PADIS Newsletter, vol. 10, no. 3 October 1995

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 levels
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 co-operation through
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 in Africa.

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 itself.
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- ordinator.

ANI Established

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 information network.
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.

Database development

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.

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).

Kenya, too

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 Bush.
Information about Internet in Kenya is available from Dr. Ochuodho, ARCC, P O Box 58638, Nairobi, Kenya; tel. +254 2

New Lifelines

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 00 58.

African connectivity
A new World Wide Web page on African connectivity created by Koma Bintu Gandy is available at URL

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

FrontDoor Tips

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 countries.
Further information on obtaining copies of the handbook is available fom Denis Smit, Johannesburg South Africa, tel. +27 11 803 6412; or fax: +27 11 803 7840.

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 National Development."
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 (CSK).
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, Ile-Ife, Nigeria;

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D.

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