Connectivity in Africa, 1996

Connectivity in Africa, 1996

A number of African nodes and users are trying to develop African connectivity action programmes either in reaction to 'initiatives' dealing with their problems or as a follow up of earlier attempts which they have made. Since there is precious little time before some major discussions on connectivity in Africa take place, such as the Council of Ministers of Planning and Development and the G7 meeting mentioned below, and since two discussions on the subject have already taken place in Washington, it would be of interest to African nodes and users to know exactly what is being discussed in their name and to debate on the common platform developed in ECA without much inputs from them. A minimum would be that they are *aware* that this is the African Action Plan. Are they? Are we all? Their call from Addis Ababa, last year, to involve them when discussing their problems would not appear to have been heard by all.

A first point could be the list of relevant discussions in 1996. Here is mine on which I would welcome improvements:

8-9 February - Electrotechnological Services for Africa, IEEE, Region 8, Stellenbosch, RSA

9 February - High Level Working Group, ECA, Addis Ababa (draft Action Plan) March 12-15 - Privatization of Telecommunications and Information Systems in Africa and the Caribbean, Washington, organized by Howard University and the UNDP,

25-29 March - Africa Teleco;;unications Finance Colloquium, ITU, Abidjan April 3 - US International Telecommunications Advisory Committee (ITAC) ad hoc on the Leland Initiative: Africa GII Gateway, Washington

- Conference of Ministers of Planning and Developmnent, ECA 6-10 May - Regional Telecommunication Development Conference, AF-RTDC, ITU, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

13-15 May - Info Society and Development (ISAD), sponsored by the G7 group of countries, Midrand, RSA

3-5 June - Informatics and Development - a World in Transition, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique

25-28 June - The Internet: Transforming Our Society Now, INET96, Montreal, Canada

2-4 October - NetWorld Africa and LANdaba '96, Johannesburg, RSA

9-19 October - 3rd African Conference on Research in Computer Science, CARI'96

15-17 October - The Information Highway for Developing Countries, Harare, Zimbabwe

As for knowing what has been said and written in those meetings, I am sure we are all grateful to Mike and Jeff to send regular information notes. There are however some gaps. For instance, did any of you managed to decipher the coded reports on the Dakar December meeting? where are they available in clear text? Do we have a list of all the documents prepared and presented since the Addis Symposium in April 1995, including the draft Plan of Action recently discussed in Addis? are their text available to those who cannot yet access the WWW and Gopher? Is PADIS giving them access? Where? (I am aware of the arrangement with Penn U. but this is accessible to interactive Internet users, no?)....

As to identifying common issues by those who are directly interested, and to building up a common policy stand, either the HLMG did a good job and the document on which it agreed should be promoted by all, or we find there are gaps and we should agree to supplement the Plan of Action before it is being discussed. First step would of course to know what it contains. Does anybody has the text? can PADIS or Mike J. post it where everybody, including those *not* on interactive links can read it, and can it be posted in ASCII so that there is no need to experiment with UUENCODE/UUDECODE? It was supposed to be called "Africa's Information and Communication Initiative: an Action Plan to Accelerate SocioEconomic Development". Such a programme should start with distribution of that Plan... Of course, I realize I could have missed it, having lost mail twice since the beginning of the year but is that so?

Even though it might be unrealistic to hope for coordinated or harmonized action, African nodes and users could at least develop their position and let it be known to others in prevision of those meetings listed above which are still to come. Furthermore, we might even debate issues (and even take action in line with proposals) if we had at least a forum. Unfortunately, all those who said they wanted to support a general discussion have instead created their own list, with the net result that threads of discussion are even more scattered and fragmented over several listservs and probably more newsgroups than ever. We can see parts of that discussion scattered on AFRICANA, AFRIK-IT, APC.AFRICA, DEVEL-L, name it....

Surely, African users cannot afford to pay for duplicate or triplicate messages to post in each of the lists concerned, either when sending or receiving contributions to the discussion (viz. Lishan's duplicate postings on AFRIK-IT and AFRICANA). If a discussion on this subject started in earnest, who would be able to afford to post and read the same messages two or three times, especially messages of the type, number and volume required. Would it not be possible, at least until after INET, to agree to post on one list? This is a decision which, at least, is in our hands and whether we choose one list or the other is not a major point.

If we can manage to have a common discussion ground, can we then start identifying a) the main problems which we have to solve at this juncture and b) what can be the role of external support agencies in dealing with them? all African nodes and users could try to support the same major action lines in debates on the subject, even if we do not manage to get to a consensus on all points. And the minimum we should do for credibility would be to *know* where proposals differ and what can be done to take some steps forward....

Suzanne Drouilh

Can ECA/PADIS update the situation as from the HLGM. I have nothing after this press release which I quote in case it has not been received by everybody in the above address list.

* Forwarded from "APC.AFRICA"
* Originally by, 2:2/501
* Originally to All
* Originally dated 13 Feb 1996, 10:45

From: (Karen Banks)
Message-ID: <926000088@gn>
From: Karen Banks <karenb>

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 1996 13:29:20 +0300 (GMT+0300)
From: Ben Parker <>
Subject: Africa: Join the Internet by 1997

News Release from the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa, February 12 1996

A rallying cry from Addis to Africa: join the Internet by 1997

ECA steps up the information society campaign, Ethiopia gets ready

A High Level Working Group of policymakers, officials and experts from around the African continent, meeting in Addis Ababa this week, worked on the drafting of an Action Plan for submission to ECA's Conference of Ministers in early May that will bring Africa to the on-ramp of the Information Highway.

A rallying call to mobilise Africa's political will came from one policymaker when Ethiopia's Transport and Communications Minister Abdulmejid Hussein advised the closing session of the HLWG meeting at ECA: "Get the Ministers to commit themselves to have all of Africa connected to the Internet before the end of 1997."

Meanwhile it has been reliably learned that major donors are waiting in the wings to help Ethiopia move to Internet connectivity. Talks are being held at top level to sound out if the FRE Government is ready to give the green light to put technical preparations under way. This could bring the country within a year, into the group of the first dozen or more African nations that have full connectivity to the Internet, moving away from the risk of being pushed aside in the advance of information technology.

Ethiopia is known to be keen to harness state of the art communications technology, working with the private sector, with government as the regulator. Ministers want to be sure that when the wave starts sweeping in, it benefits a broad base of the people. They strongly support aspects of the Action Plan assigning high priority to communications for the rural areas, and the use of VSATs for the countryside, and spreading distance education using satellite and Internet.

The Addis-based UN Economic Commission for Africa has been playing a leading role in the campaign to promote electronic networking for development, and to bring Africa on to the Highway. In recent years, through its CABECA project and skills training, implemented by ECA's Pan African Development Information System (PADIS), it has helped to get e-mail networks going in more 24 African countries.

The spotlight at the meeting was thrown on telecommunications policy in Africa, and the need for deregulation to help bring the continent into the information society, when 300 policymakers, officials and activists gathered at a major symposium on Telematics for Development in Africa held at ECA last April. Then ECA's Conference of Ministers last year followed up a proposal from the symposium and resolved to set up the High Level Working Group to work on bringing Africa to the Superhighway.

This group - formally named the HLWG on Information and Communication Technologies in Africa - previously met in Cairo in November. In the Ethiopian capital, the meeting assembled a range of personalities in the world of information technology and communications, including two from Egypt, two from South Africa, one each from Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon, one each from Unesco, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Bank, the Telecommunications Foundation for Africa and the Global Information Infrastructure Commission and several from Ethiopia.

Among the Experts in the Group is the Speaker of the Ethiopian House of People's Representatives, Mr Dawit Yohannes, who is president of BITE, the campaign on Bringing Internet to Ethiopia. Addressing the group at some sessions were Minister Abdulmejid and his Vice Minister, Mr Ayenew Bitewelegne. The group revised the draft document entitled: "Africa's Information and Communication Initiative: an Action Plan to Accelerate Socioeconomic Development," to be submitted to the ECA's highest policy authority, the Conference of Ministers of Planning and Development. The draft of the Plan includes recommendations to member states for building Africa's information and communication infrastructure.

If the May Conference approves the Plan, it will be taken immediately to a series of important related meetings for launching. The week following the Conference of Ministers is the Regional African Telecommunication Development Conference, being organized in Abidjan by the International Telecommunication Union.

Another major gathering of global players will be present at the Information Society and Development Conference, in South Africa in mid-May. There it is expected that ECA's Executive Secretary Mr K Y Amoako will be able to present the Action Plan, which will also represent the African position towards the major economic powers on developing the Information Society.

Mr Amoako will be speaking to delegates from 42 developing countries, 15 of them African, including Ethiopia, and from the Group of 7 major economic powers. There will be 17 international organisations represented, and all of the UN regional economic commissions round the world - ECA's counterparts in other continents.

All delegates have been invited by President Nelson Mandela. The choice of venue was partly in response to a challenge from South Africa's First Vice President Thabo Mbeki, when he delivered the shocking comparison to the G-7 summit on the information society in Brussels last year - that there are more telephones in the Manhattan borough of New York City than there are in the whole of Africa.

The South Africa conference, scheduled for Midrand, near Johannesburg, will consist of two days of Ministerial meetings, followed by workshops on information infrastructure and new developments.

The first week in June the Plan will be presented to the AFCOM, '96 meeting in Herndon, Virginia (USA).

In addition to the Action Plan, the HLWG has also prepared country case studies on Africa's efforts to build the information highway, looking at Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa and Egypt, among others. These case studies are being complemented by video documentaries made by the World Bank, to be shown on African television, at the Addis Ababa meeting and after.

For further information, contact:

Tony Hall
Acting Chief of Communications
UN Economic Commission for Africa
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 1 51 66 67
Fax: +251 1 51 44 16
e-mail: (marked for Tony Hall)

Date: Fri, 5 Apr 1996 04:10:58 -0500 Message-Id: <Pine.LNX.3.91.960405091506.3453O-> Subject: Connectivity in Africa (fwd) From: Suzanne Drouilh <>

Editor: Ali B. Dinar, (