On Wednesday April 3 a meeting was called by the US Department of
State for the United States International Telecommunications Advisory
Committee (ITAC) Ad Hoc on the implementation of the Leland
Initiative: Africa Global Information Infrastructure Gateway.
I took a few notes. These notes are not complete, and represent only
what was of interest to me personally. These are not official notes,
and should not be considered an official record of the proceedings.
After a brief welcome by John Mack, Chairman of the ITAC Ad Hoc,
Ambassador Vonya B. McCann spoke. Ambassador McCann is the US
Coordinator for International Telecommunications and Information
Policy in the Department of State. She began by noting that this was
our first real opportunity to go to Africa with funds for this
purpose. Continuing, she observed that the private sector "will or
has already" built the global information infrastructure (GII), and
we rely on them to advise us on the direction we should take. This
is a "USAID project". The CIP helps participating governments with
policy to support the project. Africa has the least developed
information infrastructure, and if it is to participate actively in
the global economy, this must change.
Carol Peasley spoke next. She is Senior Deputy Assistant
Administrator in the Bureau for Africa of USAID. She began by
admitting that she is a novice even in thinking about the GII, but
the basic principles followed by USAID still apply: opening
controlled markets is the key to success. Africans want access tot
he Internet and related American information technologies. USAID
looks forward to a partnership with everyone in the room, so please
comment and react to the proposal. Please participate fully.
John Mack then introduced a surprise visitor, not listed in the
program. He began by noting that Congressman Jack Fields, who was a
personal friend to the late Congressman Mickey Leland, is very
supportive of the Leland Initiative, as is Vice President Al Gore.
The White House in fact sent a representative.
Tom Kalil is a senior director for communications issues in the
White House [apologies -- I did not catch his specific title]. He
first acknowledged the role of the Internet Society in helping to put
together the proposal. He continued, noting that these new
technologies are not a "silver bullet". [This is, I believe, a
reference to an old story in which it was believed that only a silver
bullet could solve a particular problem. Ordinary bullets simply
wouldn't do.] However, these technologies can be powerful tools.
They can provide cost-effective business-to-business communications,
access to information in the GIS (global or geographic information
systems), agricultural data, etc. They can allow grass roots
organizations to interact, as for example in the sister cities
program. They can permit remote technical support. They allow
Africans to be producers in addition to consumers of information.
Lastly, Tom Kalil stressed that as Leland proceeds, we want to
explore last-mile technologies for remote rural areas.
At 10:35pm Lane Smith took the podium. Lane is the Project Officer
for the Leland Initiative: African GII Gateway project. He is in the
Africa Bureau of USAID.
I'll present Lane's comments, in my next posting.
I welcome any corrections or additions. I'm good with a keyboard,
buy I'm a terrible reporter!
Jeff @ Washington, DC USA
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk