My comments were certainly not addressed at you (and perhaps I should
have said "excluding Jeff Cochrane") as I have appreciated your
contributions to this and other lists on this topic. I would also like to
thank you for your response to mine.
I do not think we will have much dispute on this list to the idea that
Africans should be consulted on the wiring of their continent. That should
be obvious. But the issue is larger than that. I have been in this circuit
(IT in Development) for years (and made a lot of the mistakes I now want to
see avoided) and am dismayed at the continuation of unilateralism towards
this matter demonstrated not only by USAID but also by other donors and,
sadly, also the UN agencies.
To me it is not enough to have a few Africans in the room or consulted
by listserv. It is not even enough to fly out and talk to some ministers.
The approach has to be changed dramatically from supply-driven top-down to
An equally disturbing aspect of this unilateral approach is the
tremendous loss of opportunity for collaboration and combined effort by the
donors/development community. How many different projects do you know about
to "wire Africa"? I had a list of some 25 about 18 months ago -- I have
since lost count. The amount of money involved collectively is astounding.
It is clear to anyone who knows anything about the technology that the
basic infrastructure required is the same everywhere and for everyone. And,
with few exceptions, no one is disputing the technologies anymore: it is
What is needed is collective and coordinated effort by the development
community to address the common requirements of our constituency -- be they
doctors, farmers, educators or whatever. We do not need any more hot shots
putting in sexy new gadgets in developing countries just to show that "it
works", or because it is a challenge, or to sell to the next level of donor.
We need basic, widespread, affordable and sustainable _connectivity_.
Anyway, I am perhaps going a bit beyond what was being discussed. I
will stop my little rant here and hope that someone else would like to pick
up on it.
>David Dion writes:
>> From my perch over here in Rome, these meetings do appear a bit
>> high-handed and non-inclusive. Have any Africans been invited to
>> discuss the wiring of their continent?
>That's an important question. Thanks for posing it. USAID should do
>whatever it can to encourage African participation in its
>decision-making process. I think it's already doing quite a bit.
>The workshop held yesterday was, and the Leland Initiative meeting to
>be held on April 3 will be, a public meeting. All were invited.
>There were Africans on some of the panels at the workshop, mostly as
>reps of multilateral organizations (e.g. the UNDP), and there were a
>few other Africans in the room.
>The meeting yesterday was not just about Africa, however. The focus
>was worldwide. There were quite a few South Americans in the room
>and on the panels. The Leland meeting next week will be focused on
>Africa. Someone told me that more than 1000 people have said they
>will attend, but I have not confirmed that number with the conference
>organizers and am not sure if it is true.
>Of course I'm inviting Africans to discuss the wiring of their
>continent right now, since I recognize few on the continent can
>afford to fly over for these meetings. I'm writing up my notes of
>the meeting yesterday so that those who could not be there can at
>least hear a bit of what was discussed. (I'll write up a bit more
>Following the Leland meeting, teams are scheduled to be sent to a
>number of target countries to discuss issues with local service
>providers, leaders of PTTs, ministers of communications,
>representatives of various user communities, etc.
>Local USAID missions in Africa are involving their hosts in
>discussions. For example, the Regional Mission in Gaborone is
>involving SACCAR, an institution of SADC. I know because I flew to
>Gaborone and held extensive discussions with Chris Lungu, the
>information manager there, and with Bruno Ndunguru, the Director.
>The USAID mission in Gaborone hopes to assist with numerous
>installations for email connectivity throughout the region, working
>through local service providers in each country, in an activity
>coordinated by SACCAR.
>Africans are involved in many ways and at many levels in discussions
>with USAID. The meeting in Washington yesterday was obviously
>intended primarily for people in the Washington area, who are
>primarily donors and contractors and NGOs. Meetings to be held
>elsewhere will facilitate the participation of others.
>I personally would like to encourage still greater participation by
>Africans. How can USAID do that? I'm listening, as are others.
>AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk