  2. North America (for indigenous peoples in the states of Arizona and Montana and in Calgary in Canada),
  3. Central America (e.g., Costa Rica and the Caribbean),
  4. South America (mainly with UNAMAZ consortium in Amazon basin in initial stage, Argentina, etc.),
  5. Europe (firstly with Estonia, Barcelona and Ukraine), and
  6. Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, etc.).

Each of these regional groups, with partnerships of higher learning and healthcare institutions, will foster the establishment of GUS in their respective regions, with the use of an advanced global broadband Internet virtual private network which to be financed by the Global Service Trust Fund (GSTF) -- see below.

The major officers of the GUS are: P. Tapio Varis, Ph.D., Acting President, (University of Tampere, former rector of the United Nations University of Peace in Costa Rica); Marco Antonio Dias, T.C.D., Vice President for Administration, (former director of Higher Education of UNESCO); Takeshi Utsumi, Ph.D., Vice President for Technology and Coordination, (Chairman of GLOSAS/USA); Pekka Tarjanne, Ph.D., Trustee member, (former Director-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)).

V. Global Broadband Internet (GBI) (Figure 1)

GUS will foster the development of e-learning and telemedicine pilot projects using broadband Internet technology in order to enhance their teaching/learning capabilities. The GUS will also facilitate connectivity among current e-learning efforts around the world and will provide support and guidance to selected pilot projects intended to serve as models for adoption around the world.

Each regional satellite hub of the GUS will be connected with its counterparts in developed countries with the use of digital satellites across continents and oceans. However, if possible, it is desirable to use optical fiber terrestrial line to avoid time delay latency for the round trip to/from geostationary satellite. This is because latency, especially if more than one satellite ‘hop’ is required, inhibits effective audio conversation which is an absolute necessity for videoconferencing.

The each regional satellite hub will then be connected to regional constituent member organizations (elementary and secondary schools, institutions of higher education, libraries, hospitals, local governmental agencies, etc.) in mid-range (50 to 200 miles) apart from each other using microwave broadband (1.5 to 45 Mbps) Internet networks.

Those organizations will then disseminate the broadband Internet service further to similar nearby (up to 25 miles) organizations using wireless spread spectrum broadband (3 to 10 Mbps) Internet networks, which do not require licenses in most countries.

This is the so-called “fixed wireless” approach requiring “line-of-sight,” and hence, this technology can be used only between buildings. The users have to belong to the organizations using the buildings, hence prohibiting the use of the broadband Internet by individual outreach students at their homes. The buildings with broadband Internet connection will then also become relay points for the so-called “third generation mobil wireless” units which are now rapidly appearing in the market, e.g., 96 Kbps or up to 300 Kbps Internet access in Japan, the U.S. and Europe. This advanced mobil wireless unit with laptop/notebook will make possible e-learning for anyone, anywhere, and anytime with capabilities of Internet telephony, fax, voice mail, e mail, web access, videoconferencing, etc.

This is not only to help local community development, but also assure close cooperation among higher, middle and lower levels of education, e.g., for teacher training, and courseware development, etc. In a sense, the regional satellite hub is to be the major Internet Service Provider (ISP) of the global virtual private (exclusive) network (VPN) for not-for-profit organizations in the region, and the gateway to the outside world.

VI. Global Service Trust Fund (GSTF) (Figure 2)

Deployment of this high-speed Internet for education and health applications in developing countries would be financed with a Global Service Trust Fund (GSTF) which will use available satellite and optical-fiber facilities to further the cause of worldwide digital divide for e learning, telehealth/telemedicine and other social services such as emergency warning and rescue.

The GSTF responds directly to several of the injunctions of the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society to:

“...foster an appropriate policy and regulatory environment to stimulate competition and innovation, ensure economic and financial stability, advance stakeholder collaboration to optimize global networks, fight abuses that undermine the integrity of the network, bridge the digital divide, invest in people, and promote global access and participation,”

and calling on,

“...all, within both the public and private sectors to bridge the international information and knowledge divide.”

Objective steps must be taken to:

The GSTF directly addresses the digital divide at the international level. Although many countries (including some developing countries) are now geared to establish broadband Internet, their initiatives are mainly domestic. There is currently no international organization that provides such a network across national boundaries, continents, and oceans, for the use by non-profit organizations, e.g., e-learning, tele-healthcare, libraries, and local governments. This international gap is now a major cause of network congestion, and there is an urgent need to close it in a rapidly globalizing world society.

The GSTF would create strong incentives for an improved policy and regulatory environment in developing and transitional countries, increase bandwidth available free or at subsidized rates for educational and health projects -- that is projects investing in people -- requiring broad bandwidth, and would involve collaboration between the public and private sectors.

The GSTF will make available broad bandwidth free or at below market prices for qualifying education and health projects in developing countries. Ideally, funding would be sufficient to eliminate or greatly reduce the telecommunications cost for qualified education and healthcare applications. This might be done by a voluntary international mechanism akin to the "E-Rate" now benefiting schools in the United States.

The fund would come from two donor sources: (1) telecommunications companies with under utilized bandwidth (transponder space, fiber capacity) and (2) organizations possessing financial resources (foundations; multinational corporations, international organizations, individual donors, etc.). The latter could also include:

There would be some policy conditionality (telecommunications, education, health). This conditionality and operational criteria will be established in a participatory fashion by working groups convened by ITU, UNESCO, and the World Health Organization (WHO). Major stakeholders -- nations, international organizations, private companies, NGOs, etc. -- would be invited to help determine the minimum acceptable policy framework intended to create an enabling environment for the development of both broad bandwidth infrastructure and applications of this infrastructure to meet development needs.

The Coalition for this GSTF ideally would include a broad spectrum of commercial and governmental sources. These might include key international organizations such as ITU, UNESCO, WHO, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) plus commercial satellite system providers, fiber optic operators, equipment manufacturers and providers of tele-education and tele-health services. The Coalition would also include international development banks, bilateral aid agencies, foundations, and various types of companies contributing to the GSTF as well as organizations contributing education and healthcare knowledge.

A credible, reliable, and competent structure will be established to administer the GSTF. One possibility is that the World Bank would provide the secretariat, making use of the same legal infrastructure established for the Information and Development Program (InfoDev). The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is another possible host, and others could be envisioned, e.g., an independent neutral entity under the auspices of UNESCO, WHO, ITU, World Bank, UNDP, etc.

This activity, including a high-level meeting of global leaders to launch the GSTF, is now being adopted by the [Arthur C.] Clarke Institute of Telecommunications and Information (CITI) <> and coordinated through GLOSAS/USA and the GUS.

VII. Pilot Projects

The organizers of this project have already identified a number of potential pilot projects for the GSTF. These include several projects of the Global University System; the Millennium Satellite System for the Digital Divide; the Biosphere Project; Canal Futura Africano -– A 24-Hour-a-Day Portuguese Language Educational Television Service for Africa; Conversion of Zimbabwe Open University to Decentralized Web-Based Learning and Satellite Web-Based Delivery for the South Institute of Information Technology in Pakistan. These projects are already in a relatively advanced state of preparation and could be implemented rapidly as GSTF funding becomes available.

VIII. Conclusions

The Tampere meeting was a study in contrasts, and clearly showed the enormous gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots". On the one hand, some of the players have tremendous resources with which to deploy broadband wireless technology; on the other hand, some must operate on a shoestring budget, and even lack adequate basic wireline services as a starting point. A major challenge will be to identify technology which will be appropriate (in terms of start-up and operating costs, maintainability by local people, etc.) in the "have not" situations.

Thanks to our highly successful event in Tampere, Finland, substantial momentum for our Global Initiative is now building up to have follow-up workshops and conferences to forge ahead the establishment of the GUS with GBI and GSTF by multilateral collaborations.

IX. Current Reference Websites


Biographies of Authors

Peter T. Knight, Ph.D. is Partner in Knight-Moore Telematics for Education and Development <>, which he founded in March 1997 together with Professor Michael G. Moore of Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Knight’s clients include The World Bank; Inter-American Development Bank; International Monetary Fund; Science Applications International Corporation; SRI International/National Science Foundation; US Department of State; United Nations Development Programme, Pakistan; and Secretariat of Education, Paraná State, Brazil. He was Chief of the Electronic Media Center at the World Bank from June 1994 through February 1997, and before that, Division Chief of the National Economic Management Division in the Bank's Economic Development Institute (EDI), now known as the World Bank Institute (WBI). Of his over 20 years in the World Bank, he worked eight exclusively on Brazil, most recently as Lead Economist for Brazil (1987-88). Before joining the World Bank in 1976 he held positions at Cornell University, the Ford Foundation and the Brookings Institution. Dr. Knight's received his Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University, a B.A. in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University, and an A.B. from Dartmouth College (major in government). He is sole, principal, or contributing author of 11 published World Bank studies; author of books on new forms of economic organization in Peru (1975) and Brazilian agricultural technology and trade (1971); and over 30 published articles, book chapters, and numerous unpublished reports and papers. He was executive producer of 12 videos/TV programs dealing with telematics, distance learning, and sustainable development and Internet development in Africa (see for recent papers, projects). He speaks French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian as well as his native English.

Francis Method is an educator with extensive international experience with social sector planning, assessment and service delivery in developing country contexts. Since 1998 he has been the Washington-based education advisor to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). From 1981 through 1996, he was Senior Education Advisor at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He also worked independently on higher education and technical training, with the Ford Foundation on education assistance strategy and language policy, and as a Peace Corps teacher and staff member in Nigeria. His interests include the processes of education policy development, education technology and media, early childhood development, lifelong learning, and new understandings of learning, learning organizations and strategies for functioning more effectively in open learning environments. He is an advisor to Techknowlogia <>, the online magazine on education and technology, and is a member of several working groups on strategic planning for prevention of conflict. This includes helping communities to use education and communications media to reduce isolation and explore new scenarios.

Joseph Pelton, Ph.D. is currently a Research Professor with the Institute for Applied Space Research at the George Washington University <> as well as Director of the Accelerated M.S. Program in Telecommunications and Computers. He also holds concurrent appointments as a Member of the College of Teachers at the International Space University of Strasbourg, France and as Professor of Telecommunications at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is also the founder and Acting Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Telecommunications and Information (CITI <>) as well as Chairman of the Board of Triana Worldcast Corporation. Currently he heads several international research projects in space communications and frequency allocation at the Institute of Applied Space Research. During 1996/7, he served as Vice President of Academic Programs and Dean of the experimental global virtual university known as the International Space University. This project, with backing from 400 organizations around the world and most of the world's space agencies, has a central campus in Strasbourg, France and 24 affiliate campuses worldwide. The ISU is also represented on the Space Agency Forum, a group representing NASA, ESA and 35 other space agencies from around the world, and in this role has been requested to develop a model space education program for global implementation. From 1989 to 1996, during the period of his directorship of the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado, this program grew from just over 100 graduate students all on campus to a program of nearly 500 graduate students, some 230 on campus, 140 in distance learning programs from the U.S. and 20 other countries and a special intensive Masters program for 100 students from AT&T and Lucent Technologies. Its research laboratories during the same period of time grew from an estimated value of $1 million to $5 million. Dr. Pelton holds degrees from the University of Tulsa (B.S. 1965), New York University, (M.A. 1967) and Georgetown University (Ph.D. 1971). He is the founding President of the Society of Satellite Professionals International, the Vice Chairman and founder of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation of the U.S., a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Institute of Communications, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Space University for three years.

Takeshi Utsumi, Ph.D., P.E., is Chairman of GLObal Systems Analysis and Simulation Association in the USA (GLOSAS/USA) and Vice President for Technology and Coordination of Global University System (GUS) <>. He is the 1994 Laureate of Lord Perry Award for the Excellence in Distance Education. His public services have included political work for deregulation of global telecommunications and the use of e-mail through ARPANET, Telenet and Internet; helping extend American university courses to the Third World; the conduct of innovative distance teaching trials with "Global Lecture Hall" multipoint-to-multipoint multimedia interactive videoconferences using hybrid technologies; as well as lectures, consultation, and research in process control, management science, systems science and engineering at the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, M.I.T. and many universities, governmental agencies, and large firms in Japan and other countries. Among more than 150 related scientific papers and books are presentations to the Summer Computer Simulation Conferences (which he created and named) and the Society for Computer Simulation International. He is a member of various scientific and professional groups, including the Chemists Club (New York, NY); Columbia University Seminar on Computer, Man and Society (New York, NY); Fulbright Association (Washington, D.C.); International Center for Integrative Studies (ICIS) (New York, NY); and Society of Satellite Professionals International (Washington, D.C.). Dr. Utsumi received his Ph.D. Ch.E. from Polytechnic University in New York, M.S.Ch.E. from Montana State University, after study at the University of Nebraska on a Fulbright scholarship. His professional experiences in simulation and optimization of petrochemical and refinery processes were at Mitsubishi Research Institute, Tokyo; Stone & Webster Engineering Corp., Boston; Mobil Oil Corporation and Shell Chemical Company, New York; Asahi Chemical Industry, Inc., Tokyo.

Tapio Varis, Ph.D., is currently Professor and Chair of Media Culture and Communication Education at the University of Tampere, Finland (Journalism and Mass Communication and Department of Teacher Education), Consultant on new learning technologies for the Finnish Ministry of Education, Member of European Union’s PROMETEUS Steering Committee and Adviser to several international organizations. In 1996-97 he was UNESCO Chair of Communication studies at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain. He has also been a faculty member of the European Peace University, Communication and Media Scholar at the University of Helsinki and the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. He is a former Rector of the University for Peace in Costa Rica, and Professor of Media Studies in the University of Lapland, Finland. He has published approximately 200 scientific contributions - the latest being Media of the Knowledge Age, published by Helsinki University Press 1995 (in Finnish). He is listed in Who's Who in the World (1984 & 1995) and Men of Achievement (1986 &1995).

Officers of Global University System

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