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AFRIK-IT  May 2000

AFRIK-IT May 2000

Subject:

Re: The Internet in Africa

From:

Barry Raveendran Greene <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Mon, 1 May 2000 12:04:59 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (200 lines)

Hi Jim,

The report does not cover anything new. That's the disappointment. Since it
says that people in the development community are not digging deeper into
how and why the Internet got to where it's at today - and thus applying
these principles to expanding the Internet in Africa.

For example, you missing the fundamentals of how Internet infrastructure,
local content, and E-Commerce is all inter-related. There is a direction
relationship between the emergence of local Internet eXchange Points (IXPs)
and content with in a country. We've seen the happen time and again in
places like Japan, Korean, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand,
and many other places in the world. Look at the two more connected
countries - Finland and New Zealand. What's behind the "connection?" Healthy
IXPs!

Remember, It's NOT English - it's the local language that spurs the ISP
market (talking about the business of making money in the Internet world).
You see this all over Europe. You see this in Japan (with over 2000 ISPs).
You see this in Korea (that is consistently under counted by the English
based "research" groups). We see it especially in Taiwan where they are a
net exporter of content to world - that's Chinese content (cause 80% of the
Internet consumers in Taiwan do not read or speak English).

The #1 factor behind all of these local Internet successes is the ability to
keep local traffic local. Using the US or Europe as the place to exchange
traffic for a country is the WRONG thing to do. Yet, we see sooooo many ISPs
do this. They like to loose money instead of collaborating with their
"competitors" and interconnecting. PTTs in these countries also like loosing
money, preferring not to sell local circuits of interconnection and/or
blocking attempt by ISPs to build an IXP.

Add the impact of IXPs to the report. It's the #1 major thing that is
missing.

Other items that are missing:

+ Professional Training for ISPs. Not just technical, but especially
business. If an ISP does not make money, then it will not survive.

+ Professional Training for Enterprise Networks. Remember the #1 revenue
generation on the Net is not Business to Consumer relationships (B to C in
today's "Valley" lingo), it is Business to Business relationships (B to B in
today's "Valley" lingo). Yet, for B to B relationship to evolve, you need a
LAN. To have a LAN, you need people who know how to build it, maintain it,
and effectively build applications/services for the business to gain
tangible benefits from this network. That means professional training.

+ Penetration in Rural Areas is a universal & business issue. My mom in the
mountains of Tenn. has some of the same issues of "connectivity" as other
'rural' places in the world. This is an apples to orange comparison, but it
is also a fruit to fruit comparison. If you dig deep enough, you will find
that the "business" issues for not stretching out to rural areas given by
the local Telco that covers my mom's area are _exactly_ the same reasons I
hear from Telcos in many African countries. So there more to connecting
rural areas than "development." There are $$$$ reasons for finding
sustainable business cases to keep rural areas connected. Yet,  small rural
Telcos and ISPs do find sustainable and profitable niches. So there are
answers.


Barry



> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jim Sanders [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2000 10:41 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: The Internet in Africa
>
>
> The Department is making an effort to improve its understanding of the
> state of the Internet in Africa.  Comments on the summary which follows
> are welcome.
>
>
>
> The Internet in Africa
>
> Today
>
>     Communications technology in general has not penetrated Africa to
> the extent that it has other world areas, especially non-Third World
> areas.  Expert estimates reveal that one African shares a telephone line
> with 99 others and that even this comparison is inaccurate since South
> Africa is included and it is far more advanced technologically than the
> rest of the continent.  Radio continues to be the dominant
> communications medium in Africa and perhaps the only one that is
> widespread in rural areas.  A key characteristic of information media in
> Africa--whether telephone, radio, television, newspapers, or the
> Internet--is sharing.  A relatively large number of people will use a
> single phone, listen to a radio, watch a TV, read a copy of a newspaper,
> or share an E-mail address.
>
>     While Internet access is now widespread in Africa in the sense that
> all countries except Somalia and Liberia are connected, the number of
> African Internet users is pitifully small, just 1.2 million out of a
> continental population of 750 million and most of these are resident in
> South Africa.  Moreover, Internet access tends to be concentrated in
> capital cities where most users are employees of non-governmental
> organizations, universities, or private companies.  Researchers note
> that the area of greatest use is by economic sectors involved with
> tourist industries and foreign investment.  Government ministries are
> not currently making extensive use of the Internet for adminstrative
> purposes and students have limited or no access.  Penetration to rural
> areas remains negligible.
>
>     Internet connectivity density in Africa is low, but an even more
> disturbing aspect of this is that very little local or indigenous
> African content is being generated.  Web sites which represent an
> excellent interactive tool for making information available globally,
> and thus a key to survival in the information age, are not common, even
> among institutional users who have direct Internet access.  Government
> ministries and research centers in Africa, a researcher noted, may have
> access to E-mail, but few have a web site.  Those that do exist tend to
> be tourist-related.  Lack of adequate bandwidth and circuit capacity as
> well as troubled economies that impede employment for web designers are
> thwarting web development in Africa.  But so, too, is cost.  Dial-up
> calls in Africa remain expensive, especially for accessing websites.
> Thus where Internet is used, E-mail predominates.
>
>     The Internet is making progress in Africa.  Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana,
> Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are
> assessed as having the most advanced Internet sectors among sub-Saharan
> African states.  Nonetheless its further development is slowed by the
> high cost of access for individuals and institutions, inadequate
> technical infrastructure, and the regulatory environment in specific
> countries.  Government policies that do not foster competition among
> Information and Communications Technology (ICT) providers hinder the
> spread of access.  The growth of E-commerce in Africa, for example, is
> held back by the reluctance of banks, particularly central banks, to
> issue credit cards.
>
>
> Tomorrow
>
>     By 2010 will Africa have fallen further behind the rest of the world
> with respect to Internet technology?  Or, will it have become entrenched
> and spawned significant social, economic, and political change?
>
>     The rapid pace at which African countries have gotten 'connected' to
> the Net is a hopeful sign that the continent will not be by-passed by an
> Internet future.  Yet this initial progress has depended both on
> external programs such as USAID's Leland Initiative, a five year $15
> million effort to develop Internet infrastructure in more than 20
> African countries, and a liberalizing approach by a number of African
> governments interested in the benefits of the technology.  The
> continuation of Internet connectivity, especially into rural areas, will
> depend on continued external support and continued favorable attitudes
> on the part of African governments.  A reversal of either factor could
> retard current progress and at the pace Internet technology is
> developing, put African countries further behind the rest of the world.
>
>     Assuming that Africans are able to build on current advances, future
> developments would most likely be visible where the Internet is already
> concentrated: namely, in major cities in NGOs, private businesses, and
> universities.  With sustained commitment from external donors and
> government, African countries might start to generate significant
> amounts of indigenous content via websites.  Government ministries might
> begin to make use of the Internet in the practical administration of
> their departments.  Internet usage would likely broaden within these
> spheres and be brought to bear on day-to-day problems.  Instead of
> constituting mainly an avenue of communication with the outside world,
> the Internet could become an avenue for Africans to communicate with
> themselves both via E-mail, but also via websites.  Small businesses
> which already are benefiting from Internet connections might flourish
> and increase their markets domestically as well as with foreign
> consumers.
>
>     Yet despite comments by Microsoft's Bill Gates that "ubiquitous
> wireless and high-bandwidth data networks will be on the market" and
> will "deliver the power of the information age into the hands of
> everyone, anytime, anywhere," Africa's rural areas will still be
> relatively 'underconnected' by 2010.  The cost of wireless networks and
> higher bandwidth will remain high relative to African incomes.  Low
> literacy rates will also work against a rural Internet revolution.
> Consequently, substantial economic and political changes will be slow in
> emerging.  Rural dwellers will continue to have little timely
> information about what is happening in the world and in their own
> capital cities.  This will retard the consolidation and further
> development of democratic change.
>
>     However, by 2010, assuming that a steady development of Internet
> infrastructure in Africa, funded externally and internally, continues, a
> convergence of technology and the youth bulge in African populations may
> bring about socio-economic and political changes that are difficult to
> foresee.  Young people are most apt to understand and use Internet
> technology.  Even among youth, the Net is likely to evidence an urban,
> elitist bias, continuing to develop over the next decade in nodes rather
> than waves that sweep across populations.  Even so, access to the
> Internet could provide these youth with a powerful took to make their
> presence felt economically and politically.  In particular, small
> businesses could experience an upsurge, while governments would find
> themselves under closer scrutiny at home and abroad.
>
> Jim Sanders
>
>

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