PADIS Newsletter, vol. 10, no. 3 October 1995
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
PADIS Newsletter, vol. 10, no. 3 October 1995
PADIS Newsletter, vol. 10, no. 3 October 1995
Information Technology in System-Wide Initiative
Despite the widespread concern expressed by the
international community about deteriorating economic
and social conditions in Africa and the commitment
of African governments to removing the obstacles to
growth, current projections indicate that prospects
for recovery are still not in sight for the majority
of countries and that unless urgent actions are taken,
living standards could continue to fall in the region.
Against this background United Nations Secretary-General
Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali decided to launch Special
Initiative on Africa, which the Administrative Committee
on Coordination Africa approved in October 1995 as
a United Nations System-Wide Initiative. The Secretary
General of the United Nations has charged ECA/PADIS
with the management of a task force under the Special
Initiative on "harnessing information technology
for development." In partnership with the entire
United Nations system, but especially with the World
Bank and UNESCO, ECA will raise funds for and implement
a programme working in the following areas:
securing the necessary policy reform for African
participation in the information age
setting up infrastructure for full Internet
connectivity in selected countries
building capacities for computer networking
in Africa through training at national and regional
building capacities in Africa to use knowledge
for development decision making and sector applications
strengthening Africa's competitive position
in the rapidly changing global economy Among the operative
principles of the Special Initiative programme in harnessing
information technology for development are:
Encouragement of African private sector development
as information service providers Utilization
of local resources and established
information base Encouragement of South-South
repatriation of skills of Africans trained
abroad, technical assistance from other developing
countries with experience in this area The cost of
the programme in harnessing information technology
is estimated at $11.5 million; it would cover 20 countries
Measuring Information Impact
The International Development Research Centre convened
a meeting from 10-12 July in Ottawa, Canada of project
leaders and principal investigators in its series of
studies on "measuring the impact of information
on development." The impact studies are a significant
new field in information science, one in which information
scientists the world over are following with great
interest. IDRC has supported an initial theory and
methodology study and is now sponsorsing a series of
world-wide case studies to test this theory and methodology.
PADIS was chosen to conduct one of two African
case studies in the series: on measuring the impact
of information transmitted electronically on development,
as an outgrowth of its IDRC- sponsored project "Capacity
building for electronic communication in Africa."
The meeting was significant for bringing together many
of the most reknowned names in the information science
field, including Dr. Martha Stone, Director General
of IDRC's Information Systems and Services Division;
Dr. Michel Menou, Professor of Information Science
at the University of Bordeaux; and Dr. Woody Horton,
former president of the International Federation for
Information and Documentation (FID).
The basic question all the case studies are trying
to answer is: does information make a difference in
probem solving and decision making? How can this be
shown and measured? What actions can be shown to occur
as a result of information provision?
PADIS was represented by Dr. Nancy Hafkin who made
a joint presentation with Dr. Michel Menou (principal
investigator) on the CABECA studies of the impact of
electronic connectivity on development in Africa.
The presentation has been published by IDRC, along
with the proceedings of the meeting, in its volume
entitled ,"Measuring the Impact of Information
on Development: case studies."
USAID Awards Grant
In its first new grant to the Economic Commission
for Africa in 12 years, the United States Agency for
International Development in August 1995 awarded a
grant in the amount of US$295,000 to PADIS to establish
a Greater Horn of Africa electronic communication network.
The purpose of the network will be to assist in
the strategic coordination of food security and peace
issues among member States of the Intergovernmental
Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) and others
of the Greater Horn. The purpose of the grant is to
promote regional solidarity among the countries of
the Greater Horn of Africa, while its objective is
to operate an electronic communications network among
targeted ministries in East African countries. The
targeted ministries are the Ministries of Foreign Affairs,
IGADD contact ministries and the IGADD secretariat
The plan of action calls for the project beginning
with a series of needs' assessment missions to the
countries concerned, connection of the communications
equipment, training of electronic communication users
and operators and operation of the electronic network.
The project is expected to begin its activities in
January 1996, with the recruitment of a project co-
Based on the partnership of the Economic Commission
for Africa, the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the International
Telecommunication Union, the International Development
and Research Centre and Bellanet, a multi-donor funded
initiative aimed at increasing the impact and relevance
of development assistance through the utilization of
communications technology for supporting greater collaboration
and concerted action, the African Networking Initiative
(ANI) has been established. The partners first came
together in the sponsoring of the Regional Symposium
on Telematics, held in Addis Ababa in April 1995.
In 1996 the major joint effort of the partners
is support of the High Level Working Group on Information
Technologies in Africa established by ECA Conference
of Ministers resolution 795 (XXX). Both IDRC and UNESCO
have given grants to ECA/PADIS to facilitate the work
of the Group, which will hold its first meeting in
Cairo in November 1995. ITU is supporting the Group
by underwriting the costs of participation of telecommunications
experts and other technical assistance.
As follow-up to this phase in the ANI process,
it is expected that the partner institutions will emphasize
actions to (1) coordinate donor investments for networking
infrastructure and services in Africa, (2) work for
the establishment of specific Internet-based regional
services to support regional initiatives and (3) a
policy research agenda for IDRC and other donors related
to telematics and information and communication technology
issues in Africa.
Uganda Focal Point
PADIS' Training Coordinator Mr. Francis Inganji
travelled to Uganda from 10-14 July to examine the
status of PADIS' focal point in that country, the library
of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development.
Given the staffing and equipment situation of the Ministry
library, PADIS network activities in Uganda were not
advancing. Mr. Inganji visited the Ministry and discussed
its problems. He also visited other institutions which
could assume the national co-ordination role or which
would benefit from participation in a national development
The recommendation of the mission was that the
Government of Uganda should attempt to locate financial
resources to strengthen the Ministry of Planning library.
Given these resources, it could then continue to serve
as PADIS' focal point in Uganda. Once the projected
National Information System (NIS) comes into existence
the focal point could be transferred there. If neither
of these two options come to fruition, then the focal
point should be transferred to the National Council
for Science and Technology. Copies of the report of
Mr. Inganji's mission are available upon request from
PADIS at the address listed on p.1.
Mr. Lambert J. Hogenhout, Associate Expert at PADIS,
visited several institutions in Zambia and Kenya from
10-21 July to deliver advice on database development
and collect information for PADIS' projected CD-ROM
of African development information.
In Zambia Mr. Hogenhout assisted PADIS' subregional
information system, the East and Southern Africa Development
Information System (ESADIS), in its work with the National
Statistics Office of the Government of Zambia in developing
statistical databases in economics, agriculture and
demographics. He recommended that once implemented,
these databases could be distributed on a subregional
basis through the Zambia link to the Internet, ZAMNET.
Among the institutions Mr. Hogenhout visited in
Kenya to advise on the dissemination of new information
technologies and collect data for PADIS' meta-database
of African databases and to select possible participants
for the PADIS CD-ROM project were the Library of Congress
Field Office Nairobi, International Center for Research
in Agro-forestry, Kenya Rural Enterprise Programme,
Library of the University of Nairobi, Environment Liaison
Center International and Kenyan Agricultural Research
Institute. Copies of his report are available from
PADIS in Maputo
PADIS attended the Regional Workshop on Agricultural
Information and Documentation Networks in Maputo from
24-28 July 1995. Sponsored by the the Southern African
Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Research and
Training (SACCAR), the objective of the meeting was
to explore ways by which efficient and sustainable
agricultural documentation and information networks
could be established in the Southern African Development
Conference region, taking into account the diversity
of national agricultural and documentation information
situation. To this end, a Southern African Agricultural
Information Network (SAAINET) was proposed.
PADIS presented a paper on its experience in developing
databases. PADIS was represented by Mr. Saddik Solbi,
Systems Development Officer.
PADIS in Harare
PADIS was invited to attend the American Association
for the Advancement of Science "Workshop on enhancing
African coverage in international databases" held
in Harare from 4-5 August 1995. The current situation
of low level representation of African material in
international databases was surveyed and recomendations
made to increase it as well as to increase African
access to these databases. PADIS' representative at
the meeting was Mr. Saddik Solbi.
Information Technology Ghana joins the 'Net In August
1995 Ghana became the latest African country to have
full Internet connectivity in Sub saharan Africa region.
The efforts was led by Dr. Nii Quaynor (e-mail: nquaynor
Network Computer Systems (NCS), Pipex International,
The Ministry of Transport and Communication of Ghana,
Ghana Telecom and British Telecom. The liberalization
of telecommunications in Ghana was key to the accomplishment.
With the Structural Adjustment Program and the the
Ghana Government's open economic policy, the telecommunication
sector embarked on a program of privatization. NCS
received approval from the Ministry of Transport and
Communication to offer value added electronic mail
and other services to subscribers in Ghana.
In 1993, NCS registered the GH.COM domain and identified
Pipex as a service provider. The two worked together
to establish a commercial service in Ghana. The initial
method of connection was by periodic IP dial-up IP
to Pipex. The constraint to full connectivity then
was the shortage of telephone lines for subscribers.
However, since October 1994 Ghana Telecom has been
aggressively expanding the national telephone network.
This expansion project resulted in the addition of
15,000 lines to Accra exchanges. With the addition
of more subscriber lines. NCS applied for the .gh top
level domain, and in January NCS began its operations
as an Internet Service Provider.
The international leased circuit, provided by Ghana
Telecom and British Telecom, became operational in
August 1995 with a data throughput of 14.4 Kbps, in
close collaboration of Pipex. At the time of this writing
NCS had more than 160 subscribers with full access
to Internet services, including World Wide Web, ftp,
and telnet. The primary mode of connection for dial-up
subscribers is PPP and UUCP. The largest group of subscribers
are corporations, followed by the university sector,
government, international organizations, embassies
and non-governmental organizations.
NCS plans to extend its operations in 1996 to other
cities in Ghana, including Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale.
On the technological front, NCS is exploring satellite
technologies. Radio communication facilities are being
reviewed as methods of expanding regionally. (Thanks
to Dr. Nii Quaynor for his contribution of this article).
The African Regional Center for Computing (Dr.
Shem Ochuodho, Director) acquired a dedicated leased
line to Oregon (USA) in October 1995 and joined the
growing list of African countries on the Internet.
Kenya's connection came with the support of the Overseas
Development Agency (UK), the National Science Foundation
(USA) and individuals John Sutherland, Peter Hoare
(ODA), Steve Goldstein (NSF), Lenore Blum and Randy
Information about Internet in Kenya is available
from Dr. Ochuodho, ARCC, P O Box 58638, Nairobi, Kenya;
tel. +254 2
Two articles about Africa and the Internet have
recently appeared in internationally distributed publications.
"New Lifelines" on how the Net is sprouting
in Africa and aiding countries with adequate phone
systems appeared in Internet World in November 1995.
In its issue of 17 November, the New York Times had
an article entitled "On the Internet, Africa is
Far Behind." Copies are available from PADIS at
the address listed on p.1.
UNESCO Special Issue
The June/September 1994 (vol. 22, no. 2) issue
of the UNISIST Newsletter of the UNESCO General Information
Programme is entitled "Information and New Technologies
in Developing Countries."
According to the Editorial featured in the issue,
the new information technologies underline more than
ever the need for countries to adopt "vigorous
and objective" information policies. In the view
of UNESCO, the ability to fully exploit these new technologies
depends on the country's ability "to plan a comprehensive
information policy and to understand the strategic
dimension of information and its importance in solving
problems of high national priority."
Copies of this, and subsequent issues, are available
from PGI Newsletter, Division of the General Information
Programme (PGI), 1, rue Miollis, 75732 Paris CEDEX
15, France; tel: +331 45 68 45 00; fax: +33 1 44 49
A new World Wide Web page on African connectivity
created by Koma Bintu Gandy is available at URL http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~kbgandy/africanet.html.
FID on Cyberspace
The July/August 1995 issue of the FID News Bulletin
is a special issue on the theme "Africa in Cyberspace,"
guest edited by J. Agada and O.J. Jegede. Among the
features are a review of the ECA/PADIS Addis Ababa
Symposium on Telematics for Development by Mayuri Odedra-Straub,
an article by J.Y. Djamen on "Electronic Networking
in Africa: Emergence towards the Internet," and
by Mike Jensen on "Low Cost Global Electronic
Systems for Africa." The text of the ECA Conference
of Ministers resolution "Building Africa's Information
Highway" is also included.
More information on the Bulletin can be obtained
from FID, P O Box 90402, 2509LK The Hague, Netherlands;
tel.+ 31 70 31 40
For users of FrontDoor e-mail systems, PADIS has
developed "Tips on Using FrontDoor." Copies
are available free of charge from PADIS.
Communication Technologies Handbook, 1995
The Handbook on Communications Technology 1995:
telecommunications and corporate networking in southern
Africa and selected African countries published by
BMI Tech Knowledge/International Data Corporation,
Southern Africa contains an excellent article entitled
"Towards an African Information Infrastructure"
by the International Telecommunications Union and in-depth
surveys of the telecommunications situation in 16 African
Further information on obtaining copies of the
handbook is available fom Denis Smit, Johannesburg
South Africa, tel. +27 11 803 6412; or fax: +27 11
Kenya holds IT Conference
Kenya held its first national information technology
conference and exhibition at the Kenyatta Conference
Center in Nairobi from 29 November through 2 December
1995 on the theme "Information Technology for
Among the features of the Conference were meetings
of the African Internet Group and national information
technology associations. The Conference was organized
by the African Regional Centre for Computing (ARCC)
in collaboration with the Computer Society of Kenya
More information about the proceedings is available
from the Director, ARCC, P.O. Box 58638, Nairobi; tel.
+254 2 723552; fax:
Information Technology Management
The National Centre for Technology Management of
Obafemi Awolowo University held an International Conference
on Information Technology Management in Lagos from
16-17 November 1995, in collaboration with the Telecommunications
Foundation of Africa (TFA) located in Nairobi. The
Conference was opened by the former Minister of Communications
with a keynote address on "information technology
in a de-regulated telecommunications environment."
A report of the conference can be obtained by Prof. S.A. Sanni, Executive Director,
National Centre for Technology Management (NACEF), Obafemi Awolowo University,
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.