I received an interesting insight today on the ways the US
Congress sometimes reaches a decision -- although I
work for the US Government, I'm still very much a novice
in deciphering the overall national decision-making
There are implications for ICT project funding in Africa,
which I'll elucidate at the end.
This message was sent to me by the association of
American foreign service officers, quoting from the
"House Acts On Foreign AIDS Help, Debt Relief," by
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, 07/14/00
> "The House voted yesterday to increase U.S. funding for
> international debt relief and AIDS funding for poor
> countries... [part of the overall] $13.3 billion foreign spending bill."
For me, here's the key passage:
> Many lawmakers said they acted after alarming reports
> this week from an international conference in Durban,
> South Africa, about the spread of AIDS.
I generally have trouble justifying attendance at meetings,
paying for meetings, encouraging meetings. It seems we
spend a lot of money on meetings, some would say far
too much money.
The Washington Post, however, has made a direct link
between a meeting in Durban and funding approval in the
US Congress. Presumably the same meeting had an
impact on policy maker awareness throughout Africa, in
the EU, etc.
This impact on policy makers is, for me at least, quite
surprising ... and promising. The Washington Post goes
further to draw a link between this vote in Congress and
the actions of those participating in the Jubilee 2000 debt
relief campaign in America -- mostly religious groups.
Here's an interesting side note:
> The extra money for both AIDS and debt relief was largely
> taken from funds for foreign military aid and training.
And of course under the American system, the funds are
not yet fully approved:
> The Senate has yet to act on its version of the bill.
> The debate on both debt and AIDS sparked emotional
> remarks on the House floor. *'We have a moral
> responsibility to address the AIDS epidemic in Africa,'
> [Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.)] said. 'It's reached such
> proportions, it's just out of control.'
The "R-Okla." reference is to Mr. Largent's membership
in the Republican Party from the state of Oklahoma.
The final bill leaving the Congress for the President's
signature will likely be different from the bill passed by
the House of Representatives -- the US Senate will meet
with them to iron out a compromise bill that the two parts
of Congress will send jointly to the President.
My further observation is that this health bill will likely
lead to a substantial increase in USAID ICT activities in
Africa. Perhaps some will not see the connection, so
permit me to elucidate.
I am finding here in Nairobi that the greatest and most
cogent demands on ICT staff time are being made by our
health program officers. Our health program staff are
demanding technical support and financing in support of
the African regional organizations that work on AIDS
related issues -- the Regional Centre for the Quality of
Health Care in Kampala, the Commonwealth Regional
Health Community Secretariat in Arusha, the Centre for
African Family Studies in Nairobi -- I hope I have those
A Kenyan member of my team, a telecommunications
engineer, has been making regular trips to all of these
organizations -- the police at the Kenya/Tanzania border
near Arusha probably know him quite well by now. My
staff colleague helps these regional health organizations
decide on ICT plans -- what investments to make in
equipment and cabling. He helps them understand how
to evaluate the proposals they receive from the region's
high tech firms. And he helps them think through the
implications of various network configurations for
technical support -- whether it's better to outsource or to
hire a qualified network manager, how much to budget to
get good quality people, what kinds of qualifications to
look for in an ICT job candidate, etc.
This kind of personal technical assistance to
organizations is, in my view, probably far more important
than the amount of funds we grant directly. As grant
funds to AIDS related organizations increases, I'm
guessing that it would be prudent as well to increase our
support for personal technical assistance -- either via
direct employment by USAID of qualified engineers, or
indirectly through institutional contracts to specialized
ICT consulting firms.
Jeff @ Nairobi
Information and Communication Technology Programs
Tel +254 (2) 862400 x2762
Email [log in to unmask] (preferred)
Email [log in to unmask]
PO Box 30261