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AFRIK-IT  April 2000

AFRIK-IT April 2000

Subject:

Re: The Power of Internet Technology in LDCs

From:

Kofi V Anani <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Thu, 27 Apr 2000 12:57:42 -0400

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (86 lines)

Thought this short piece on the on-going debates regarding
the suitability and appropriateness of the Internet, TV and Radio in the
so-called developing countries might be of interest to list members.

It is amazing and quite understandable that 'some of us' are still
skeptical of the power and capability of internet technology to transform
the lives of ordinary people in the developing world. At least one thing
good about the internet is that it is based on the philosophy and values
of SHARING - an operational guiding principle akin to the views and
attributes of poor ordinary people. The practice of sharing through
collective and communal efforts is very much pronounced and demonstrable
in the daily lives of ordinary people in the LDCs.

There is an African adage which states that one small pot can feed a whole
village, community or nation. In the parlance of internet technology, one
computer with internet access can provide the information and knowledge
needs of an entire village. There are villages of about 5000 people, for
example in Africa, which share one postal box number ... and how do they
do this effectively could only be attributed to the psyche of sharing.

With a computer equipped with internet access, such villages could have
spaces of presence in the world ... ie. a whole global library would be in
the midst of the remotest village, schools in the village would have
access to educational and instructional materials, teachers in the
community would have access to refresher and teaching programs,
entrepreneurs would have access to global marketplace information with
performance enhancement skills, information about the village would be
available to the whole world etc. ... and the benefits go on and on and
seem limitless.

In a sense, what all this means is that the village can be their own radio
broadcasters, TV programmers, knowledge contributors and disseminators
etc. ... all made possible because the technologies of radio, TV,
print and publishing media have all converged to make the internet an
ALL-IN-ONE technological tool - thereby rendering the internet as the
single largest repository of human information and knowledge unprecedented
in the annals of human existence.

What makes the reasoning of the skeptics of the power of internet
technology quite understandable is that initial investment in internet
infrastructure  and technology is cost and capital intensive - a spectre
of exhorbitance which makes even the faithful adherents to tremble at the
thought of easy and unversal access. Yet the faithful are comforted with
the conviction that the growing use and benefits of internet technology to
ordinary people as the 'rate of return' would render  initial investment
costs minuscle in comparative terms.

There should be a way out for this amazing tool to reach the heart of the
remotest village. In my mind, one simple and rational way out of the
spectre of exhorbitance associated with internet technology is the
so-called 'Third World Debt'.. Debates have been raging in recent times,
and many have called for the cancellation of debts of LDCs. Instead of
cancellation of debt, I will advocate for debt conversion into internet
technology investments ... (does it sound ridiculous or outrageous?).
Given the history of debt in Third World Countries, and the underlying
complicity of the same forces and actors at the forefront of the crusade
for the 'information superhighway', 'bridging the digital divide', the
'information haves and have-nots', nothing seems more plausible than a
bold global initiative to TURN DEBTs INTO INTERNET INFRASTRUCTURE in LDCs
(If you think this suggestion is ridiculous and borders on insanity, let
us throw it to the court of public opinion at both ends of the spectrum).

For the skeptics of the capability of internet technology reaching the
poor, please be reminded that it requires creativity, innovation and
imagination to overcome the challenges and reap the benefits of the power
of the modern 'small pot' which can feed a whole village, community or
nation'. If it takes a village to raise a child (an adage of the very
essence of existence of the ordinary African), it can equally take one
computer with internet access to provide the information and knowledge
needs of an entire village.

Access, Empowerment and Good Governance through the power of internet
technology in developing countries would not come or fall like the
biblical manna from the heavens. Precisely, it needs careful orchestration
and crafting to solve the problems of poverty in the developing countries
with the power of internet technology - the potentials and the
possibilities are obvious to the critical mind. Thus for the skeptics and
the powers that be: Let the internet comes like flames into the hearts and
daily lives of the poor and ordinary people, and all other things would
follow.


Best Regards,

Kofi Anani

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