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Bangladesh plugs in to the Net

Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, joined the wired community.

Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries, joined the community of wired nations this week as citizens lined up to peek into the Web even though few will be able to afford private service.

Bangladesh has an average annual per-capita income of $240, and only 10,000 computers are available nationwide. Nevertheless, hundreds of citizens showed up an open house held by the country's first Internet service provider, Information Services Network.

To prove the usefulness of the Internet, ISN plans to post the results of Bangladesh's general election, to be held tomorrow, to the country's first Web site, according to Reuter news service.

ISN plans to expand service and invest in communications equipment but is currently hampered by a limited number of computers, few telephone lines, and persistent power outages. The company, which is linked to the Internet via a satellite connection to a Hong Kong access provider, has only ten telephone lines. Company officials hope to add 20 lines within three months.

Despite the huge public interest, ISN will initially draw a largely business audience because few Bangladeshis can afford the company's services. ISN charges the equivalent of $240 to sign up for an account and $24 for four hours of service per month.

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