UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
PADIS Newsletter vol. 10, no.2 (1995)
Special issue on the African Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development
Telematics symposium attracts more than 300 More than 300 information policymakers, technical specialists and supporters from all over Africa, and from Europe and America, gathered at the Economic Commission for Africa Addis Ababa from 3-7 April 1995 for the Africa Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development, jointly organized by ECA/PADIS, UNESCO, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Development Research Centre in an effort to move Africa on to the Information Superhighway.
The basic question posed by the Symposium was: are African telecommunications administrations ready to pave the way for their countries to join the greatest opportunity for sharing information that human society has ever been given? Or will most remain stuck behind regulatory barriers and artificially high charges, in the clatter of outdated telexes and $10-a-page faxes?
Participants at the Symposium demonstrated the wonders of telematics -the merging of computer and telecommunications worlds - in their hopes to persuade African authorities to catch the wave of technological change. At the time of the Symposium only Zambia among sub-Saharan countries had full Internet access.
The World Bank representative at the Symposium warned that if African countries did not take advantage of the information revolution, they might be crushed by it, stressing that the real obstacles to its spread in the Africa region were neither technical nor financial, but organisational and political. Documents presented to the Symposium showed that many countries were charging monopoly fees for international calls, refusing licences for new technology, and restricting users to outdated modems. However, some progressive examples stood out such as Uganda, which has gone far in relaxing telecommunications rules and fees, and Sudan which is privatising telecommunications.
The high turnout of African PTT directors, managers and technical personnel, among participants from 45 African nations, showed that many were willing to go home armed with facts and arguments to try to persuade their governments to open up to telematics.
The effect of telematics on daily life, was noted by Asrat Bulbula, Deputy Commissioner of the Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission in the opening session. "The cost savings and convenience are changing our social and office activities...advancing individual feelings towards jobs and computer communications. Electronic communication is improving...the sharing and organising of non- computing resources."
He said that while Africa's attention for thirty years has been focused on basic needs, it now faces the challenge of technology. "We should embrace advanced telematics services to build our research capacity...Telematics is a need and not a choice." Johannesburg-based specialist Mike Jensen, who has played a major part in helping to set up and maintain networks around Africa in recent years, outlined some of the future scenarios of daily life in the opening plenary presentation. "It is up to us," he said, "to chart a path for African involvement in the global information infrastructure...Our first task is to get Africa connected to the Internet as soon as possible."
Among Africa's major roadblocks in reaching the highway are low availability of high bandwidth and digital systems and very high telecommunications tariffs in Africa. "It will require significant sensitisation," said Jensen, "to persuade PTTs to forego these revenues." One solution proposed by telecommunications expert Marcelino Tayob is the regulation of prices by competition, where the size of the market allows. "Within SADC [Southern African Development Community] ", he said, "we are making tremendous efforts to harmonise economies of scale... The answer is in going commercial, and that's going to happen. Some are talking about privatisation. Telecoms of Mozambique is going in for 50 per cent joint ventures with the private sector. The core business may be liberalised, and the tariffs may then be revised."
A feature of the first day at Symposium was a live full-screen demonstration of World Wide Web: a laptop computer called up full colour pages, words and pictures, within minutes, from three distant parts of the world, using a networking system so powerful and attractive that subscribers to WWW are likely to outnumber telephone subscribers around the world in the near future. A major theme at the Symposium was the need to get information from Africa into circulation. According to participant Edem Fianyo, a young engineer working at RIO-ORSTOM in Dakar, "One of the dangers of the Internet is that all the information comes from the north. If the highway comes through without Africa being ready, it's going to be one-way traffic coming down. That's why we want to develop local databases. We can move towards full connectivity at the same time, but it is important not to forget the construction of our databases."
Other participants stressed the need to fully utilize the experience that has already been built in Africa in electronic connectivity. According to Riff Dan Fullan of Web (Canada), "there are already indigenously created and supported networks, using various technologies, bits of software and means of connecting, that have built up user bases and local expertise. They serve a real need they provide ways for people to connect by e-mail with their colleagues internationally through the Internet. The people involved in those networks must be incorporated into the new process there's a wealth of local expertise, and it would be a huge waste to create something that is going to undermine their viability and sustainability."
In all, more than 70 papers were presented to the Symposium, which was organized into plenary sessions, panels and working groups. Copies of the papers, as well as the list of documents and abstracts of the papers, are available from PADIS at the address listed on p.1. Electronic requests are encouraged. All the papers available in electronic form have been posted on the University of Pennsylvania African Studies WWW site, and can be obtained from URL: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Padis/menu_telematics.html. (Thanks to Tony Hall for his assistance in compiling this article).
African Service Providers
At the conclusion of the Symposium, some 18 African electronic service providers representing more than 10,000 users in the Africa region issued a statement underlining the significance of promoting electronic connectivity in Africa and requesting that donors supporting electronic communication initiatives in Africa recognize the groundwork that has already been laid on the continent. Their statement is reproduced in full.
Statement made at the closing session of the Addis Ababa Conference on Telematics for Development in Africa Addis Ababa, April 7, 1995
It is with great pleasure that we have seen the importance of African telematics raised during this meeting. We hope that the result of the symposium will be to raise the profile of Africa in global communications and to get more of Africa online. This statement is signed by service providers who speak on behalf of their 10,000 electronic mail users in sub-Saharan Africa.
o Donors and member states should recognize the key contribution of existing service providers, and it is strongly advised that they consult and support these systems in the implementation of new initiatives.
o These functioning local initiatives should be recognized both as independent systems as well as examples of successful donor projects.
o All new initiatives should take in a sub-regional perspective. o New initiatives should be made with a view to providing a transitional path between existing levels of service such as dial-up store and forward systems to full IP connectivity.
Operator Country e-mail address
Communique of the Symposium
Participants at the Symposium drafted a communique for issuance upon its completion, underlining what they felt had been its most significant achievements. The text of the communique follows:
COMMUNIQUE OF ADDIS ABABA April 7, 1995
A watershed African gathering on information and communications took place in Addis Ababa from 3 to 7 April 1995 to address key issues concerning telematics -- the convergence of computing, telecommunications and broadcast technologies.
The African Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development organized by the ITU, UNESCO, UNECA and IDRC, brought together some 300 government policy makers, post and telecommunications officials, system operators, equipment suppliers, non-governmental organisations, educational institutions, users and donors. Some 50 telematics initiatives currently working in Africa were discussed and demonstrated. Participants concluded that:
Unless African countries become full actors in the global information revolution, the gap between the haves and have-nots will widen, opening the possibility of increased marginalisation of the continent. This gap will increase the likelihood of cultural, religious and ethnic ghettos leading to regional and inter-regional conflicts.
Telematics offers African scientists and researchers unparalleled participation in the global scientific community through direct access to the Internet, the global network of networks. Developments in the telematics field make it possible for Africans, particularly in rural areas, to have dramatically increased access to communications and information, accelerating and bolstering sustainable development.
Education, health, trade, and commerce as well as regional and international cooperation can be vastly strengthened by an enhanced telematics infrastructure in the region -- with an investment cost less than the price tag of a modern jet fighter.
The increased flow of information will increase Africa's participation in the global dialogue on issues such as the environment, human rights, and democratization. Among other actions, the Symposium recommended that:
A high-level continental lobby for telematics in development be launched to promote the necessary political decisions and to establish clear priorities at national, regional and international levels.
United Nations' agencies and other partners help create an African Association for Telematics for Development (AATD) with membership drawn from all stakeholders -- to consolidate telematics initiatives and act as an interface to the global information superhighway.
The ITU and other concerned international agencies assist member states to develop a framework which encourages the development of telematics services by relaxing regulatory requirements, simplifying licensing and reforming tariffs.
Collaboration, and where appropriate co-financing, should be central to international funding efforts. Donor agencies should build telematics components, using local resources, in all projects they support. Training programs should be given high priority in this effort.
Internet access should be made available in all African countries as quickly as possible, with due regard to existing national initiatives, gender issues and the need to overcome linguistic barriers. To advance this programme, the Symposium recommends that:
The June 1995 Annual OAU Heads of State meeting as well as the G-15 meeting scheduled for November 1995, should put telematics for development and the outcome of this Symposium on their agendas.
Secretaries General of the UN and the OAU convene a meeting of African Heads of State and all concerned international organizations to set the priorities and strategies and to mobilize resources.
Conference of Ministers Resolution
At their twenty-first session held in Addis Ababa the first week of May 1995, the Conference of African Ministers responsible for Economic and Social Development and Planning accorded significant recognition to the Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development. Dealing for the first time with the subject of electronic communication in Africa, they adopted resolution 795 (XXX), entitled "Building Africa's Information Highway."
In the resolution the Ministers recognized the need for African scientists and researchers to participate fully in scientific and technological activities at the global level and for African countries to develop information networks for full Internet connectivity, to enable them to have the same access to information that the rest of the world enjoys.
They urged African countries which have not yet done so to build national information networks for decision making and planning and called upon each other to promote the exchange of experience with a view to assisting each other in the speedy establishment of national information networks. Addressing the Economic Commission for Africa, they requested its Executive Secretary to set up a high level working group on information technologies and communications in Africa, made up of African technical experts, with a view to preparing a plan of action in this field, and to report to the next Conference of Ministers on the achievements of this group.
Copies of the full text of the resolution are available from PADIS at the address listed on p.1.
Other PADIS News
Panel convenes at PADIS
The Advisory Panel on Science and Technology Information (STI) Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa of the Board on Science and Technology for International Development, National Research Council (USA) met at PADIS in Addis Ababa from 10-12 April to select case studies for a volume on scientific and technological information in Africa, being published by the National Academy of Sciences (USA) under a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Panel was chaired by Prof. John Black, University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada), and organized by Ms. Wendy White, NRC. Members attended were Dr. Theodore Mlaki (Tanzania), Dr. Alex Timdimubona (Uganda), Dr. G.A. Alabi (Nigeria) and Dr. Nancy J. Hafkin (PADIS).
PADIS and InfoTerra
PADIS participated in the first meeting of national focal points in West Africa for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) InfoTerra global environment information system. Under the recently decentralization of Infoterra focal points the National Centre for Scientific and Technological Documentation (CNDST, Senegal) is charged with the co-ordination of nine national focal points in nine francophone countries of West Africa. Representing PADIS at the meeting held in Dakar from 10-12 April was Mr. Makane Faye, Regional Adviser in Information Systems Development.
PADIS in South Africa
Mr. Makane Faye, Regional Advisor in Information Systems, represented PADIS at the annual Africa InfoNova Conference held in Pretoria from 8-12 May 1995. Mr. Faye made a presentation to the Conference on PADIS' role in dissemination of information on African development, with particular emphasis on its initiatives in the field of electronic communications which is facilitating communications among African countries and between African countries and the North.
At CDS-ISIS World Congress
PADIS had the opportunity to attend the first CDS-ISIS World Congress and inter-agency consultation, held in Botoga, Colombia from 22-27 May 1995. More than 400 participants attended the Congress which demonstrated new features of CDS/ISIS and discussed further development of the software. Of particular interest to PADIS were developments in full text and image data bases as well as procedures for implementing e-mail data base search requests. A demonstration was made of online access through the Internet of a CDS/ISIS database running on a Unix host. Mr. Makane Faye was PADIS' representative at the Congress. Copies of his mission report detailing the above- mentioned features are available upon request from PADIS.
PADIS at IDEP
The Director of the Institute for Economic Development and Planning, Dr. Jeggan Senghor, requested a mission from UNECA to advise IDEP on its imminent computerization, with special attention to the needs of the library, the IDEP computer curriculum and gender issues in information. From 15-19 May Mr. Makane Faye, Regional Advisor in Information Systems, and Ms. Nancy J. Hafkin, Senior Economic Affairs Office, Information Systems Development visited IDEP to give the requested advice.
As IDEP is about to launch a project of computerization that T will greatly improve upon its present facilities, the mission made recommendations on equipment purchase, the installation of a LAN, training, electronic communication and strengthening the library. It also encouraged further participation of IDEP in the Standing Committee on the Harmonization and Standardization of Information Systems in Africa. Copies of the report of the mission are available upon request from PADIS.
GEF Panel in Nairobi
The Global Environment Facility secretariat (GEF), a joint undertaking of the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme, convened an advisory panel of experts on computer mediated communications and information technologies in Nairobi from 1-2 June in order to advise it on how to incorporate these technologies in its projects and how to use these technologies to foster dissemination of information on and discussion of GEF issues worldwide.
The specific objectives of the panel were to review options and make recommendations for a more systematic use of computer mediated technology (CMT) in support of GEF programs during the next two years. The GEF Secretariat was desirous of exploring how CMT could be an effective instrument for building African capacity to deal with global environment problems jointly with the rest of the world. PADIS was represented on the Panel by Dr. Nancy J. Hafkin. Copies of the report of the meeting are available upon request from PADIS at the address listed on p.1.
PADIS in Bangkok
In June PADIS participated in two meetings of the Population Information Network held in Bangkok: the Advisory Committee, from 14- 17 June, and the Information Technology Working Group from 12-13 and 19-21 June. Both were held at the headquarters of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Copies of the reports of these meetings are available upon request from PADIS or by
PADIS at INET, '95
The Internet Society held its sixth annual meeting in Honolulu from 27-30 June. PADIS was particularly interested in attending this year's meeting because of the momentum to bring full Internet access to more African countries since its Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development. The Internet annual meeting brought together the principal players sponsoring Internet dissemination worldwide as well as a substantial number of potential African Internet service providers.
The more than 1000 delegates at the meeting were struck by the obvious observation in the opening plenary that only Africa of all the world remained predominantly unconnected. This fact plus the large number of Africans present brought home to the organizers their need to increase efforts on behalf of Africa over the next year. Copies of the report of PADIS' participation at this meeting are available upon request from the address listed on p.1.
The largest country in Africa - the Sudan - remains virtually unconnected to the global electronic network. While there is a SatelLife link through Healthnet at the Medical Faculty of the University of Khartoum, its functionality is very limited due to technical problems with the operation of the ground station.
At the request of the National Council of Research (Sudan), the PADIS "Capacity Building for Electronic Communication in Africa" (CABECA) project visited Sudan from 23-25 March 1995 to investigate the possibilities of reliable connectivity for the country. The mission, undertaken by project manager Mr. Lishan Adam, was requested to assess local needs for electronic communication, advise the Council of Ministers on the establishment of a national hub, test the feasibility of low cost electronic communication in the country and sensitize managers, policy makers and the academic community to the benefits of a national cooperative electronic network.
Obstacles to connectivity had come from lack of reliable telecommunication infrastructure, with no direct dial international connections. However, in the last year substantial deregulation of telecommunications services have taken place with resultant improvement in service. Additionally, the Directorate of Information of the Council of Ministers is planning a national information system to support planning and decision making.
During the course of the mission successful demonstrations of electronic connectivity were held for the Directorate of Information and the National Council for Research. The mission made a number of recommendations for the establishment of a national, low cost networking hub. Once Sudan determines the location of that hub and international direct dial (IDD) telephone lines are available for it, the CABECA project will facilitate its set up.
Copies of the report of Mr. Adam's mission are available by writing to PADIS at the address listed on p.1.
As the Sudan, Nigeria remains a huge terra incognita on the map of global connectivity. Despite a number of efforts to promote it, regular connectivity in that country remains elusive. PADIS' CABECA project has been concentrating its efforts in Nigeria on the Fido hub at the African Regional Centre for Information Science (ARCIS) of the University of Ibadan. As a result of three missions there by CABECA consultants Charles Musisi of the Mukla node in Kampala, Uganda and Cesare Dieni of GreenNet in London, efforts have been made to trigger the growth of independent and sustainable nodes in Nigeria. During their mission of 17-27 June, the team upgraded ARCIS' communication software and reconfigured its electronic mail system. The system operator at ARCIS is Isola Ajiferuke, working with ARCIS Director Prof. Wilson Aiyepeku. Its Fido contact address is 5:7861/12 or [internet]
Regrettably, the ARCIS hub for other CABECA supported nodes in Nigeria suffers the problems endemic to Nigeria- frequent power failures, with no power backup facilities and lack of digital phone lines.
The longest on-going effort to ensure connectivity in Nigeria is that of the UNESCO RINAF project's association with the Yaba College of Technology, which has established a UUCP e-mail node with an Internet connection via CNUCE in Pisa, Italy. When the system works, more than 100 sites are connected to it. However, due to poor telephone lines and frequent power interruptions, the node operates erratically and is frequently unable to deliver mail to its users electronically. Recently Yaba College has wanted to install a Fido node as an alternative and with a gateway between the two. The last CABECA mission installed a Fido node, but as separate telephone lines and PCs were not available, it has to operate on the same PC as the UUCP node and is similarly affected by power problems. Outside users through the Fido system.
On their latest mission, Mr. Musisi and Mr. Dieni also set up a Fido node at NACETEM at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife. Two other nodes that seem to operate on a fairly regular basis are that of the Nigeria Internet Group secretariat in Lagos (tel./fax: 234-1-2622620): [internet] e-mail: Development and Education in Nigeria (FEDEN; tel. 234-1-865864 and Commercial e-mail access is being attempted by a number of service providers, notably by Global Access in Lagos. However, as this newsletter was going to press, only a P.O. Box (72300) and fax number (+234-1-618060) could be obtained for Global indicating that its e-mail services were not functional.
New Info Science journal
The University of Nigeria (Nsukka) has begun publication of a new journal, Frontiers of Information and Library Science, as a semi- annual publication issued in June and December. Aiming to serve as a vehicle of communication of frontiers of knowledge in information and library science among the world community of informaticians and librarians, the journal is a refereed publication in information and library science. Content includes relation of experiences in information centres and libraries worldwide, results of empirical research on any aspect of information and library science and personal experience related to utilization of science and technology. Guests editorials from information professionals will be invited. Articles (in English) are solicited from information professionals worldwide, according to the journal format. Honoraria will be paid to the author of the lead article in each issue. Information about subscriptions, contributions and bibliographic style can be obtained from Dr. Ken M.C. Nweke, Editor- in-chief, FILS; Department of Library Science, University of Nigeria;P O Box 3169; Nsukka, Nigeria.
Kenya exchange programme
The Centre for Development Information Programme at the Library, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture has established an international exchange programme for librarians from foreign universities, colleges and research centres who wish to attach themselves to the Library for periods of up to three months and for Kenyan librarians to undertake similar attachments abroad. The overall objective of the programme is to bridge the information gap between developed and developing countries. Further details on the programme are available from William Kinyanjui, University Librarian, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture, P O Box 34729, Nairobi, Kenya; fax: +254-0151-21764;
Make a date
The Canadian Association of African Studies has announced that its next international conference on the theme "Crisis and Resilience in Africa" will take place in Montreal from 1-5 May 1996, concurrently with the Views of Africa film festival being held in the city. Proposals for panels and paper presentations are invited. Those interested in participating should contact Prof. John Falaty or Prof. Gilles Bibeau at the Canadian Council of Area Studies, University of Montreal, C.P. 6128, Succ., Centre-ville, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
New Entries in PADdev
The following are some recent entries into the PADdev bibliographic data base on social and economic aspects of development in Africa. In line with this special number of the PADIS Newsletter featuring the Regional Symposium on Telematics for Development, all of the documents cited were presented at the Symposium. Microfiches or photocopies of the documents are available upon request from PADIS at the address shown on p.1; additionally, electronic copies are available from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) African Studies Web site on the Internet: The URL to access these documents is: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Padis/menu_telematics.html.
JENSEN, Michael. Telematics for Africa in a global context
Discussion paper. 78p. bibl. February 1995. The paper examines international trends and opportunities in telematics focusing on the organizational framework of telematics service provision. Reviews African infrastructure, experience and initiatives particularly the telecommunications environment, regional telecommunications activities, telematics infrastructure and development and support initiatives. Outlines the major problems constraining telematics in Africa and attempts to identify solutions. Concrete actions that could be undertaken by those interested in improving the potential of telematics use for development in Africa are enumerated.
framework*//telecommunications/,/regional cooperation/,/obstacles to
WALKER, David D. Telematics - A solution resource for
March 1995. 34p. bibl.
The benefits of telematics in education are many. The document identifies the global development of telematics in education, and suggests a path towards educational equality for Africa. According to Mr. Walker, telematics can be an economic gateway to equality, understanding and influence over national education, culture and finance. Telematics can ease the burden of text book shortage, teacher training, access to information; provide the tools and experiences to evaluate worldwide experiences. Accessible resources include databases, lesson presentations, visual support materials, interactive collaborative teaching and learning and national/international teleconferencing. Students can embrace a self paced learning model independent of a formal classroom environment, leading towards the concepts of "lifelong learning without walls". The developed world of electronics/informatics is moving towards a telecommunications driven environment. Not only can Africa seek practical support from these countries for a network of telematics nodes, it would be able to provide a practical model for remote communities in many industrialized countries.
/communication networks*/,/communication systems/,/educational
KNIGHT, Peter. Increasing Internet connectivity in Africa: issues, options, and the World Bank Group role. 27p. bibl. March 1995.
In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, information is becoming a resource at least as important as land and physical capital. In the future, the distinction between developed and non-developed countries will be joined by distinctions between fast countries and slow countries, networked nations and isolated ones. The information revolution offers Africa a dramatic opportunity to leapfrog into the future, breaking out of decades of stagnation or decline.
Africa needs to seize this opportunity, quickly. If African countries cannot take advantage of the information revolution and surf this great wave of technological change, they may become even more marginalized and economically stagnant than they are today. Catching the wave will require visionary leadership in Africa. The World Bank, other international agencies, bilaterals, and NGOs can all help. African countries need to build their National Information Infrastructures (NIIs), connect them to the Global Information Infrastructure (GII), and move rapidly into the information age.
The Internet is the prototype of the GII of the future, and the national and sub-national networks which compose it, the prototype of NIIs. Global connectivity maps and tables prepared by the Internet Society show dramatically that sub-Saharan Africa is the least- connected part of the world. The World Bank Group and other donors should adopt a much more pro-active policy which can lead quickly to significant progress, avoiding unnecessary steps.
/information transfer*/,/high technology*/,/new
PADIS Calendar, July-September 1995
International Development Research Centre (IDRC) meeting of project leaders on measuring the impact of information on development studies
Meeting with World Bank to develop collaborative project on information technology for development for Secretary General's Special Initiative on Africa
Southern African Coordination Council for Agricultural Research (SACCAR) regional workshop on agricultural information and documentation networks
National Research Council (USA) Board on Science and Technology for Development STI case studies writers' workshop
American Association for the Advancement of Science CD-ROM Workshop
International Advisory Committee meeting Africa Regional Centre for Information Studies
PADIS presentation on new information technologies to Ethiopian Library and Information Association
Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESEN) Information Cooperative Partners' Forum
first meeting, African Development Communications Research and Training Network organized by IDRC
Third general meeting, INDIX
Mission to Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) to implement connectivity project for Greater Horn of Africa Initiative
25 Sept.-5 Oct.
UNESCO international training seminar on IDAMS integrated statistical database
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.
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