Socio-Economic Development in Africa
Utilizing Information Technology"
A CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF THE SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, TECHNICAL AND POLICY ISSUES,
WITH RESPECT TO THE EXPANSION OR INITIATION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
INFRASTRUCTURE IN ETHIOPIA
1. INTRODUCTION 1
2. THE INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT 2
2.1 The communication infrastructure 2
a) Telecommunications infrastructure 2
b) Communications network: Broadcasting 3
c) consumer electronics and business opportunities 4
2.2 The "Info"structure
2.3 Human Resources for information development 5
2.4 Awareness level 6
2.5 Regulatory/Policy environment 8
2.6 Examples: Success cases, national efforts, sectoral efforts, individual
efforts, identification of success and failure factors 8
3. ON-GOING AND PROPOSED DEVELOPMENTS 11
4. NEEDS, PROBLEMS, CONSTRAINTS, CHALLENGES
AND OPPORTUNITIES 12
5. CONCLUSION 15
Annex 1 CURRENT AND FUTURE CHARACTERISTICS OF USERS 17
Annex 2 USER CHARACTERISTICS MATRIX 18
Ethiopia is a country of over 54 million people of many different
nationalities, of whom 85% live in rural areas. It is the seventh largest
country in Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world. Drought and
famine still haunt some areas of the country almost every year. Child mortality
is high with 200 out of every 1,000 children dying before the age of five.
Schools, health clinics and the communication infrastructure are inadequate to
meet even the basic needs of the rural population.
The lack of infrastructural development has been hampered by the topography of
the country and a history of manmade and natural disasters. The diverse
geographical features of Ethiopia pose enormous challenges to development. The
rugged Simien Mountains to the North, the vast Danakil Desert in the Afar
region and the Great Rift Valley which dissects the country from North to South
impede the development of road, rail and communication links.
The seventeen year civil war in Ethiopia between 1974-1991 devastated the
economy and the huge cost of the war meant little money was available for
maintenance let alone development of the existing infrastructure. In parts of
the country the war also damaged some of the existing, albeit meagre,
The civil war ended in 1991 and a transitional government was established
(July 1991-August 1995) and laid the foundations for the development of
a democratic society. A new Constitution was ratified in December 1994
whereby the different nations and nationalities of Ethiopia united to form
the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. The first free and fair democratic
elections for a national Parliament were held in May 1995 and an elected
Government was formed in August 1995
Although opinion is sometimes sceptical regarding Ethiopian 'Ethnic Federalism'
(Gilkes, 1993; and Legum, 1995), the business community and donors have largely
supported the changes - perhaps more for the move to a free market economy
rather than the federalist system.
The ruling EPRDF party has recognised in its five year programme, the
importance of infrastructural development in promoting economic growth and
facilitating integrated rural development which will improve the living
conditions of the majority of Ethiopian citizens. There is growing recognition
of the importance of information and communication to the overall development
of Ethiopia, both between the Federal states, and in the wider African and
Ethiopia does not yet have full Internet connectivity or even its own national
electronic communications network. However, through the network established by
the Pan African Development Information System (PADIS) and with support from
the Capacity Building for Electronic Communications in Africa (CABECA) project,
a large user group exists in Ethiopia that has electronic connectivity using
the store-and forward technology of Fidonet. This has shown the potential
benefits that connectivity can bring and it is therefore a priority that
Ethiopia moves forward to develop its own national communications network with
full Internet connectivity.
2. THE INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT
2.1 The communication infrastructure (national, sub-regional, regional,
a) Telecommunications infrastructure
The provision of all telecommunications services in Ethiopia is the
responsibility of the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority (ETA). This
government institution, has semi-autonomous status under the Ministry of
Transport and Communications.
The existing domestic facilities of ETA include open wire systems, Rural Radio
Call (RRC), multi-access radio, small and medium capacity VHF/UHF, Microwave
and DOMSAT transmission systems serving 512 telecom stations throughout the
Excluding the capital, Addis Abeba, there are 22 towns which have automated
telephone exchanges and 13 towns provided with PABX type exchanges. A further
20 towns have gentex and/or telex facilities. The overall coverage shows that
there are 74 semi-automated and 316 manually served towns. A total of 55 urban
and 390 rural areas are served in terms of tele-service penetration.
For international telecommunication
links ETA depends on INTELSAT standard "A" earth stations accessing
the Atlantic ocean region satellite for international traffic to
western Europe and America; the Indian ocean region satellite for
international traffic to Europe, Asia and Australia: the SEA-ME-WE
cable to the Middle East, Far East and Western Europe. Some international
traffic is handled by the PANAFTEL microwave system linking Ethiopia
to East and South East Africa.
In June 1995 there were 458 lines to 27 countries with international direct
dialling access. Ethiopia has 343 satellite circuits that directly connect to
about 20 countries in America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 91
Panaftel circuits are used for traffic to African countries and 24 submarine
cables link with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The overall teledensity in Ethiopia is 0.25 lines per 100 population,
significantly lower than the African average of 1.6 per 100 population. Access to services in the rural areas is poor and there is
an imbalance in provision between urban and rural areas.
Expansion of provision has been unable to keep pace with demand for services.
At the end of June 1995 there were 142,452 telephone subscribers representing a
growth trend of 3.9% for the period 1991-1995. The growth in demand for the
same period was 13.6%. Over 178,992 citizens are waiting for telephones, many
of whom have been waiting for a number of years.
The high growth of data communication in Ethiopia in the past five years has
relied on the basic dial-up provisions which, with error correcting modems has
improvd the quality of connections to ensure signalling rates of up to 14.400
At present, there are only 3 international leased circuit connections in
Ethiopia, owned by corporate organisations operating at speeds ranging from 9.6
kbps up to 19.2 kbps. There are some inland analog leased lines rented by
government, private and corporate organisations which operate at speeds from
600 bps to 9.6 kbps.
Digital leased circuits are not common provisions of the ETA although
digitalisation of switching systems and radio based transmission circuits are
increasingly being used. Addis Ababa and thirty other towns are now
interconnected with high quality digital microwave links and ETA is preparing
to provide digital leased circuit services for international connections at 64
There are only a few VSAT terminals in operation in Ethiopia. Ownership and
operation of VSAT terminals is regulated by ETA with permission granted on a
The Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority is an important government asset.
The gross profits of ETA for 1994-1995 amounted to 212.5 million Birr (US$
33.73 million) in comparison with 113.4 million Birr (US$ 18 million) in the
previous year. This was due to tariff increases for international and local
services. An analysis of the operational revenue shows that 60.7% of income
comes from international calls.
The new government recognises that telecommunications are vital to accelerating
development and promoting fast economic growth. It acknowledges the weaknesses
in the existing provision and plans to expand telecommunications services and
improve efficiency both in rural and urban areas. Significant changes are
proposed, which will require management reforms and substantial investment. The aim is for ETA to be fully autonomous and able to
generate sufficient revenue to cover its operational costs and also yield some
surplus which will, in part, meet its investment needs.
A new Minister for Transport and Communications was appointed in August 1995
and changes have already taken place resulting in a major restructuring of the
Telecommunications Authority. There are signs that a more efficient and
customer-oriented service is developing - one that is responsive to
technological change. As examples of the changes the following developments can
be cited: plans for X.25 packet switching have been abandoned in favour of more
advanced state-of the-art systems, regulations regarding satellite dishes are
being relaxed, and consultations are in progress with a view to developing a
national telematics policy and providing Internet services.
These very positive and encouraging steps will greatly enhance the country's
ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities of developing a national
information infrastructure within an African and global context.
b) Communications network: Broadcasting
Broadcasting in Ethiopia is through the state owned Ethiopian Television and
Radio Enterprise. News is collected and disseminated by the Ethiopian News
Agency. ETV broadcasts on one channel, although a second channel, is soon to
be implemented. Programmes are produced for Amharic,
Oromiffa, Tigrigna and English speaking viewers. Television is a rare luxury in
the rural areas and radio is a more important means of communication for the
majority of the population.
c) consumer electronics and business opportunities
There is great potential and growing demand for the development of all aspects
of the consumer electronic market in Ethiopia. Currently all computers, fax
machines, modems, telephones and other related equipment are imported. One
company has recently started assembly of computers and others are in the
2.2 The "Info"structure
Ethiopia has not developed its own national communications network and for
e-mail use depends on the network established by the Pan African Development
Information System (PADIS) based at the United Nations Economic Commission for
Africa (UNECA). This was established in 1990 as a pilot project on computer
networking in Africa, primarily for disseminating development information in
In 1993 this was followed by the Capacity Building for Electronic Communication
in Africa (CABECA) project which has helped establish low-cost
store-and-forward FidoNet systems in 24 African countries including Ethiopia.
An e-mail FidoNet node which links to GreenNet (UK) provides connectivity for
an estimated 2,500 users in Ethiopia, 20% of whom live outside the capital
The National Computer and Information Centre (NCIC) has established a satellite
node under the PADIS network which links a number of research and academic
institutions in Ethiopia. The network, EthioNet, began in November 1995 and has
over 20 institutional users most located outside Addis Ababa. Institutions
benefiting from this network include the Essential Oils Research Centre,
Alemayu University of Agriculture, Mekele University, Gondar Medical College,
Bahir Dar Polytechnic, Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Centre, Debre Zeit
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Arba Minch Water Technology Institute, the
Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and the Science and Technology Commission.
A lot of valuable information is being produced in Ethiopia, relating to
research in many fields, particularly agriculture and water resource
development, as well as updated information on the development of the tourist
and business sectors and new government policies. Informative bulletins,
magazines and newsletters are regularly produced by most government ministries,
the UN agencies, and NGOs.
However there is not a well established culture of information sharing and
dissemination established in Ethiopia. A number of factors have contributed to
this, including lack of library facilities, inadequate
resources for journals and books, poor documentation and archive collections,
and central resource sites. The inadequate facilities and difficulties of
accessing information have led to low expectations and consequently under
utilisation of the existing information resources. The lack of access to
relevant information is acknowledged as a major factor affecting the success
and quality of research and development activities, trade and industry.
The problem of information dissemination is a key issue being addressed by the
National Computer and Information Center (NCIC). It is developing a strategy to
improve the information resources infrastructure particularly between the
federal states and the central government. This means strengthening and
expanding electronic communication between institutions via the NCIC network
EthioNet and increasing the range of information available.
In addition to providing e-mail services for users, PADIS also operates a BBS
(Bulletin Board Service) called HorNet. This is a forum for exchanging
information and news concerning the Horn of Africa. With over 30 message and
file areas, the Hornet enables users to access a wide range of information both
from within the country and overseas.
An Ethiopian mailing list "pol.ethiopia" has
also been initiated via a list server in South Africa. This is both
a discussion and news forum which posts weekly news items from the
Prime Ministers office, the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) and Ministries,
such as Foreign Affairs and the Commission for Disaster Prevention
2.3 Human Resources for information development
Ethiopia is gradually developing a small but competent base of qualified
computer professionals. The quality of technical training in the country is low
but slowly improving. The number of professionals trained in areas of computer
science and information technology is growing due to improved training
opportunities and also due to an increase in the number of Ethiopians returning
to their country after extended periods abroad. While these are very positive
trends, technical skills in computer science and information technology are
still scarce and valuable.
Although the overall level of computer literacy in Ethiopia is low, as more
private businesses and public institutions are becoming computerised, the
demand for competent computer users is rapidly escalating.
The main providers of computer training are the Ethiopian Science and
Technology Commission, Addis Ababa University, the CABECA project and the
private sector. The academic and research institutions are the main source of
developing experts in the field of data communications and networking, while
the private sector is meeting the demand for basic application training in
word-processing, spreadsheet and database use.
The Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission is the largest single training
provider in the country, offering a wide range of accredited courses at
different levels. The Commission has a high reputation and is well respected in
the country. It has a software research department for developing Amharic
applications and a strong maintenance and repair
Addis Ababa University offers a range of courses and training programmes in
Computer science, which are run by the Computer Department in the Faculty of
Mathematics. Further development of additional training courses is needed so
that graduates from the university are both computer literate and network
literate. These graduates will in turn train other users and bring about a
multiplier effect in the country.
The Pan-African Development Information System (PADIS) through the CABECA
project contributes significantly to human resource development through
offering up-to-date, relevant technical training. There is a high level of
expertise among the staff who are also familiar with the challenges involved
with telecommunications in Ethiopia. PADIS is currently providing user training
for FidoNet e-mail services and basic computer use in information.
The private sector has responded quickly to the growing demand for basic
computer training in software applications. Although the major demand is for
basic training, many companies have the ability to offer a wide range of
courses to suit customers' needs. The proliferation of computer training
centres in the country, although very varied in standard, will improve the
general level of computer literacy and result in more skilled computer usage.
The need for system design and analysis is beginning to increase as more
institutions realise the potential of networking. Research and development in
networking will become the task of local private research and computer training
institutions in order to remain competitive. Such competitiveness will result
in competent manpower in the field.
Considerable resources are needed to support the academic institutions in
Ethiopia to develop the skilled resources in communication engineering and
computer science. Considering the future needs of the country, emphasis should
be given to developing a national computing science curriculum and the
establishment of a faculty or department in computer science. Data
communication, networking and communications engineering should be developed at
higher education institutes to underpin and assist the growth of industry and
In the long term, human resource development needs cannot be fulfilled without
diffusion of knowledge to younger generations and a national strategy for the
computerisation of high schools, training centres, and colleges should be
2.4 Awareness level
The level of awareness of electronic communication in Ethiopia has increased
dramatically in the last two years, but is still
confined to the urban elite. A number of factors have contributed to the
growing awareness of the potential of e-mail and Internet access. Significant
numbers of Ethiopians from abroad have returned to Ethiopia and new
international organisations have set up or expanded their offices in Ethiopia.
For both groups, electronic communication is a familiar and essential tool in
their professional activities and their awareness has sensitised colleagues.
A variety of activities have contributed
to the growing demand for Internet access in Ethiopia. In addition
to the Telematics Symposium held in Addis Ababa in April 1995, there
have been video conferences, international Trade Fairs showing "state-of the art" technology,
workshops and seminars sponsored by private companies, radio interviews and newspaper
articles which have increased awareness of electronic
At senior government level, a small
group of "champions" of electronic
communication are sensitising ministerial colleagues on the importance of
a national network with full Internet connectivity. However as awareness
of the benefits grows so to does the realisation of potential drawbacks.
To address these issues discussions are in progress to draft a policy
framework within which a national network can be established.
Users of the existing PADIS network know the advantages of e-mail and many are
keen have full Internet connectivity. The phenomenal growth in the number of
e-mail users was shown in a small-scale survey carried out in 1995 to see
whether Internet connectivity in Ethiopia would be sustainable. An analysis of
the users of the PADIS network showed that between June-October 1995 there was
a 31% increase in the number of subscribers to its services. This growth rate
is continuing and is expected to increase as the advantages of e-mail and
network access become more widely known.
As a result of the analysis of the PADIS user base seven categories of users
emerged.The division of the user base into sectors is
useful for identification purposes, and also allows for unique methods for
raising Internet awareness and user training.
In addition to the analysis of users
by sector, a number of informal interviews were conducted to ascertain
the information needs and computer experience of a handful of organisations.
The format of the interviews and results are summarised in Annex
1 & 2.
The largest single group utilising the PADISnet services are non-governmental
organisations (NGOs). Most of these organisations are international, but a
significant number of indigenous NGOs are joining the network. Besides the
international NGOs, there are many United Nations agencies established in the
country. All of these agencies and other inter-governmental organisations
(IGOs) together with embassies fit into this sector.
2.5 Regulatory/Policy environment
The new economic policy in Ethiopia promotes a free market economy and gives
considerable incentives to foreign and local investors. The private sector is
developing as a result, but will take time to expand and diversify. At present
there are no main public/private sector partnership in the area of
communications although the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines uses the
international lease line and services of SITA for global communications and
The provision of all Telecommunications and electronic communication services
are under the direct control of the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority and
any operator has to be licensed under the ETA. At the present time it is
therefore not possible for private companies to lease lines from ETA and
provide commercial on-line connectivity.
The lack of deregulation of telecommunication services in Ethiopia may be
viewed as an obstacle to building a national information infrastructure by
those who believe that a competitive, private sector is the best way to develop
connectivity. The Ethiopian government, however, believes that at present, the
interests of the rural areas are best served by retaining telecommunications
under state control. It is therefore necessary to promote connectivity within
the existing regulatory framework. However, it is appropriate to review and
update such policy directives in light of the changing context.
High telecommunications tariffs and customs duties in Ethiopia do not actively
promote connectivity. The annual cost of an international 19.2 kbps analog
leased line to the US is approximately $113,754. Regulations require all modems
to be approved by ETA.
2.6 Examples: Success cases, national efforts, sectoral efforts, individual
efforts, identification of success and failure factors
A number of organisations and institutions in Ethiopia use information
networking through electronic communication as an effective way to access and
disseminate up-to-date information both from local and external sources. These
national and sectoral initiatives show a growing trend towards information
sharing in the country.
National Computer and Information Centre (NCIC)
The NCIC is a semi-autonomous government institution under the overall
direction of the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission. Since 1987 it has
been responsible for promoting computer technology and information systems and
services in the country. The objectives of the Centre include:
* Building national capacity in the areas of information systems and services,
computer hardware and software training, consultancy and data communication,
* Collecting, processing, analysing and organising information sources on
Science and Technology to provide computer based library and information
* Developing, strengthening and co-ordinating national and sectoral information
systems to improve information sharing and data communication.
The NCIC's network development strategy has been incremental, starting with
FidoNet technology as a satellite node of PADIS before developing an
independent national network and moving towards Internet connectivity.
The NCIC has been successful in:
* providing training and consultancy services to organisations on the
development and management of computer based documentation and information
* developing the science and technology network Ethionet
* linking over 20 science and technology institutions, mostly in the rural
* reducing the professional isolation of experts working in the field through
providing improved access and dissemination of information.
Addis Ababa University (AAU)
Addis Ababa University is the key academic institution in the country and a
major user of international data communication networks. The University, with
considerable support from the Ethiopian Scientific Society ESS., Inc in the US
and PADIS, has developed a university-wide network, inter-connecting many
stand-alone computers into LANs. Current local and international connectivity
is via e-mail through PADIS. Over 18 departments are actively involved and the
University has its own networking committee.
According to the recommendations for AAU departmental computer networking a university-wide network with international connectivity
will be established through a phased approach. The recent appointments of a new
University President and Academic Vice-President who is also the Chair of the
University Networking Committee are likely to promote and champion existing
initiatives in the belief that the University has much to contribute to
regional, sub-regional and African networking.
The University has succeeded in
* promoting campus networking among key departments
* developed a competent, well trained and active user base
* developing an organisational framework from which campus-networking can
* recognising the need for an on-going strategy to develop connectivity, raise
funds and promote awareness through enlisting the support of Ethiopians
The medical community in Ethiopia has access to health information via the
HealthNet satellite, part of the international project Satellife, based in the
USA. The ground station in Ethiopia was licensed in April 1994 and the Medical
faculty Library of Addis Ababa University is the national node. A number of
health, research and training institutions are connected including the AHRI
library, the Library of the National Health and Nutrition Research Centre and
the NCIC. The HealthNet link assists communication between health professionals
and further training will ensure that a larger number of rural areas are able
to benefit from the information available
The Commission for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness
The Commission for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness (CDPP) recognised the
need for computer networking in 1994, to integrate early warning, relief
transport operations, air services and food-aid management in line with the
national strategy of Disaster Prevention and Preparedness.
The Commission has been implementing a Management Information strategy based on
a wide area network, integrating three independent networks based in Addis
The long term objective is to develop a networking structure which
systematically integrates the ports, warehouses, and the various CDPP
departments to enable access to data and information both by the CDPP and
regional bureaux, partners in the UN system, donors and NGOs through
establishing a common database.
As a member state of
the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and South African states
(PTA) Ethiopia has a designated national "focal point" of
TINET - the PTA Trade Information Network. The Information Processing
and Analysis Division of the Ministry of Trade is the liaison office
and has the TINET Databases which can be used by the business sector,
trade associations and manufacturers for the purposes of accessing
information on products, imports, exports and market opportunities.
As a further step in realising the benefits of electronic communication, the
Ethiopian Government has also submitted a request to UNCTAD to join the Global
Trade points Network.
Most local initiatives to develop electronic communication concentrate on
institutional capacity building. The main directions of development can be
* developing local area networks (LANs) that facilitate institutional and
inter-institutional computer and information resources sharing and
* developing the user base and promoting optimal utilisation of the networks
through training users and system operators.
* forming strong user groups, sensitising of policy makers and others through
other promotional and development programmes;
The parallel developments being planned by local organisations show the need
for institutional networks to be co-ordinated into a national effort in order
to avoid unecessary duplication of efforts. The development of an overall
strategy would also help to maximise resources - both human and financial. The
need for co-ordination is more pronounced and looks a matter of urgency when
one considers the overlap in objectives and user domains among the NCIC, AAU,
and the HealthNet networking projects.
3. ON-GOING AND PROPOSED DEVELOPMENTS AND
In May 1995, a Technical
and Advisory Committee to "Bring Internet to Ethiopia" (BITE)
was formed to examine the feasibility of Internet connectivity for
Ethiopia. This Committee arose from informal discussions, initiated
by Ato Dawit Yohannes, presently Speaker of the House of Representatives,
in March 1995. It was recognised that planning, implementing and sustaining
Internet connectivity would be most likely to succeed if different
interest groups could develop a collaborative strategy that would integrate
existing initiatives and serve as the basis for a national network,
meeting the needs of all user groups.
The BITE Technical and Advisory Committee consists of representatives from the
Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority, NCIC, Addis Ababa University, PADIS,
the Constitution Commission and the NGO sector. The intersectoral Committee
recognised that designing and implementing a strategy for Internet connectivity
raised questions of policy, sustainability and cost and recommended forming
Executive Committee with the necessary decision making powers to facilitate the
recommendations of the Technical and Advisory Committee. As a result, an
Executive Committee was formed, responsible to the Prime Minister and with the
power to make policy recommendations in the area of electronic communications
and implement the policy decisions of the government.
The main objectives of the BITE Technical
and Advisory Committee were to investigate the options for Internet
connectivity in Ethiopia and to detail its findings. The 80 page
working document "Proposal for Internet Connectivity
in Ethiopia" was completed in November 1995. The final recommendations
show that the committee consider Internet connectivity is both highly feasible
and an urgent priority for Ethiopia.
The working document details the resources necessary to set up and maintain a
national network and proposes an organisational framework within which Internet
connectivity could be managed. It recommends setting up a national public
service network in Ethiopia which would expand as the telecommunication
infrastructure develops and is able to accomodate data communications. Addis
Ababa would be the hub of the Ethiopian Internet but its introduction would be
primarily aimed at bringing vital information to locations where the
development effort is most urgent.
The proposed national node would be connected to a network in a foreign
country which has Internet access. By doing so, the national node, as well as
computers on the national network, will have access to the Internet and its
services. Conversely, all other networks and computers connected to the
Internet will gain access to information on the Ethiopian national network.
The BITE Technical and Advisory Committee recommends that a public network
service provider be established to assist the broadest range of users. This
Internet Management Organisation (IMO) should be a not-for-profit service
organisation with the main objective of serving the public and developing
Since completing the working document, the BITE Technical and Advisory
Committee have prepared and submitted to the Executive Committee a detailed
Project proposal and Action Plan which are being considered.
African Regional Networking Initiatives involving Ethiopia
Ethiopia is also gaining support for national networking through other on-going
and proposed national and regional initiatives.
The CABECA Project has had a significant impact on the development
and success of Ethiopian netowrking initiatives. The project, which promotes
low cost sustainable computer networking in Africa is executed by the Pan
African Development Information System (PADIS) and funded by a grant from
the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada. This initiative,
which has funding to operate from 1993-1996, has helped to sensitise users
and decision makers in Ethiopia to work towards full Internet connectivity.
IGADD Plan for Sub-Regional Network: Ethiopia is one of the
seven countries named in the Inter-Governmental Authority on Drought and
Development (IGADD) initiative to develop and disseminate information on
environmental issues which have devastated the economic infrastructure of
member states. This first phase of this initiative is currently being
implemented by UNECA/PADIS through a project funded by the United States Agency
for International Development in connection with its Greater Horn of Africa
Regional Telematics Network Services (RTNS) at Djibouti:
Ethiopia is involved in the RTNS Project initiated by the Chamber of
Commerce in Djibouti in 1992. This project, designed to promote better regional
business co-ordination, was identified as a regional priority at the annual
regional meeting for the European Development Fund (EDF) by the member states
of Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda,
Tanzania, and Uganda. The current status of this project, however, is
4. NEEDS, PROBLEMS, CONSTRAINTS, CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Ethiopia needs to develop a national network with full Internet connectivity.
This is a priority for the economic, social, technical and political
development of the country. There is no doubt that it will bring tremendous
benefits to many sectors.
At the same time as improving telecommunications and building a national
network, Ethiopia needs to address policy issues which will guide the
development of a national information infrastructure. Decision makers at senior
level therefore need to use all available expertise to ensure that major issues
and concerns are appropriately addressed.
Internet connectivity and a national telematics policy are not in themselves an
end, but only the beginning of moving towards an information age. This
requires a new culture of information sharing in Ethiopia. There is a need to
develop information systems, analyse information needs and to make available
relevant information through electronic communications. It is therefore vital
that attention focuses on content of information and services provided, rather
than merely setting up a national node.
A key factor in promoting information sharing and developing a successful
national network in Ethiopia will be the ability to communicate in the Gi'iz
alphabet. For most people, English is a second or third language and for ease
of communication, the ability to send e-mail or download information in Amharic
or Tigrigna is vital.
This needs a national research effort to develop country-specific software and
on-line interfaces both for e-mail and for information retrieval. Currently it
is not possible to create and sort databases in Sabean alphabets and this
hampers data collection, and retrieval. The development of a user friendly
Amharic interface for on-line connectivity is therefore an important priority
which will greatly assist the promotion of electronic communication in the
country and ensure sustainability.
The main problems that face Ethiopia in developing its national network relate
to the lack of telecommunications infrastructure. The mandate given to ETA to
expand and upgrade telephone lines and switching is crucial for building the
national infrastructure and will in turn improve Internet accessibility.
As the infrastructure develops it will be possible to give further
consideration to regulatory structures and the effects of tariffs on promoting
connectivity. The pricing policies of telecom providers in Africa have been
one of the most inhibiting factors in expanding connectivity and Ethiopia is no
exception. Sustaining Internet connectivity in Ethiopia will be an economic
endeavour which is affected by economic policy. The way in which these issues
are addressed will reflect the government's desire to initiate Internet
connectivity and facilitate its success.
The most critical link in the chain of developing a national Internet network
in Ethiopia is the availability of telecommunication options from ETA as these
will either enhance or restrict the design of the national network. At present
the availability of a low bandwidth analog lease line will place a severe
constraint on the development of a national network and soon be inadequate.
However, there are strong indications that the ETA will be improving the
telecommunications infrastructure in the near future and a national network
must be designed to take advantage of these pending improvements. Ideally VSATs
will provide the bandwidth necessary for multimedia applications.
The scarcity of human resources in information technology is a constraining
factor in the development of electronic communication in Ethiopia. Although not
an insurmountable problem, it means that consideration must be given to
developing a human resource strategy necessary to sustain a national network.
It is difficult to retain skilled technicians and programmers, particularly in
the public sector due to a combination of low salary and benefits, poor work
environment and limited opportunities. Therefore a long term strategy for
improving training opportunities at all levels should be formulated. This will
help to alleviate the impact of turnover of key or pioneering personnel.
There is a tremendous opportunity
for Ethiopia to "leapfrog" to full
TCP/IP connectivity. The pioneering work by local institutions with
support from PADIS means that a large and enthusiastic user base exists
in the country - just waiting for access to the Internet! It is therefore
an opportune time to forge ahead with a national network in order to
realise the potential social, economic, political and developmental
benefits that new technology can bring to Ethiopia.
* In the area of disaster prevention and preparedness the ability to minimise
the impact and prevent natural disasters is a priority in Ethiopia. Critical to
the success of disaster prevention is information and a national network can
play a vital role in this most important endeavour.
* The life long education of citizens is central to the development of the
country. A national network would provide many opportunities in the education
sector. Teachers would be able to communicate with colleagues and form
professional interest forums which encourage personal development and reduce
isolation. The resources available, via the Internet, to teachers and schools
can be a great asset.
* Development is at the forefront of the agenda in Ethiopia. Exciting new
agricultural programmes are improving productivity. Much research and
collaborative work is underway to develop select seeds, improve water supplies
and replant areas that have suffered from deforestation. Evaluation of results,
sharing research findings and disseminating information are crucial and the
opportunities to use a national network to disseminate and access information
in this area will be vital.
* In all areas of research and higher education the opportunity for
international access to information will increase the quality of work
undertaken. The benefits may include: research collaboration with off-site
colleagues, access to journals, publishing research, greater availability of
reference material for students, attendance at electronic conferences, access
to interactive textbooks, access to experimental software for all academic
fields, enhanced library services, and many more.
* The new economic policy and an environment conducive to investors will be
greatly enhanced by having Internet access in Ethiopia. The information
infrastructure of a country is one of the evaluating factors for foreign
investors in selecting investment areas. Ethiopia's recognition that
information is essential for development and economic growth may attract
favourable attention and eventually foreign investment.
* A national network with full international access presents a valuable
opportunity for Ethiopia to retain some of its brightest scientists and
professionals. Many Ethiopian professionals yearn to study abroad and reversing
this trend will requires a long term strategy. Enhanced communication
facilities and Internet access will be a part of the strategy to retain and
value young professionals
* A national network with Internet access is an ideal opportunity to promote
tourism in Ethiopia. The natural beauty and history of Ethiopia makes it an
attractive place to visit. The National Tours Operation (NTO) and private
travel agencies can use the Internet as a cost effective way to promote
* The establishment of democratic governance in Ethiopia has received much
international attention and Internet connectivity is an opportunity to give
Ethiopia greater visibility within the international political community. The
introduction of the Internet will indicate increasing openness to share
information and will foster greater participation in the democratic process and
developments from ex-patriot Ethiopians.
* The development of a national network presents a real opportunity for ETA who
are likely to gain new revenue from the provision of international and local
leased lines. The opportunity available to ETA depends on its resourcefulness
and level of service provision. Many PTTs in other countries reaped great
monetary rewards. Although the technical and socio-economic context for every
country is different, there is no reason why Ethiopia should not be able to
gain similar advantages.
Ethiopia has seen the potential of international networking through the work of
PADIS which has enabled different sectors to appreciate the benefits that
connectivity can bring. The existing Fidonet network has raised awareness,
developed the human resource capacity in Ethiopia and established a large user
base - three important prerequisites for sustaining a network. The mandate of
PADIS does not extend to providing a national netowork. It is therefore time
for Ethiopia to build its own network with full Internet access.
However the costs involved in setting up and maintaining national Internet
connectivity are not small and have to be balanced against the pressing
day-to-day health and social needs of the majority of the country. Given the
enormity of the social, economic and political challenges facing Ethiopia, the
issue of priority for Internet connectivity has to be seen in the context of
other pressing needs. This is not easy as the introduction of any new
technology requires a degree of vision and risk-taking on the part of decision
makers, who, in turn have to justify and account for their decisions to the
public. This is particularly true when the benefits of having national
connectivity are not easy to quantify in cost terms and when the potential of
the Internet is still an unknown entitiy for many decision makers. For those
who have yet to appreciate the benefits it is easier to view a national netowrk
and Internet access as a luxury add-on that will come to Ethiopia at some point
in the future as part of overall economic development. This argument fails to
grasp the fundamental role that Internet access can play in actually promoting
the country and its development in every aspect.
The government has shown clear commitment to capacity building, human resource
development and improving the quality of education. The access to information,
sharing of ideas and improved communication that Internet connectivity will
bring to Ethiopia will complement such strategies and help to shape a society
that learns the value of communication and information as an aid to learning
and decision making. It cannot afford to be left behind and marginalised in an
age when information technology is playing an increasingly significant role in
the social economic and political development of many countries both world-wide
and indeed in Africa. More and more African countries are moving ahead to take
advantage of the new opportunities and as an important and recognised centre
for the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia should be at the forefront of new
developments, leading the way. Without doubt, Ethiopia has to have Internet
connectivity in the near future.
BITE Technical and Advisory Committee, Proposal for Internet Connectivity
in Ethiopia, Nov 1995
BMI TechKnowledge, Handbook on Communications Technology 1995,
Telecommunications and Corporate Networking in Southern Africa and selected
African Countries, International Data Corporation, Southern Africa, p64.
Ethiopian Trade Journal, TINET: The PTA Trade Information Network,
ETA, Annual Statistical Bulletin,
prepared the Planning and Programming Department of the Ethiopian
Telecommunications Authority, 30th Issue 1994-1995, released in November 1995
EPRDF Five Year Programme for Peace, Development and Democracy -
unofficial English Translation, 1995.
Gilkes, P. Ethnic Federalism, A talk given at Oxford University,
ITCO, OAU Observer Group, in Federal Ethiopia at the Crossroads,
The International Transparency Commission on Africa (ITCO-Africa) !995, p66
Bruno Lanvin, Development and the Global Information Infrastructure: An
African Challenge, Telematics Symposium, Addis Ababa, 1995
Legum Colin, Ethiopia - The Triumph of Democratic Elections,
Thirld World Reports, May 1995
Lishan Adam, Draft Proposal for Internet Networking in
Ethiopia, UNECA, undated
Ministry of Information. "Voice of the Ministry of Information"
bi-lingingual quarterly news magazine, September 1995.
NCIC, Nastis Newsletter, Editorial, National Computer and
Information Centre, ESTC, December 1995
NCIC, Facts Sheet, ESTC, March 1995
Nemo Semret, Recommendations for Addis Ababa Departmental
Networking, UNECA/PADIS, 1995
UNECA, The Programme of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
on Information Technology for development.
Annex 1 CURRENT AND
FUTURE CHARACTERISTICS OF USERS
CURRENT CHARACTERISTICS OF USERS
* Equipment used: This assesses the types of computers used by
the user. Possibilities include:
mainframe (IBM, Prime, CPM, etc.) mini-computer
UNIX workstation (SUN, HP, SGI) PC/UNIX (386BSD, Linux, SCO)
IBM clone personal computer (DOS, Windows) Macintosh (MacOS, AU/X)
* Level of expertise: To what extent the user has utilised
computers. Experience was based on these possibilities:
no experience casual user (games, email)
application oriented (word processor, spreadsheet, ) network administrator
operating system aware, system maintenance programmer (aware of low-level
script writer (high level programming for dBase)
* Physical location : Location of user and environment
Addis Abeba urban city rural town university office
community hall library school
* Current information needs: What does the user need in terms of
Format: text static graphics sound video
Content: research data technical reports journals financial data
news product information discussion forums inter/intra-organisational
* Expected usage: To acquire the data needed, what
Internet services will the user need?
email file transfer data base access
usenet news groups on-line video conferencing
* Service provision: In addition to requiring Internet
services, what will the user contribute to the national network and foreign
Internet users. Services which may be provided include:
establish databases (national statistics, cultural information, etc.) provide
publishing of information gathered by the organization provide training
administer and process user requests development of tutorials and on-line
write programs/scripts for network administration provide equipment (modems,
amount of network utilisation: Several indicators were considered to
represent utilisation including time of day use is expected to be most
prevalent, amount of daily data, type and bandwidth of connection (leased-line,
SLIP/PPP, host-terminal, etc.). With these aspects in mind, network
utilisation can be divided roughly into:
High, medium low no utilisation
* Equipment needed
accomplish Internet connectivity of the user what kind of equipment
is needed. Equipment will depend on the user's connection to
the national node, but may include:
computers modems connectors cables electricity phone line LAN
courses needed: Considering the importance of adequately training
the user, what will be needed to make the user an effective worker on the
Internet. Possible courses are:
basic computer use communications on personal computers
computer/network ethics and etiquette training colleagues
UNIX scripting (sh, ksh, csh, bsh, perl, html) using UNIX (commands, file
structure, home area maintenance)
exploring the Internet and managing information (email, WWW, archie,
Annex 2 User Characteristics Matrix
Characteristi Government Education NGO Business
c of Users
Equipment mostly IBM PC, mostly IBM PC, with virtually all IBM PC virtually all IBM
virtually all IBM virtually all IBM
used with some some mini-computers PC
PC PC with some Apple
Level of very good in higher varies from no mostly little to
varies from no mostly experience
expertiseEqui variedmodems and education, varied experience to no experience,
experience to with games and
pment needed reliable telecom otherwisecomputers network with some
and electricity and modems for administratorcomputer exceptionssome
secondary, modems s for indigenous computers, mostly
and software and software
for higher education NGOs, modems and modems and software
software for most
 based on an in-depth study to Bring Internet To
Ethiopia prepared by members of the BITE Technical and Advisory
Committee: Mulugeta Libsie and Eshetu Alemu (Ethiopian Science and Technology
Commission, National Computer and Information Centre), Dr. Dawit Bekele, (Addis
Ababa University) Assefaw Hailemariam (Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority)
Gebre Eghabier Kiros (representing PADIS and Addis Ababa University), Lishan
Adam (representing PADIS and CABECA), Jeroen Swanburn (FHI-Ethiopia,
representing NGO and International community) Jane Furzey (Constitutional
Commission of Ethiopia)
 As judged by the OAU Observer Group, in Federal
Ethiopia at the Crossroads, The International Transparency Commission on
Africa (ITCO-Africa) !995, p66
 Statistical information regarding the operations and
services of the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority is taken from the
Annual Statistical Bulletin, prepared the Planning and
Programming Department of the Ethiopian Telecommunications Authority, 30th
Issue 1994-1995, released in November 1995
 BMI TechKnowledge, Handbook on Communications Technology
1995, Telecommunications and Corporate Networking in Southern Africa and
selected African Countries, International Data Corporation, Southern Africa,
 EPRDF Five Year Programme for Peace, Development and
Democracy - unofficial English Translation, 1995.
 from "Voice of the Ministry of Information" bi-lingual
quarterly news magazine, September 1995.
 The Programme of the United Nations Economic Commission
for Africa on Information Technology for development. (file: ecaonit)
 Lishan Adam, Draft Proposal for Internet Networking
in Ethiopia, UNECA, undated
 Editorial note, Nastis Newsletter, National Computer and
Information Centre, ESTC, December 1995
 Amharic is the official working language of the
government and is spoken by the majority of the population in addition to their
mother tongue. It is derived from Gi'iz and based on the Sabean alphabet.
 currently 5-6 new users are joining the PADIS network
 Lishan Adam and Mekane Faye interview with Ethiopian
Radio, English Service.
 Thomas Musa, in the Entrepreneur (private business
paper) 26 Feb., 5 March, 12 March 1996
 Sectors may overlap for example when an employee has
access to the network both at the work place and also at home.
 Nemo Semret, UNECA/PADIS, 1995
 Ethiopian Trade Journal, TINET: The PTA Trade
Information Network, 1993, p31
 Bruno Lanvin, Development and the Global Information
Infrastructure: An African Challenge, Telematics Symposium, Addis Ababa, 1995
 Whilst many languages are spoken in Ethiopia, the
other two major languges, Oromiffa and Somaligna use the latin alphabet and
therefore do not present the same challenge.
Editor: Ali B. Dinar, (email@example.com)