November 17, 2009 Leave a comment
I met up with Lynne Gallagher, President of Telecom Telematique, in Milpitas, California, while giving a tour of data centers and information technology vendors in the Silicon Valley to a delegation of IT business people from Ramallah, Palestine.
Telecom Telematique consults in four broad categories of international telecommunications-Infrastructure, including policy and regulation, applications, and business strategy, conducting feasibility studies, technical assistance, education, and training to people in the developing and under-privileged world.
Lynne is one of those unique people who is tireless, preferring to hop on an airplane and go nose-to-nose with international agencies holding up a project, than live the comfortable life of retirement most of us aspire. It is not often we have an opportunity to meet people who are truly dedicated to helping others, with little or no regard to their own comfort.
Lynne is one of those rare people who have dedicated her life to delivering the tools needed to achieve the hopes and dreams of thousands of young people around the world.
Pacific-Tier: Lynne, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us this afternoon. Please tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got into the international telecom business.
Lynne Gallagher: I started about 20 years ago working with colleagues in Latin America as the telecom sectors were beginning to deregulate and privatize in most of the world, including areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. My work specialized in policy areas, assisting ministries, governments, and operators as they opened up their networks to the rest of the world.
Pacific-Tier: Tell me, what was your interest, and why did you decide to do developing country work?
Lynne Gallagher: I was first staffed with the Peace Corps back in the early 1960s, and I think I never thought I was leaving my work with the Peace Corps in various other parts of my career. Later, when I was working on various other (international) projects, I began realize that one of the missing things was lack of access to communications and information. So I wanted to apply the IT and technology to developing countries as a tool of development.
This was happening around the same time as wireless technology, such as cellular, was enabling competition in these markets with their (competitive) voice service, in addition to data networks. It’s taken many years, but cellular and data applications have changed the face of many developing countries.
Pacific-Tier: What would be your most memorable project?
Lynne Gallagher: Probably Morocco, where they used the ICT and intellectual property we delivered to help build a stronger economy, and also support further development of their democratic society. We also had a project in Uzbekistan, where we were tasked to build a fiber optic backbone network. That was quite an interesting one. We were in Central Asia, trying to bring in an infrastructure similar to that which was being built in Europe 15 years earlier, was finally being deployed in Central Asia. We were able to build along the railway, connecting the borders and major cities, out of this land-locked country for high performance, modern communications.
Pacific-Tier: Do you have anything that you would call a major success story, where you actually changed the course of a country you worked in?
Lynne Gallagher: I’m not sure we have gone that far in the telecom sector, but perhaps in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria and Romania, at a time where assisted with the education of some young, bright telecom people. We worked with them to better understand how information technology could be a catalyst for change. Many did not think that possible, as they were used to a monopoly phone company, and nothing they did could ever change the system in their countries.
Within a couple years we were pleased to see the same people participate in the development of the mobile and Internet industries. This was an example of really visible change, and while it would no doubt have occurred regardless of our efforts, it was a pleasure to see those people succeed.
Pacific-Tier: Great! What projects are you working on now?
Lynne Gallagher: We’ve recently entered a new area of applications. About ten years ago I wrote a book about eGovernment and eCommerce, and how to use ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to support efforts in those areas. We thought that eGovernment would be a good entry application for countries getting ready to implement modern ICT applications into their economy.
In Ghana we are just completing a project where we designed and delivered an eGovernment system which included not only the application, but also the wide area (national and international) network design, the data center, and developed the entire project plan as a combined public/private partnership. This project is now passed the contract bidding phase, and ready to start physical deployments. We expect to see a positive return on investment for the project within the third year.
Pacific-Tier: I know you are also involved in a project based in Ramallah, where you are supporting ICT and data center development for the Palestinian people. How do you go about getting engaged in this type of international project?
Lynne Gallagher: A couple of ways. We work in various regions, staying in close communication with people in the region’s telecom sector. We also work through various agencies that are promoting these type of developing country projects. For example, with the United States government we work with the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), which is funding the feasibility study for Palestine. We’ve done several USTDA projects in the past, and have a pretty good track record of successful projects with them.
The Ghana project for eGovernment was funded by the World Bank.
Our network of contacts in each region, where we have worked over much of the past twenty years doing a wide variety of diverse projects, also bring us introductions to new potential projects.
At that point we bring in our network or networks, consisting of subject matter experts, into each project as appropriate to meet the needs of the project. We are very excited about the data center project we are supporting for Palestine.
Pacific-Tier: It is exciting. So what is the future, what happens next for TTI?
Lynne Gallagher: We are actively engaged in Africa. We just started working on a project in Niger, looking at a small regional network that would connect many of the land-locked countries in North Africa with submarine (fiber optic cables) and gain high performance telecom access to the rest of the world. We are starting with Niger, and continuing with a link through Mali.
The future is getting these countries access to the submarine cables, building regional networks, and ultimately connecting West Africa with East Africa, and hopefully this will dramatically change the face of Africa.
Pacific-Tier: This is a wonderful story – thanks for the time!