African Studies Computer Resources [Kuntz]

African Studies Computer Resources [Kuntz]

This article appeared in the African Technology Forum 6/3 1993.

African Studies Computer Resources

Patricia S. Kuntz (Curriculum & Instruction) University of Wisconsin - Madison

UW African Studies BBS (608) 262-9689 8,N,1 14,400 - kuntz Bitnet - Internet - Fidonet - kuntz 1:121/25.3

This article argues that the U.S. Department of Education funded Higher Education Act Title VI African Studies Centers (ASC) should be on the "cutting edge" of contemporary electronic communication. In particular the knowledge and use of computer networks should be a fundamental aspect of their computerized communication system and education program. As federally funded research centers, charged with the promotion of teaching, research, and dissemination of African content to the public, these ASCs have a pre-eminent role in African studies computer resources.

Given the above assumption, this paper will focus on African studies computer resources readily available in the U.S. with linkages to Africa. Africanists can utilize four fundamental computer systems:

Internet/Bitnet, Fidonet, Usenet, and dial-up bulletin board services (BBS). An updated summary of these network services is available from Arthur McGee. For a complete list of files, contact:

Internet: BDPA BAC: [1-707-552-3314] to [Arthur McGee] Data Bits Online: [1-213-295-6094] to [Arthur McGee] Compuserve: [72377,1351] Voice: [1-310-320-BYTE]

AFRIMAIL.MSG = Internet/BITnet Mailing Lists AFRISITE.MSG = Online Information Sites AFRINEWS.MSG = Usenet Newsgroups BLACKBBS.MSG = BBS List


The most common network systems throughout the world are Internet or Bitnet and the various compatible networks.

INTERNET Nearly all American universities subscribe to the Internet network. Users on the Internet can access Listserver, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Telnet, described below. Most Internet sites also have access to Usenet newsgroups.

BITNET Bitnet's main feature is the automatic mailing program called Listserv.

A. Electronic Mail Both Internet/Bitnet networks provide electronic mail (E-mail) for sending public and private messages. Contacts to Africanists and African scholars and inquiries concerning African studies can be made through the following organizations:

African Studies Association (ASA) African Language Teachers Association (ALTA) African Literature Association (ALA) American Association for the Advancement of Science/ African Academy of Science (AAAS) Association of African Studies Programs (AASP) NA Washington Office on Africa

* HEA Title VI African Studies Resource Universities * Boston University: NA Univ. of California-Berkeley: Univ. of California-Los Angeles: Central State University: NA Columbia University: NA Cornell University: NA Univ. of Florida: Univ. of Illinois: Indiana University: Howard University: NA Lincoln University: NA Michigan State University: Ohio State University: Univ. of Pennsylvania (Consortium) [Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore Colleges] Stanford University: Tuskegee University: NA Univ. of Wisconsin: Yale University: NA

Commercial companies can also provide E-mail connections, in addition to a wide variety of other services such as on-line news, weather reports, and so forth. The largest commercial company is CompuServe which provides CompuServe Africa for the growing African demand for network connections especially from southern Africa. Another commercial service for African news is NewsNet. This company has the following products among others:



B. Distribution Lists Another Internet/Bitnet feature is the option of creating distribution lists. These lists consist of frequently used addresses which form an identifiable interest group.

Public Distribution Lists

One type of distribution list can be developed and maintained as a private list; however, subscribers have access to the list. Michigan State University's African Studies Center distributes their bi-weekly newsletter electronically. <>

Users of these public list must request a subscription which enables them to receive all the messages automatically to their address. Their replies, unless specified to another user, are distributed to all the members. Unlike other services, these public distribution lists do not provide archives of messages or automatic updates of lists. Rather, a systems operator must retain messages manually and update the list. The following list is a sample of several public distribution lists which carry African-related discussions:

aajn@catcc.bitnet Burkina Faso African news service Algeria algnews@gwuvm.bitnet Algeria News List-French Berber AATA service African Students' Association Cameroon CAMEROON- | unpublished Cameroonian Students Union in UK Egypt ETHIOPIA | Ethiopia Eritrea Nigerians in Europe Eritrea (for Kenyans only) Kenyan/East African Tech North Africa Middle East Students Muslim Student Assn. (for Nigerians only) (for Ghanaians only) African students Sierra Leone discussion SNU | Somalia News Update US-South African ZIMNET | (for Zimbabweans only)

C. Listserv/Listserver The list service system is a feature which some universities provide for automating the distribution lists. Special software provides additional attributes. This service customarily requires a minimum of 100 users before a computer center will accept responsibility for posting new users, archiving messages, and maintaining the list. Some examples of lists and their contents available through Listserv (Bitnet) or Listserver (Internet) are:

AFRICA-L | listserv@vtvm1.bitnet African-related news AFRICA-N | African News & Information AFRICANA | listserv@wmvm1.bitnet Info Technology and Africa ALGNEWS | Algeria News List (French) ASA-L | listerv@tamvm1.bitnet African-American Students Association CAMNET | Cameroon Technology ITISALAT | listserv@guvm.bitnet Computer Tech. for Arabic MSA-L | Muslim Student Association MUSLIMS | Islamic Information & News RINAF-L | Regional Informatics Net for Africa SA-DROUGH | Southern Africa (Region) Drought SWAHILI-L | Discussion in Swahili TSSNEWS | Tunisian Info Office, Washington D.C. TUNINFO | Tunisian Info Office, Washington D.C. TUNISNET | The Tunisia Network

D. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) The Anonymous FTP provides free access for file upload and download. African studies file sites are listed at several directory nodes around the world.

E. Telnet Telnet is a service which allows remote access to computers.


Telnet provides connections to campus wide information services (CWIS) also known as "Gopher," or wide area information service (WAIS). In addition to providing E-mail addresses, course lists, weekly announcements, and faculty addresses; this connection accesses computerized library catalog systems around the world. For instance, the U.S. Department of State "Handbook for Somalia" is available at the University of Missouri-St. Louis gopher of . The University of Pennsylvania has created an African Studies bulletin board via "gopher" , , To access the this database, follow these directions: "PennInfo," "Interdisciplinary Studies," "African Studies"

World Wide Web (WWW) is technology which provides an information retrieval system to give access to a large universe of documents. WWW is similar to Gopher; however, it is more powerful by allowing full advantage of desktop formated texts including hypercard/stack and graphics. It links texts, images, sound, and movies (motion). Unlike Gopher, WWW permits single consistent user-interfact to information of oter services such as gopher, FTP, and Usenet News.

II. Fidonet

Fidonet is an international, decentralized, cooperative, voluntary system in which participants serve one another by relaying messages through a routing system. A list of all Fidonet bulletin board systems (BBSs) (known as the "nodelist") is updated weekly from a central point (node 1:1/0) and is distributed throughout the network. Since this network has no central computers, Fidonet is organized in a branching system with six geographically designated zones:

1 = USA/Canada/Mexico - North America 2 = Europe 3 = Australia, New Zealand (Oceana) 4 = Latin America * 5 = Africa 6 = Asia

Fidonet nodes may be established by individuals using only personal computers, international speed-modems, and free software. There are no overhead costs. Consequently, this process permits access to developing areas by users of the international hosts. Gateways or links have reduced the cost of transmission.

Echomail is a specific public forum, conference group or newsgroup. Currently, there are four Echomail conferences of interest to Africanists:

Africa Link Peace Corps, South Africa Southern Africa Drought

III. Usenet News

Usenet is a third worldwide network that provides one main service -- news. Usenet newsgroups are largely unavailable to Bitnet sites. While most of Usenet's sites are commercial, advertising is strictly forbidden on the Usenet network. Although some 300 newsgroups are available, not all sites carry all newsgroups. No files are associated with this service, and messages are automatically deleted on a regular basis; consequently, it provides no archiving characteristics of the Bitnet listserv. African-related Usenet message areas are:

soc.culture.maghreb soc.culture.southafrica soc.culture.arabic soc.culture.african soc.culture.egyptian soc.religion.islam talk.politics.mideast

IV. Bulletin Board System

The bulletin board system (BBS) connects personal computers directly through a telephone connection. Since these boards cost the user a telephone call, unlike the academic networks (Internet/Bitnet), a long distance log-in can be expensive.

Presently, few BBSs exist for strictly African-related content. Two members of the African Studies Association have promoted the use of electronic communications in Africa and the Americas.

African Studies (1989) Patricia Kuntz (608) 262-9689 8 N 1 14,400 modem Fidonet connections 1:121/25.3 and 1:109/151.42 Internet connections

Baobab (1989) Bob Barad (202) 296-9790 8 N 1 14,400 modem Fidonet connections 1:109/151 Internet connections

African Linkages

For Africanists seeking direct contacts in Africa, at least 33 African countries offer network connections. Larry Landweber at Wisconsin provides a bi-annual update of the five network options for each African country. This information is available through the Internet Society or on "gopher" and following FTP site.

--u-- DZ Algeria ---f- AO Angola ---f- BW Botswana --u-- BF Burkina Faso --u-- CM Cameroon --u-- CG Congo --u-- CI Cote d'Ivoire bIU-- EG Egypt ---F- ET Ethiopia ---f- GM Gambia ---F- GH Ghana ---f- KE Kenya --u-- LS Lesotho -- f- MG Madagascar ---f- MW Malawi --u-- ML Mali ---f- MU Mauritius --u-- MR Morocco --u-- MZ Mozambique --u-- NA Namibia --u-- NE Niger --uf- NG Nigeria --u-- RE Reunion --Uf- SN Senegal --u-- SC Seychelles -IUFO ZA South Africa --u-- SZ Swaziland ---f- TZ Tanzania --u-- TG Togo bIUfo TN Tunisia ---f- UG Uganda --uf- ZM Zambia --uf- ZW Zimbabwe

For those francophone countries having UUCP (U/u) service, contact the director of ORSTOM Paul Renaud. In addition to Landweber's list, Karanja Gakio and Randy Bush have assembled directories of specific addresses and networks in Africa.


The four computer networks briefly described above and the variety of services which they provide are fundamental tools for Africanists. As such, these networks should be readily available and used by administrators, faculty, students, librarians, and outreach personnel in connecting with others interested in Africa. Proficiency in computer technology, including the manipulation computer networks has become a requirement for Africanists in research, teaching, administration, and extension. 9 March 1994

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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