3.1 In this chapter, we would have loved to specifically review the use of IT to address environmental concerns by African researchers and policy makers. However. the speci fic use of IT in such context in Africa is still very low. This assertion is corroborated by Klosterman (1988), who observed that

Microcomputer applications in the third world have been limited primarily to four areas: word processing, planning applications software, electronic spreadsheets, and database management. Applications such as statistical analysis and forecasting, thematic mapping, computer-aided design and drafting, geographic information systems, and expert systems which are becoming increasing ly important in the United States have been severely constrained in the developing world by the lack of adequate hardware and trained personnel,and Elkington & Shopley (1988). who also observed that

It is impossible to say whether. on balance, IT has moved Third World economies towards - or away from-sustainable patterns of development. But, since sustainable development is not yet a central policy objective in such countries, the assumption must be t hat, while IT has helped drive forward a broad range of development activities, relatively few will have been designed for environmental sustainability .

3.2 In addition, the World Bank's Africa Environment Division, with other donors and international agencies, initiated a program on Environmental Information Systems (EIS) for Sub-Saharan Africa only in early 1990 and it would be too early to assess the im pact of the program (Hassan & Hutchinson, 1992). Hence, we shall provide a general review of the use of IT in research. policy formulation and management in Africa with the hope that whatever lessons are learned could be adopted for the use of IT in environmental concerns. The chapter is divided into three sections, namely : use of IT, constraints to the use of IT, and approaches to solving some of Africa s IT problems.

Use of IT in Research, Policy Formulation and Management

3.3 The frequency of use of computer-mediated IT in research, policy formulation and management is still very low. Only international institutions and private organizations (such as b anks and oil companies) are making adequate use of IT Most of the few public organizations that make use of IT do so through foreign grants; a report estimated that in 1985, half the number of computers being used in Africa then were purchased from some or ganization's development assistance budget (Johnston & Miller, 1994). Some individual researchers have also been able to purchase computer equipment from their research grants, mostly foreign.

3.4 We review the application of computer-mediated technologies in three broad areas: access to information, use of It in decision making, and electronic communication.

Access to information

3.5 In Africa, high costs and unreliable telecommunications facilities have made it almost impossible for organizations to provide access to online databases . However, a few organizations such as the African Regional Centre for Technology (CRAT) in Dakar . Senegal, and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) also in Dakar, Senegal, still do at very high costs indeed (NRC, 1993).

3.6 As a result of the high telecommunications tariffs in most African countries the appropriate configuration for a regional network through which environmental information could be shared would be a store-and- forward or point-to-point subnet as most ho sts would not be able to afford to keep open a permanent communication channel which is required for a broadcast subnet. The unreliability of the telecommunications facilities in most African countries supports t he adoption of a distant-access star configuration in a point-to-point subnet as each host would only need to deal with the super-host which is expected to be situated in a country whose telecommunications facilities are relatively reliable.

3.7 In any case, CD-ROM technology seems "custom-made" for Africa and has already found wide application in the continent, even though the technology is still heavily supported by grants from agencies. Some African institutions in which the CD- ROM technol ogy is being used to search databases include:

(a) The Chitedze Agricultural Research Institute in Malawi, which operates a CD-ROM bibliographic and archival searching system (NRC, 1989);

(b) The Medical Library at the University of Zimbabwe, which uses the CD-ROM drive to search the AIDS database and Medline (NRC, 1989);

(c) The International Council for Research on Agroforestry (Kenya) is using CD-ROM for AGRICOLA database searches (IDRC, 1989);

(d) The University Library at the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzan ia) has installed two CD-ROM workstations. Two sample databases - the Science Citation Index and the Social Science Citation Index - have been made available to users so that they could explore the CD-ROM technology pending the arrival of the ordered datab ases in Agriculture, Engineering and Education (NRC, 1993); and

(e) The Kenneth Dike Library at the University of Ibadan (Nigeria) offers CD-ROM searches on some databases in the fields of Agriculture, Medicine. Social Science, and Science & Technology.

3.8 In a few cases, the CD-ROM drive is not only being used to access databases created by others, institutions are also developing their own databases on CD-ROM discs. For example, the Institut Senegalais de la Recherche Agricole (Senegal) is creating a C D-ROM database of its documents and is disseminating this information to its members. The CD-ROM database will, in turn, be a part of the Centre International de Documentation et d'Animation Culturelle (CIDAC) collection of agricultural documents (NRC, 199 3).

3.9 Although CD-ROM technology has been adopted throughout Africa, maintaining current subscriptions to database products remains a problem (NRC, 1993).

Use of IT in decision making

3.10 Computers are largely used for routine data processing in Sub-Sahara Africa with little computer-aided decision making (Odedra,et al, 1993). Most researchers and policy makers do make use of word processors for text writing, spreadsheet for simple wha t if " analysis, and statistical packages for analysis of survey data. Some researchers also use software packages for modeling and simulation, but very few organizations use the packages for such exercises. The use of management9 information systems (MIS), decision support systems (DSS), and expert systems is also not common among policy makers . However, it is worth mentioning a couple of cases where MIS and DSS have been successfully applied in decision making.

3.11 In Ethiopia, the Ministry of Industry's Computer Centre has developed an MIS system, which consists of separate databases for manpower, production, and financial analysis. The information generated is used by policy makers to help improve plant efficiency in the country (NRC, 1989).

3.12 In Kenya, data provided by the Regional Centre in Surveying, Mapping, and Remote Sensing have helped the Kenya Rangeland Ecological Monitoring Unit (KREMU) to prepare soil erosion hazard and management plans (Elkington & Shopley, 1988).

3.13 In Egypt, a decision support centre has been established to develop information a nd decision support systems for the Cabinet and top policy-makers in the Country Some early applications include: monitoring and analyzing debt issues, simulating the effect of various custom and tariff reforms, providing access to international trade and commodity databases. and tracking strategic management issues (Hanna, 1991 ) . Using DSS for the Cabinet of Egypt has significantly improved the strategic decision-making process. In less than three yea!s, the Cabinet, ministers. and governors have increas ed their use of models (El Sherif. 1990).

Electronic communication

3.14 Impressive strides have already been made in the adoption of electronic -- networking in Africa, particularly in the eastern and southern regions of the continent (AAU/AAAS, 1993) However, most of Africa's existing electronic networking capacity is h eld by donor organizations (Adam, 1993).

According to Abba,, Giordano & Trumpy (1992). some African countries are already connected , or plan to be connected, to the international rese arch networks. It appears that there are several countries in Africa with an X.25 network operating, namely Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Mauritius, South Africa. Cote d Ivoire, Gabon, Niger, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Togo, and Chad. Some of these networks have also been able to provide researchers with access to the worldwide Internet (Robinson, 1993; Lawrie, 1993) .

3.15 Several other network initiatives, or projects involving multinational data networks in different stages of realization have been reported (Jensen & Sears, 1993 CPR, 1992; AAU/AAAS, 1993). They are as follows:

(a) ESANET (Eastern and Southern Africa Network), which is a pilot project to link researchers at universities in Uganda, Tanzania. Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya with each other and with research,ers worldwide by installing electronic mail facilities at the computer centres of universities in these countries;

(b) RIONET, the French research network administered by ORSTOM, links Senegal, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d'lvoire;

(c) NGONET, the project is based at the Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI) in Nairobi, where a Fido bulletin board system has been set up to provide a conduit for electronic mail traffic in the region (i.e., Tunisia, Senegal, Kenya, Zimbabwe) and to NGOs worldwide. This is done using a high-speed modem to make daily calls to the GreenNet Fido gateway in London. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency of Nigeria (FEPA) has also just recently been connected via modem to the GreenNet Fido gateway in London;

(d) WEDNET, which supports research on women and natural resource management. The aim is to link researchers in Senegal. Ghana, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Canada via electronic communications and conventional networking;

(e) HEALTHNET, a telecommunications system designed to facilitate the exchange of information among health professionals in developing countries and to link them with their colleagues elsewhere. Ground stations, which send a nd receive messages, have been installed and made operational in Zambia, Uganda Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the Congo.

(f) PADISNET the Pan African Development Information System Network is a project to link 34 countries into a network of participating development planning centres which exchange databases and information. PADIS is based at the United Nations Economic Commi ssion for Africa (UNECA), Addis Ababa, which also operates a Fido node connecting, on demand, to London, South Africa and the US;

(g) WORKNET, the national electronic network host for NGOs in Sol South Africa. The network was established in 1990 and now has about 150 users on a multi-user BBS programme called MajorBBS. Users include labour movements, human rights groups, the alternat e press, documentation centres, service organizations and church groups;

(h) MANGONET, a bulletin board service in Harare, Zimbabwe. operated by a collective of NGOs Africa Information Afrique (a regional news agency), EMBISA (a religious deve lopment group), SARDC (South African Research nd Documentation Centre), EDICESA (Ecumenical Documentation and Information Centre for Eastern and Southern Africa), and SAPES (Southern Africa Press Service). It was recently agreed that the system be made av ailable to the l community as a whole and a fee structure has been developed. MANGO now connects three times daily with the Web Fido gateway in Toronto. In addition it connects three times a day to Worknet in Johannesburg;

(i) UNINET-ZA, the research and academic network in Southern Africa. Currently there are connections to more than 35 sites in South Africa. Botswana Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, ZimbabwQ and Zambia; and

(j) ARSONET, a CIDA Professional development project to link the authorities of the Africa Regional Standard Organizations in Addis Ababa, Nairobi. and Cairo with Fido networking technology.

3.17 Many of these networks are implemented using Fido technology because Fidonet-compatible systems, relative t o other electronic mail and computer conferencing systems, are cheap and easy to install. They do not require powerful computer hardware and do not use packet switching technology and are thus attractive in countries that do not have highly developed com puter and communication facilities (NRC, 1993; Robinson, 1993). Fidonet technology is also efficient in its use of equipment (computer hardware and telephone lines) as the computer need not be dedicated to e-mail alone and can also share the phone line wit h voice (or fax) use (Robinson, 1993).

Constraints to the Use of IT in the Region

3.18 In 1989, a panel of the Board of Science and Technology for International Development, USA, undertook a review of the African experience in strengthening scientific and technical information capabilities through innovative uses of information technol ogies. The panel listed the following as some of the constraints in the use of information technologies in Africa (NRC, 1989):

Shortage of funds

3.19 All African count ries are experiencing fiscal shortages. In most Anglophone countries there is a critical shortage of foreign exchange. which limits the purchase of goods and services from abroad. In most Francophone countries this is not a direct problem since the CFA fra nc is freely convertible into French francs (However, the CFA,a was recently devalued by about 50% and that special relationship appears to have been lost). Competition for imported items in short supply, such as computer hardware and software, has driven prices to levels that largely place them beyond the reach of institutions, unless they are receiving assistance from abroad or are tax exempt. High tariffs are placed on imports because policy makers feel that corporations will buy them anyway and, for oth ers, they are regarded as "needless luxuries."

Telecommunications problems

3.20 The telecommunications systems in most African countries are unreliable For example, in Nigeria, it is often easier to telephone internationally than within the country. T he major problem that African countries are facing is the maintenance of their telecommunications infrastructure. They also lack the resources to update their systems, in line with changing technologies.

Chronic shortage of trained personnel

3.21 The African information sector has made much progress in acquiring and using new technologies. There is, however, a shortage of trained personnel. As the computer revolution creates the demand for computer-literate and specialized personnel more and m ore people need to be trained. Training in the broadest sense, including computer literacy and consciousness-raising. is needed at all levels .

Lack of an "enabling environment"

3.22 Perhaps the most serious problem constraining the use of IT in Africa is lack of an enabling environment. Typically, users are faced with lack of:

(a) Information about information systems and technologies. Too often, the only source of information is from vendors, and project managers might request and be given older more complicate d or inappropriate technologies because they are unaware of the latest developments:

(b) A computer culture' and therefore lack of a support network. If there is no back-up, no documentation, no service, nor any spare parts. users must rely on trial and error. While this has resulted in successful projects, it can be very frustrating There are few user groups or sources of objective advice, and few magazines directed to users that elsewhere are rich sources of information;

(c) Compatibility among systems. There is a proliferation of equipment donated or left behind from project to project. Because of lack of compatibility, systems are more difficult to network, to maintain, or to use for training;

(d) Support for the acquired hardware: simple peripherals, paper. ribbons, or toner are hard to acquire, or extremely expensive. Very little is produced locally and therefore costs involve scarce foreign exchange. There is an additional markup of imported goods, which is reflected by higher tariffs and increased profits for suppliers; and

(e) Good, easy-to-use software that is adaptable to local conditions.

3.23 The views expressed above are shared by many others (Bhalla & Jequier, 1988 ; Elkington & Shopley, 1988; Odedra, 1993; Roche, 1993 ;Johnston & Miller, 1994 ; Sithole, 1994). For example, Odedra, et al, (1993) stated thus:

Certain prerequisites, such as reliable power supply to operate the computers, a well-functioning telephone network to transmit data, foreign currency to import the technology, and comp uter literate personnel, are necessary for successful use of IT. Such infrastructural elements remain inadequate in many sub-Saharan countries. For instance, with the number of telephones per 1,000 people ranging between 12 and 50 depending on the country, Africa's telecommunications infrastructure is woefully inadequate Many of the lines that do exist are out of order much of the time (e.g., sometimes large pieces of telephone cable are cut by thieves and the metals resold).

To add to the woes of Africa's teiecommunications problems, a report of the International Telecommunications Unit (ITU) has revealed that it costs about $6,200, the highest in the world, to install one telephone line in the sub-Saharan Africa (Champions Newspapers Limited, 1994).

Approaches to Solving African IT-related Problems

3.24 The constraints enumerated above are truly daunting. However, a number of suggestions have been proffered to ameliorate or remove the constraints. We shall first consider the solutions that have been pr offered to overcome the constraint that directly affect the GEF objective of building capacity in the use of IT for environmental concerns: the lack of IT personnel. The situation is so bad that even some of the institutions offering training in computing and IT are also short-staffed due to low remuneration packages. This has put training for and the use of IT in jeopardy, as the graduates of these institutions would be expected to coordinate the use of IT in organizations. In his paper on options for deve lopment cooperation in IT education & training in Zimbabwe, Sithole (1994) listed the following areas of cooperation to assure sustainability of IT education and training:

(a) "Lending of Trainers : It is suggested here that IT staff in organizations could assist in training of students in institutions of higher learning. It is suggested that a national manpower development fund could compensate the lending organization for the time its staff is away from work at the normal hourly pay rate while the member of staff concerned is paid a part time fee by the same fund for his efforts;

(b) "Student Attachment": It is argued that the rate of change of technology as well as the range of different systems used by public and private sector organizations is such that no one institution can afford to buy or stock the different kinds of systems or technologies to manage the skills development process for the field of information technology. Hence, it is being suggested that students will be able to broaden their knowl edge of IT use if attached to an industry, for a specified period, as part of their training;

(c) "Assistance for capacity building": A related suggestion to the one above is the leasing of premises, equipment and special tools by organizations to schools and institutions of, higher learning for training activities and management purposes

(d) "Consultancy": The use of consultants to carry out projects requiring the use of IT in an organization would afford the members of staff of the organization to learn from the experience of the consultants. To enhance local capacity building, either training is incorporated into the contract or an understudy is attached to the consultant;

(e) "Professionalism": It is argued here that professionalism is essential for effective development of cooperation in IT education and training. In this regard, practical on-the-job training could be considered for membership of professional bodies. Also, continuous professional development could be made mandatory for the retention of membership grades in appropriate professional bodies; and

(f) "Networking/Linkages": Networking is being advocated as a sure way of quickly and cheaply building IT capacity in training establishments. This requirement, it is argued, could be addressed through 'external liaison' and 'internal liaison' standards si milar to the ones in the charter of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe. Its external liaison standard requires that cc contact be established and maintained with a certain number of reputable regio nal and international bodies to identify new developments in the field of computer education and training which are appropriate to a particular country. The internal liaison standard requires that contact be established and m,maintained with appropriate go vernment institutions, professional bodies, accredited training establishments etc, in order to ensure that the local training needs of the industries are being addressed.

3.25 Most analysts hold the view that only African governments have the power to c reate an "enabling environment" for the use of IT in Africa . According lo them some of the actions that governments could take to enhance the role of computers in the development of their countries include:

(a) Intensifying educational programmes, and, ultimately making schooling compulsory and accessible to all. If Governments do not invest in people, it is argued, the people have little chance of survival. IT use must play a continuing role in the education of the people (Johnston & Miller 1994);

(b) Intensifying computer training at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. Computer studies should be introduced as a compulsory,v subject at high school. Encouragement through grants and tax incentives to adapt training courses to local condi tions and available equipment will thus help to maximize the transfer of IT expertise and build an indigenous pool of IT appropriate professionals (Johnston & Miller, 1994);

(c) Implementing the computerization of the civil service- Governments have to promote, implement and coordinate IT development / in the civil service Perhaps special task forces have to be set up to recruit IT professionals before acquiring the necessary hardware and software (Johnston & Miller, 1994);

(d) Creating a sound and effective telecommunications infrastructure in each country. The development of efficient national networks is especially recommended by many analysts as a key engine of development. Given en the proven "multiplier effect of advan ced telecommunications facilities, developing countries might "leapfrog" their developed partners, and where the most appropriate technology is precisely the most sophisticated technology (Bhalla & Jequier, 1988);

(e) Encouraging the computerization of the private sector. The private sector could be encouraged by providing tax incentives for workers to attend training courses; tax incentives for the use of computers in an organization; amortization of IT equipment w ithin one year and waiving import tax on hardware . Computerization could be further encouraged by organizing programmes to assist businesses to computerize and by the provision of consultants and advisors in IT to such businesses (Johnston & Miller, 1994);

(f) Attracting foreign investments in IT through tax incentives. Foreign IT companies could be awarded special tax concessions if their primary business is in promoting indigenous hardware or software development and not less than 70% of their total staff strength in the country comprises technical professionals. Multi- national corporations are key players in foreign investment, but investing in equipment to gather and transfer data out of a country, under the control of expatriate staff, helps little in technology9y transfer The goal which IT policy should encourage is promotion of self-reliance in the recipient country with sharing of resources and expertise between the advanced and developing countries (Odedra, 1992);

(g) Developing an IT awareness in African societies through conferences schools, museums, art, radio, and television (Johnston & Miller, 1994);

(h) Initiating policies related to donors . The relevant governmental, educational and professional bodies in the less developed countries must be encouraged to identify and apply appropriate IT policies to the international development assistance agencies offering financial and other support for science and technology in general and IT in particular Policies must be put in place to ensure that the correct infrastructure precedes acquisition of equipment and that local personnel are trained and put in place to implement and maintain the donated facilities (Johnston & Miller, 1994);

(i) Setting up cabinet level committees to lead, plan and coordinate national computerization initiatives unless IT issues are driven by a high level cabinet committee which has both influence and clout, the plan will not work (Johnston & Miller, 1994); an d

(j) Promoting collaboration and co-ordination between governments in Africa. The cabinet level IT committees of the various African governments could collaborate and share manpower, software and experiences for the benefit of the entire continent's IT development. For example, software developed in one country for a branch of its civil service could possibly be used in most other Afri can countries with minimal modification. An integrative approach in which the technical and human resources are carefully linked with world markets and opportunities is more successful than an autonomous approach (Roche, 1993).

3.26 Lastly, most IT projects in Africa fold up as soon as the donor withdraws its support. Hence, it is important to devise strategies to sustain the projects which can be used to inculcate the use of IT in Africa.

3.27 It seems that the key to sustainability in the use of IT is to charge fees for the use of IT services. In its report on the Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded science and technology information projects in Africa, the NRC (1993) suggested that: innovative marketing and promotion schemes have to be undertak en to convince the users of the need to continue paying for a service once donor support is reduced or withdrawn, and that project funds should be used to generate new products and services.

On its own part, the Nairobi-based Environment Liaison Centre International (ELCI), has estimated that a base of 50 users, charged US$10.00 per month and 50 cents per message, will result in a self- sustaining system (AAS/AAAS, 1992) while it has become nec essary to charge users for the access to Internet through UNZANET due to the inability of the University of Zambia to obtain funding for the international service (Robinson, 1993).

3.28 In conclusion, Africa is faced with so many serious obstacles in its quest to efficiently use IT for its development. However, these obstacles are not insurmountable, and concerted efforts, especially from African governments, in collaboration with in ternational development agencies, would eliminate most of the