Greater Horn of Africa Electronic Communication Network Project

Greater Horn of Africa Electronic Communication Network Project

Greater Horn of Africa Electronic Communication Network Project

Pan African Development Information System
Capacity Building for Electronic Communication in Africa
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

What is the Project about?

The project is a USAID funded effort to provide a telephone-based network for electronic communications between the countries of the Greater Horn of Africa. It will be implemented by PADIS which is ECA's programme on harnessing information for development. The focal point of the project is IGADD (Inter- Governmental Authority on Drought and Development) which is keen to facilitate the sharing of information, particularly that concerning early warning on food security and conflict resolution issues in the first instance.

How will PADIS achieve this?

o by using modems to connect computers to existing telephone lines. Communication between computers linked in this way is possible in the same way that two people in different geographical locations can speak to each other on the telephone. The only difference is that the message sent down the telephone line is one which has been typed on the computer and the receiver reads it on their computer screen. This means of communication is known as e-mail. There are two ways in which e-mail messages can be transmitted through the telephone lines:

o The first is known as store-and-forward where messages sent arrive at a local node, and are stored there until a distant node is dialed up, at which point all the stored messages are forwarded to the distant node, and messages from the distant node are received at the local node.

o The second can only occur where full access to the Internet is available; in this case messages are transferred more or less instantaneously.

PADIS will install the necessary equipment at participating institutions and will provide training and support for users of any level - even if they have not even used a computer before! There is nothing mysterious or complicated about e-mail: it is because of its very simple technology that it has been used so widely and successfully, and first-time computer-users can quickly learn the basic skills necessary to send and receive messages.

Once users are familiar with the use of e-mail for sending messages to one another, the true potential of "electronic connectivity" can be experienced: the exchange of information and ideas to explore solutions to common problems. Further training will therefore be given to enable users to exploit the wealth of information relevant to their needs.

What else can we do with it?

Electronic connectivity enables users to:

o Send and receive e-mail messages - including the automatic sending of one message to many recipients

o Transfer documents to and from other users

o Join listservs, on-line conferences and to receive and contribute to news groups

o Use the Internet for information searches and communicating off-line with users all over the world

o Receive on-line support from PADIS and access to PADIS databases

Why not just fax or post information? Post?

The postal services in the Greater Horn of Africa are often slow and unreliable: information for decision-making cannot afford such delays.


Yes, of course this is much quicker than posting, but it is also very expensive. A 12 page fax to another country would cost approximately 24 minutes' worth of the international telephone call rate. Sending a 12 page e-mail would take less than one minute and would therefore cost only one minute's worth of the international telephone rate. And if you were to send it through a local node it would cost you even less.

How secure is it?

It is as secure as any other form of communication. When you communicate by e-mail users have their own passwords which limit access to the information they send or receive. In addition documents can be transferred in coded formats which have to be decoded by the receiver before they can be read. Highly sophisticated encryption tools now exist which can achieve the highest levels of security attainable by any other means of communication.

How reliable is it?

Although power cuts will obviously disrupt the use of the computer, breaks in power or telephone line supply will do no more than delay the sending and receiving of messages until the service is restored. For example if power disrupts a message in the middle of its transmission you do not lose the message: it simply completes the transmission when power is resumed. If you wish you can request confirmation of receipt of transmissions from the recipient.

How will this help IGADD & the Greater Horn of Africa?

By increasing the capacity of IGADD and Greater Horn member states to exchange information in this way, this project aims to effect the evolution of a source of information whose contents are directly related to the issues of immediate and common concern to these countries. The ability to exchange this information will enable fully-informed and speedy decisions on topical issues to be made. Such an "infostructure" will provide a valuable tool in the prevention and management of recurrent crises.

How do we know it works?

PADIS has been introducing electronic connectivity to many parts of Africa over the last 6 years, both in the form of store-and-forward systems and in the form of access to full Internet where possible. It has proved to be a cheap and simple answer to fast and effective communication. There are now tens of thousands of users of these systems in Africa.

What do other newcomers to e-mail say?

It is easy to communicate:

Communication is more efficient and frequent and thus provides more effective exchanges.

It cuts down communications costs:

Telephone and fax bills are reduced quite considerably by regular use of e-mail instead.

Further questions?

If you have any more questions you would like answered please contact Lishan Adam or Marisa Astill-Brown at the PADIS office by any of the following means:

Telephone: +251 1 51 11 67

Fax: +251 1 51 44 16

e-mail: or

PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa


Date: Tue, 9 Apr 1996 09:19:02 +0300 (GMT+0300) From: Ben Parker <> Subject: Greater Horn of Africa Electronic Communication Network Project Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Dinar, (