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AFRIK-IT  September 1995

AFRIK-IT September 1995

Subject:

FW: Africa's_participation_in_the_Global_Information_Superhighway.

From:

"Dion, David" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Wed, 20 Sep 1995 13:57:00 +0002

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (309 lines)

     I hope this is of interest to the list.
     Regards,
     DDion
 
 ----------
From: OWNER-TELEMAFR
To: telemafr
Subject: Africa's_participation_in_the_Global_Information_Superhighway.
Date:  19 September 1995 9:38AM
 
Return-Path: <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 1995 09:38:05 +0000 (GMT)
From: TONY r <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Africa's_participation_in_the_Global_Information_Superhighway.
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To: [log in to unmask]
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 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 --
    TELEMATICS FOR AFRICA: THE GLOBAL INFORMATION HIGHWAY
    =====================================================
 
1. INTRODUCTION
 ---------------
There have been great promises made by builders of the Information
Highway that the global communications network will pull developing
nations out of their state of dependency into the modern age and
will bring success to these countries.  There has, however, been a
debate with regard to these presumed benefits in a group discussion
by participants at the recently concluded second Regional Programme
for Trainers of Information Analysts in Africa (REPTIAA-2) held at
the Institute of Computer Science, University of Nairobi.  This
programme was funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat.  The issues
were approached from three perspectives: Infrastuctural, Social,
and Initiatives & Impacts.  Arguments were put forward by three
groups along each of these perspectives.  Below are the main points
raised.
 
2. INFRASTRUCTURAL PERSPECTIVES
 --------------------------------
 -    there is need to develop African Information Infrastructures
     (AII) in order to cope  with developments in Information
     Technology (IT);
 -    Currently, AIIs in Africa are at a relatively low level
     (useful indicator is teledensity  of 1.6  per 100);
 -    there is need for AII planning both at National and
     institutional/organizational levels;
 -    the time is not yet ripe for Africa to join the Global
     Information Highway (GIH), as there is still need to further
     invest and put in place the basic AII with a view to
     participation in the GIH in future.
 -    the AII requires a "needs analysis", in line with Maslows
     hierarchy of human needs, and arguments for the satisfaction
     of these needs, as sequenced, i.e:  Basic; Competitive
     (enabling participation);  Future capabilities (ISDN); and
     "Nice to have AII".  Otherwise priorities might be
     misconstrued.
 -    currently, access to tele-facilities is restricted to the
     urban elite.  With development and further investment in basic
     AII there is potential for greater use leading to reduction of
     charges/tariffs by virtue of increased subscribers and
     increased availability of such facilities to lower income
     groups.  Pricing alogrithms should be pragmatic and aimed at
     securing large sale volumes rather than high unit margins.
 -    the lack of IT policy in most African countries makes it
     premature to rush into the GIH;
 -    ownership of AII is currently with governments at National
     level; there is very little  institutional or organizational
     ownership.
 
 
 
 
3. SOCIAL ISSUES AND CONTEXTS
 ------------------------------
3.1 Benefits and Risks
 -    Information is a 4th Component of Production.  In this regard,
     the Information Highway IH, is a must-have;
 -    there exists great potential in the advancement of GIH.
     However, just as there was great potential in the discovery of
     atomic  energy, which ended up being adversely used in
     Hiroshima/Nagasaki,the GIH potential could be abused/misused;
 -    much emphasis seems to be placed on the tele aspects of the
     information infrastructure per se, with little cognisance of
     the Human/Social aspects of the Information Highway.
 
3.2 Positive aspects
 -    enable people to communicate and interact;
 -    promote world trade (i.e bring services closer to the people);
 -    revolutionalize the work environment, for which people must be
     prepared; and
 -    sharing of ideas thus promoting education, health and
     research.
 
3.3 Reservations
 -    Ownership of GII lies with the developed world.  This is not
     healthy for Africa, since it just seems to be towed along;
 -    there must first be local participation in information sharing
     before there can be talk of international participation;
 -    the presence of an Information Infrastructure alone does not
     necessarily address the social and cultural aspects associated
     with connecting to the GIH.
 -    there is the threat of imposition of foreign ideologies on
     Africa;
 -    there is also the threat of marginalisation of developing
     countries owing to unfair competitive positions, and
     unequitable access capabilities;
 -    there exists the danger of being pushed along by market driven
     technological forces without adequate assessment or
     prioritization of the needs of African countries; and
 -    there is need to put in place a regulatory /legal framework to
     control the information content on the highway, if undesirable
     material is to be prevented from contaminating the morals of
     African Society e.g Pornography.
 
4. INITIATIVES AND IMPACTS:
 ---------------------------
 -    there is need for African initiatives in building AII
     otherwise Africa will remain  onlookers;
 -    there have been some African initiatives:  invariably donor
     and private sector driven and a few regional initiatives e.g
     RASCOM, URTNA;
 -    at the global level, there are relatively few countries in
     Africa connected to Internet, the prototype Information
     Highway e.g, Tunisia, Egypt, South Africa and Zambia, however,
     these are invariably used for North-South interaction in
     contrast to intra-Africa communication.
 -    Low benefits to Africa, since the majority of North-South
     interaction is biased towards exchange of foreign-related
     issues dominated by oversees peer groups;
 -    at south-south level, there have been one or two media
     initiatives, an  example is the M-NET by South Africa, which,
     however, also projects mainly Western values;
 -    significant impact on Africa and its development may only be
     realised if Africa communities or governments contribute to
     determining the content of the Information Highway, especially
     with respect to the promotion and maintenance of cultural,
     traditional and other social values;
 -    with regard to entrepreneurship, Africa governments need to be
     more involved by laying down and formulating policies in this
     respect.  Currently, in a bid to encourage foreign
     involvement, most governments are mainly concerned with
     securing such investors with regard to trade and other related
     policies.  These have not often promoted African
     entrepreneurship, and a shift from this status quo, in form of
     genuine African initiatives and partnerships, is required;
 -    there is currently much fragmentation owing to divisive
     interests and this situation is not healthy for Africa's
     Information Infrastructure development as a whole.
 
5. SUMMARY OF THE DISCUSSIONS
 -----------------------------
The Global Information Highway has infrastructural, social and
institutional/organisational implications for Africa that have to
be addressed before joining it.  The infrastructural issues that
have to be addressed include inter alia;
 
(1)  That, in general the African Information Infrastructures are
     not quite upto international standards and hence Africa should
     first improve its information infrastructure to acceptable
     basic stardards with a view to venturing into regional and
     international communication networks;
(2)  Investment resources in Africa are scarce.  This calls for
     prioritization in investment.  For instance Africa should
     first invest in those areas with immediate returns and with
     low risks.  Indeed investment should be at all levels and not
     just concentrated on elite-oriented areas.  This has
     implication on the attitude towards investment in the
     Information Highway programme;
(3)  There is the need for proper management of Africa's
     involvement in the programme such that the positive aspects
     can be taken advantage of while the negative ones are taken
     safeguarded against.
(4)  Infrastructure on its own, devoid of the human component would
     not guarantee telematics for development.  Peoples involvement
     should be reflected in areas such as their participation in
     investment and ownership while appropriate intervention by
     government with respect to policies on investment in and the
     content of the Information Highway, is an imperative.
On social issues that need to be addressed;
(1)  Africa should not be pushed along by technology.  Rather due
     consideration should be given to Africa's social, cultural and
     political diversity;
(2)  There is the need in Africa to project the human image of the
     African society.  This should feature prominently in Africa's
     policy on telematics and particularly the information highway.
     This is particularly essential with regard to the content of
     the information highway as it relates to Africa;
(3)  Regarding the privacy of information, there is the need for
     appropriate policy in information technology with respect to
     storage, transfer and sharing of such information.  The
     information highway is being invariably driven by the fact
     that only the elite society may eventually have access to it.
(4)  On initiatives towards telematics for development, it was made
     clear that relatively few initiatives were taken at the
     individual or institutional levels.  However, increasing
     effort is visible at the Regional level particular with
     respect to the media.
(5)  The projection of Western values at the expense of African
     values at the media level.  Much effort is needed to
     facilitate intra-African interaction so as to and promote
     African values and culture.
 
6. STRATEGIES
 -------------
     Finally, deriving from the thrust and direction of the debate,
the following strategy for telematics for development in Africa is
recommended.
(1)  A cautious approach should be adopted towards the Information
     Highway programme.  Such a approach should address the
     advantages and disadvantages of the information highway and
     appropriate investment levels.
(2)  An adequate management framework for the Information Highway
     should be developed, and culture a of maintenance be
     enforced by offering incentives to institutions in the field
     of information technology and telematics.  Foreign
     partnerships should be encouraged and properly managed so that
     Africa's cultural and linguistic values are not compromised
     under the pretext of development.
(3)  Education must be redefined to accommodate information   and
     technological skills at all levels of the education  system.
     This should be speeded up taking due cognisance of the
     diversity of linguistic and cultural backgrounds in Africa.
 
7. DECLARATION
 ---------------
We the undersigned declare that the above is a true record of our
deliberations.
 
 
NAME               QUALI  DESIGNATION       INSTITUTION         COUNTRY
 ----               -----  -----------       -----------         -------
TETTEH,    A.O.     BA    ASST.ECONOMIC     MIN. OF FIN.&       GHANA
                          PLANNING OFFICER  ECON.PLANNING
 
SAANI,     A.M.     MPHIL LECTURER          UNIV. OF GHANA      GHANA
 
AVUGBEY,   F.S.           ANALYST/PROG.     MIN.OF EMPL. &      GHANA
                                            SOCIAL WELFARE
 
KISENGA,   J.H.     M.Sc  PRINC. COMP. OPS  KENYA RAILWAYS      KENYA
                          OFFICER
 
GICHOHI,   M.N.     B.Sc  SYSTEMS ANALYST   KENYATTA UNIV.      KENYA
 
NDUNG'U,   J.K.     B.Sc  ANALYST/PROGR.    MINISTRY OF         KENYA
                                            FINANCE
 
MAZOMBE,    T.Z.          SYSTEMS ANALYST   MINISTRY OF         MALAWI
                                            FINANCE
 
MTEMA,      P.B           LECTURER          UNIVERSITY OF       MALAWI
                                            MALAWI
 
MEMBE,      F.W.          SYSTEMS ANALYST   MINISTRY OF         MALAWI
                                            FINANCE
 
KUREEMUN ,  B.D     B.Sc  PROJECT MANAGER   MINISTRY OF         MAURITIUS
                                            FINANCE
 
AGHEDO,     E.M.    Ph.D  LECTURER          UNIVERSITY OF       NIGERIA
                                            LAGOS
AKINGBADE,  J.F.    Ph.D  ASSOCIATE PROF.   UNIVERSITY OF       NIGERIA
                                            LAGOS
 
AYENI,      G.      B.Sc  LECTURER          YABA COLLEGE OF     NIGERIA
                                            TECHNOLOGY
 
COCKER,     V.B.          SENIOR LIBRARY    UNIVERSITY OF       SIERRA LEONE
                          ASSISTANT         SIERRA LEONE
 
GEORGE,     L             INSTRUCTOR        IPAM-UNIV. OF       SIERRA LEONE
                                            SIERRA LEONE
 
MAGONGO,    S.B.          HEAD OF DEPT.     SIMPA               SWAZILAND
 
ESTHER,     A.J.K   MBA   SENIOR LECTURER   INSTITUTE OF        SEYCHELLES
                                            MGMT TRAINING
OBONGONYINGE, A.E.  M.Sc  LECTURER          MAKERERE            UGANDA
                                            UNIVERSITY
 
WAKABI,     W.P.P   PGDip ASST. LECTURER    MAKERERE UNIV.      UGANDA
 
LIBATI,      H.M    M.Sc  LECTURER          COPPERBELT UNIV.    ZAMBIA
 
MWAZEMBE,    J      M.Sc  LECTURER          COPPERBELT UNIV.    ZAMBIA
 
MATEMADOMBO, W.E    B.Sc  PRINC. TRAINING   HIGHLANDS NAT.      ZIMBABWE
                          OFFICER           TRAINING CENTRE
 
NKOMO,       M      Dipl  SENIOR COMPUTER   NATIONAL UNIV. OF   ZIMBABWE
                          PROGRAMMER        SCIENCE & TECHN.
 
 
 =========================================================================
 
 
 
This text was edited and transmitted by Anthony J. Rodrigues, Institute of
Computer Science, University of Nairobi.
 
 
 --
TONY r
E-Mail: [log in to unmask]

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