Sustained Development - Africa Network (SD-AN)

Sustained Development - Africa Network (SD-AN)

Newsgroups: Date: Sat, 19 Feb 1994 23:48:29 -0500 Message-ID: Reply-To: From: "Arthur R. McGee" Subject: Sustained Development - Africa Network (fwd)

This is a slightly more detailed and cleaned up description of Jamal's SD-AN project.

------------------------------------- Art "NWICO" McGee []


---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Fri, 18 Feb 94 22:35:32 GMT From: Jamal Al-Noor Subject: Sustained Development - Africa Network

------------------------------------------------------ The following is a message being posted by Sustained Development- Africa Network (SD-AN). We are a newly established charity here in the UK and are seeking for information, advice and suggestions.


This is in respect to a component of our strategy and proposal to utilise and harness this medium and technology to make easy availability to the vast resources of information and instant contact to the various communities in Sub-Saharan Africa where we intend to operate.

Our own exposure to this medium has been only a few weeks and we realise the potential and power if harnessed can be of benefit to many a country, communities and individuals in the Developing World in the struggle and misery of survival.

We are in the process of familiarising and learning more about this medium. There is a lot that we need to understand and learn in order to prepare a working proposal and budget to determine the cost effectiveness, and practicality of this form of communication in respects to the areas of operation on the sub-Saharan African continent.

When SD-AN was originally established, we were dealing with more conventional means of disseminating information but this is proving sometimes to be very costly, slow and ineffective especially in situations where urgency is of importance. This has a lot to do with the existing infrastructure of communications and the remoteness of many of the targeted communities. A lot of thought was been given to looking for alternative means, and during this search we were made aware of the existence of the INTERNET. Having secured an account we began to explore.

We came across an article written by David Rothman titled "Electronic Peace Corps". This document helped us understand some of the possibilities.

This document can be obtained from David Rothman if anyone wishes. Highly recommended reading material. His email address is .

Our contact with David Rothman has been fruitful and he put us in touch with Art MaGee who posted our original correspondence. This posting generated quite a lot of positive feed back from a number of people sending us information.

There is a lot of goodwill on the NET and our gratitude goes to all who responded. If we are to learn and be able to bring to realisation our project, where better to seek for that advice and information then on the NET. Thus this detailed document that you are reading now.

The purpose of this document is to explain about the establishment of SD-AN, its objectives, its project proposal regarding incorporating this medium into the overall strategy of disseminating and making available easy access to information and communication, and finally the type of information and assistance being sought.

Please be free to forward and distribute this document widely. Apologies for any cross-posting if not indented.


---------------------------------------------------- Sustained Development - Africa Network (SD-AN) was legally established in September 1993, though the idea and the purpose for which it should be set-up originally began some 5 years ago while I was a farmer in Uganda.

SD-AN's main objectives and guiding principles are:

a) To relieve in any part of the world, persons suffering from poverty, sickness and distress including sickness or any mental or physical disability and whether arising from any public calamity or otherwise.

b) To advance the education of the public concerning the causes of and the ways of relieving poverty, sickness, disease, mental and physical disability.

c) To advance for public benefit the education of the inhabitants of impoverished countries.

d) To preserve and restore for the public benefit the Earth's natural environment and ecology.

These objects entitle us to be registered as a charity organisation, as all the services we intend to provide are on a not-for-profit basis to the various communities that we shall be extending assistance to.

SD-AN's application for charitable status has been successful and we have been registered as a charity in the UK by the Charity Commissioners, who are the relevant body here. Our charity number is 1031259.

Currently sources of funding and donations are being sought and secured for the various projects. Actual implementation on the field will commence early 1995.

The Philosophy


SD-AN believes in the essential dignity of people and their capacity to overcome problems and pressures which can crush or exploit them.

People, even those who are poor, illiterate and unemployed are intelligent. They are capable of defining their own needs and given the opportunity, they can and will solve their own problems.

Local people who have often lived with the problems at issue for decades, even generations know where a problem's root lie and can differentiate symptoms and root causes.

Recognising that technology is indispensable in a struggle against the miseries of underdevelopment, SD-AN advocates the promotion and utilisation of appropriate (or intermediate) technologies and principles to address many a developing country's problems.

Appropriate or intermediate technologies are a partial answer to the developing countries problems of food and energy shortages, alienation, poverty, lack of foreign exchange, etc.

This technology should be superior to the primitive forms of the past, yet it should be simpler, cheaper and all but independent of the energy requirements of the rich.

Also appropriate technology (A.T.) has special appeal probably in part because it addresses a number of problems at once.

The emphasises on self-reliance and local production for local needs is an important step. At the same time, the lack of a well developed infrastructure and the shortage of highly trained manpower to efficiently run large industrial organisations becomes much less important when production is decentralised.

Role Of Information and Communications:


The following passage stated by Schummacher eloquently sums up the main reason for the establishment of SD-AN.

"...valuable know-how as well as excellent equipment fitting into the constraints and limitations of poverty and suitable for genuine developments, exists all over the world - in the rich as well as in the poor countries. But it is scattered, inaccessible to those in need, when it is most needed. Countless men and women in the field are trying to solve problems for which solutions have already been found somewhere else: are embarking on experiments which have already been shown to be unfruitful; are trying to find methods of working and items of equipment which may be available, but they do not where. At this level of know-how and technology there is almost total lack of effective international communication." - E.F. Schummacher. Appropriate Technology Journal, 1976.

Today there is in existence a mass of tested technology for the small- scale peasant farmer. This represents an important resource of human knowledge. The farm technology itself is laden with opportunities for improving the returns of land, water, labour and other crucial resources. The careful farmer, with help, can have many options.

Upto 80% or more of the population in most developing countries live in rural villages. Many of the people in urban areas fled the stifling lack of opportunities that tend to characterise rural areas. Thus successful rural appropriate technologies might concern some substantial portion of the population.

But to most of the people in rural areas, access to this wealth of information is never or not readily or easily available.

SD-AN believes that if an active level of participation in problem identification and solutions by the members of the poor communities is highly desirable than this requires that they have:

a) access to this information in a form in which it can be of practical use:

b) the ability to initiate communications in search of relevant experience and information from other communities, including information on the successful technologies that have been developed nearby, within the region and around the world.

c) support from those with more advanced scientific and technical skills, through technical assistance centres that responds to requests.

Provision and access to, upto date information is a vital component if we are to have long term, meaningful and positive results.

We like yourself are of the belief that information and knowledge should be shared and made widely accessible. The true wealth of any nation are its people.

A first hand experience:


Let me illustrate an experience I had when I was a farmer in Uganda. I was looking for information on practices of agro-forestry. What species of tree would be most suitable, planting rate, their growth rates, diseases, by-products etc. Due to lack of sufficient and up to date information in the country, it was suggested to me to contact an organisation in London (ITDG) which dealt with numerous such requests from all over the Developing world.

I sent off my request and about 10 weeks later I received a letter accompanied with a couple of photocopied pages from a manual regarding some of the information I sought. They also recommended I get in touch with The National Research Council a body set-up by The Board of Science & Technology for International Development in America for more detailed information.

I did this and another 4 weeks lapsed, and they sent me a catalogue of the publications they had for sale. Well, I sent for it and it proved to be invaluable. I agree it was at a subsidised cost for me as I was in a Third World country but the point is the amount of time that it took to obtain this information and also I could afford to fork out the sum of US $15 for the manual plus all the other costs of communication.

This is not so for the majority who would like to do so and thereby improve their lives with the same knowledge I obtained regarding agro- forestry.

This was my experience time and again as I experimented with different crops and agro-based industrial products. The potential and uses of this medium will be of greater benefit to local scientists, medical researchers and health workers, agricultural extension officers, engineers, A.T. practitioners, etc. This is applicable to everything associated with the struggle to survive in many developing countries.

It has been calculated that when the technical centre data bank is thousands of miles overseas the cost per request is easily anything from US$100 to US$300. This is equal to the annual GNP in many countries Another negative effect of this, is that it can serve only a very limited audience.

Our aims:


As you may have gathered, currently availability of information in some countries is very difficult. Most public libraries are non-existent or contain very old and out dated material.

Books and manuals if found in the local book shops are very expensive and out of reach of the very people that need the information. There is also a problem of illiteracy and language.

But all these are surmountable problems with existing technology, a little imagination, some money and goodwill from volunteers.

Since discovering the INTERNET some weeks ago, we started working on the possibility of incorporating and adapting this medium to enable us to achieve our objectives.

Our intention was to set up a regional HQ in Nairobi, Kenya which will be in turn linked to the other cities of neighbouring countries such as Kampala, Dar-es-salam, Bujumbura, Kigali, Khartoum, Addis Ababa. Our initial area of operation is the E.African region and surrounding countries. By the 10th year of operation we hope to have expanded and covered most of Sub-Saharan Africa. Time and availability of resources will tell.

Each centre in these countries will in turn be linked to other centres around the respective countries.

The centres would be open to all i.e. farmers, artisans, crafts man, students, local NGO's, PVO's, etc. They would act as many public libraries function here. On site would be data bases, books and manuals with a wide subject content relevant to the type of information that will normally be sought.

If the requested information is not available at the local centres, this request will be automatically forwarded to the centre in Nairobi and if it is still not found, every day a batch will be forwarded to London and hopefully by the next day the answers are being e-mailed back to the respective centre.

There has to be a mixture of both high and low technolgy at work if we are to able to make available, diseminate information widely.


----- We shall be undertaking a study to determine the possibility of utilising this medium and harnessing the power and potential of the Internet.

It is unlikely in the near future that many households or businesses in Africa can afford a computer and especially not the population that is in need of the information necessary to improve upon what knowledge they already possess.

Centres, such as the ones we are proposing will be the only way of making this information available.

As with anything, we must work out the sums and show that this system may be a cost effective way of mass dissemination of information. If we are able to operate this scheme and people are benefiting positively then probably others can be encouraged to replicate this type of services elsewhere on the African continent and other areas of the developing world.



In order that we are able to undertake this study we need as much information as possible. Some of our questions may be naive but bear with us. If there is anything we are omitting or should consider its because of ignorance. Please be free to highlight and explain these.

Below is a list of some of the information being sought:

a) Current situation and status:

- information about the existing set-up regarding INTERNET connections in the various countries on the African continent.

- What is the set-up regionally & internally in the country

- How reliable are the connections.

- information about the hardware and software currently being used to this end.

- the difficulties being experienced (technically or otherwise) e.g. Power supply, erratic telephone connections, government regulations, lack of expertise, financial, etc.

- What is being done to overcome these.

- the current users (Who is utilising this medium) e.g. University, Commerce, Government, NGO's, etc.

- Are there private networks established in the country? If so, what's the set-up and how are they participating and addressing many of the common problems

- Contact addresses of people currently involved in the various countries and the world at large actively working on similar projects.

b) Potential and possibilities:

- Explain these in light of current situation and the various efforts underway.

- What is currently feasible with the existing technology in place.

- What is possible with probably a little adaptation, imagination and available resources.

c) What role can we play:

- Make suggestions and offer insight.

Final Note:

----------- All letters offering advice, suggestions, information, constructive criticism, dangers of possible pitfalls, limitations, and possibilities are welcome.

Finally we like to take this opportunity to thank in advance everyone who took time to read this and respond to our plea as it might not be possible to send each a note of acknowledgement. Special thanks go to David Rothman and Arthur MaGee in all they done in getting us this far.

Regards from Jamal.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ + Jamal Al-noor + + + "Many recieve advise, but only + Internet : + the wise profit from it" + CompuServe : 100102,657 + - Syrus


Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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