"Empowering Socio-Economic Development in Africa

Utilizing Information Technology"




Jane Furzey[1]





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 4

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





References 16






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, infrastructure.

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[2] 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 global context.


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.




2.1 The communication infrastructure (national, sub-regional, regional, global)


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 country.[3]


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.[4] 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 bps.


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 kbps.


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 case-by-case basis.


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.[5] 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[6]. 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 pipeline.


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 the region.[7]


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 Addis Ababa.


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,[8] 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.[9]

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 and Preparedness.


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[10] and a strong maintenance and repair department.


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 telecommunications sectors.


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 developed.


2.4 Awareness level


The level of awareness of electronic communication in Ethiopia has increased dramatically in the last two years[11], 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[12] and newspaper articles[13] which have increased awareness of electronic communication.


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[14].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 reservations.


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 services,


* 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 systems.


* developing the science and technology network Ethionet


* linking over 20 science and technology institutions, mostly in the rural areas


* 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[15] 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 expand


* recognising the need for an on-going strategy to develop connectivity, raise funds and promote awareness through enlisting the support of Ethiopians abroad.




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 Ababa.


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.


Trade Initiatives

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.[16]


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.[17]


Most local initiatives to develop electronic communication concentrate on institutional capacity building. The main directions of development can be summarised as:


* developing local area networks (LANs) that facilitate institutional and inter-institutional computer and information resources sharing and communication;


* 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.





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 services.


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 Initiative.


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 uncertain.




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.[18]


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 tourism.


* 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, 1993, p31


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, 1993


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.





* 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 (LAN, WAN)

operating system aware, system maintenance programmer (aware of low-level routines,)

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 information?


Format: text static graphics sound video

Content: research data technical reports journals financial data

news product information discussion forums inter/intra-organisational communication




* 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 installation

publishing of information gathered by the organization provide training

administer and process user requests development of tutorials and on-line help

write programs/scripts for network administration provide equipment (modems, manuals, etc.)


Expected 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

: To 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 software

* Training 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, ftp, gopher)

Annex 2 User Characteristics Matrix

Characteristi Government Education NGO Business
International Private
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
mainframe /mini-
Macintosh computers
& Macintosh

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
network some
and electricity and modems for administratorcomputer exceptionssome
administratormodems applicationsmodems
secondary, modems s for indigenous computers, mostly
and software and software
for higher education NGOs, modems and modems and software
software for most

[1] 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)

[2] As judged by the OAU Observer Group, in Federal Ethiopia at the Crossroads, The International Transparency Commission on Africa (ITCO-Africa) !995, p66

[3] 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

[4] BMI TechKnowledge, Handbook on Communications Technology 1995, Telecommunications and Corporate Networking in Southern Africa and selected African Countries, International Data Corporation, Southern Africa, p64.

[5] EPRDF Five Year Programme for Peace, Development and Democracy - unofficial English Translation, 1995.

[6] from "Voice of the Ministry of Information" bi-lingual quarterly news magazine, September 1995.

[7] The Programme of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on Information Technology for development. (file: ecaonit)

[8] Lishan Adam, Draft Proposal for Internet Networking in Ethiopia, UNECA, undated

[9] Editorial note, Nastis Newsletter, National Computer and Information Centre, ESTC, December 1995

[10] 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.

[11] currently 5-6 new users are joining the PADIS network weekly

[12] Lishan Adam and Mekane Faye interview with Ethiopian Radio, English Service.

[13] Thomas Musa, in the Entrepreneur (private business paper) 26 Feb., 5 March, 12 March 1996

[14] Sectors may overlap for example when an employee has access to the network both at the work place and also at home.

[15] Nemo Semret, UNECA/PADIS, 1995

[16] Ethiopian Trade Journal, TINET: The PTA Trade Information Network, 1993, p31

[17] Bruno Lanvin, Development and the Global Information Infrastructure: An African Challenge, Telematics Symposium, Addis Ababa, 1995

[18] 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, (

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar,

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