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 Lane Smith's presentation, questions were entertained from the
audience. I tried to jot down questioners' names or affiliations, but
wasn't always successful. Apologies!
Q. Ron Stapleton Gray: We maintain web sites for embassies on the
net. USAID and State perhaps need a broker to facilitate email to
country missions, the USIA, the Peace Corps.
A. John Mack: The GII will allow bandwidth for WWW, not just email.
Q. Mable Pfeiffer, International Telecommunications Consortium: We
should enable communications *among* African countries without their
having to go through the USA.
A. John Mack: The Web will permit this.
Q. George Sadowsky, Internet Society, Vice-President for Education:
We've trained 500 people from developing countries. We must continue
to emphasize training to enable Africans to run African networks.
Many of our past students are not Internet service providers, but the
net is fragile. The Leland Initiative is not enough. The private
sector must participate for it to be sustainable.
A. Tom Kalil: Training is very important. When we travel, we find
that many in the field are graduates of Internet Society trainings.
A. John Mack: We act as a catalyst.
Q. Coker, Henderson and Associates (?): The OECD is in competition
with us since they have significant investments in African telecoms.
A. John Mack: With democracy there are opportunities. Yes we are
still dealing with historical partnerships, but Africa wants to go
First Class. If we have a better product, Africans want it.
Q. ?: There is the UN Special Initiative for Africa. How will the
Leland Initiative relate to it? Wil the Leland Initiative work with
the technology center [specific organization -- I didn't catch the
name] in Dakar? How were target Leland countries selected? For
example, why not Botswana?
A. John Mack: We looked at countries that were ready.
A. Land Smith: Botswana is not excluded, and it is specifically
included under USAID's Regional Center for Southern Africa since
there is not USAID country mission in Botswana. USAID will
collaborate with such partners as the Sustainable Development Network
Project of the UNDP, since there is little overlap between our two
initiatives, and we want to avoid donor duplication. During our
assessment visits, we'll look at what other donors are doing.
Q. Siegel, National Library of Medicine, MedLine: Training is
required for technology, but also for content. Make use of medical
A. Lane Smith: Exactly right.
Q. Thelma Austin, Howard University: We are opening our resources to
African universities. I'm just back from the World Bank and
International Telecommunications Union conference in Abidjan on the
financing of telecommunications. It is estimated that $2.6 billion
will be needed just to hook up the continent, and Africa doesn't want
to go into hock (debt) for that amount. And there is a problem of
standardization across the continent.
A. John Mack: Yes, debt service is greater than GDP in many places.
If you want to do business in Africa, bring money!
Q. Sherry Connally, Strategy Foundation (?): There are no technical
problems, only people problems.
Q. Donald Bell, Minority Business *** Consortium (?): We need
coordination to maximize the effect of our dollar investments.
A. John Mack: For coordination, we have the African Interagency
Resource Group in the State Department.
Q. Abdul Ifah (?) of the Carnegie Foundation (?): The Internet will
serve several purposes: it will enable Africans abroad to server
their homes. We encourage AID to recognize African efforts to
harmonize their systems and standardize. We'be been looking at the
business side, but we must strengthen the capacity of African
stakeholders to diffuse and absorb technology.
Q. Toby Cooper, Dell Beta Systems (?): What are the procedures for
RPs or for unsolicited proposals?
A. Lane Smith: $15 million over 5 years has been authorized. $2
million is available in the first year. We are not yet sure of the
precise procedures. We will generally work through existing
Q. Ted Okotter (?) Food for the Hungry: Conditionalities are
important. In the BITE proposal (Bring the Internet to Ethiopia),
government is the biggest obstacle. The PTT will be the sole
service. Will the State Department go to bat for others in Ethiopia?
A. John Mack: Ethiopia is an opportunity. There are 250000 on the
waiting list there. [I think he means for telephones.] We will
engage them in discussions.
A. Tom Kalil: Targeted liberalization might work. For example, we
could ask for liberalization for VSATs or for tariffs on leased
lines. There are interim steps we can take.
A. John Mack: We're focusing on the Internet, not the whole sector.
Q. Robert Jones, Online Africa: Partnerships are already working in
Africa. Will Leland collaborate? If we are already working with
British Telecom, will that exclude us from collaborating with Leland?
A. Lane Smith: We're not sure. The purpose of this meeting is to
establish a consultative process.
Q. ?: Can there be "virtual partnerships"?
A. John Mack: The Thrust is to locate indivenous African service
providers. For example RASCOM brokers arrangements with IntelSat.
Q. Kendall White: Can we use offline technologies to reach the last
mile, e.g. cd-rom?
A. John Mack: We'll look at cd-rom, bbs's, radio to broadcast
A. Tony Villasenor: We can use major metropolitan nodes as a point of
access for broader publics.
Q. May Juneson, Dartmouth Environmental Studies: What efforts have
there been to find out how Africans want to use the Internet? Who
will be involved in these assessments? I'd like to offer Dartmouth's
help, including our students.
A. Lane Smith: We will have pilot test assessments in three weeks,
with results 3 weeks later. We will use people within AID with
experience. We want to find out what information is needed and for
what by Africans.
A. John Mack: We're training Internet service providers to run
businesses, so that includes a demand assessment.
Q. Raymond Akule, George Mason University: The Internet will be in
place even without the Leland Initiative. I hope the Leland
Initiative will make this happen faster, and make it develop
differently. I was at the Abidjan meeting, and I spoke about the
global information infrastructure. African are ready. The hurdles
are policy. Africans are not disorganized. There is a High Level
Working Group with the Economic Commission for Africa, 8 people to
advise the African leadership on how to respond to all of these
initiatives. Leaders say they don't know enough about it. There wil
be a report to the Social and Economic Development Planning Ministers
in May. As long as this is a "partnership", ok. It is not that
Africans don't want to open up, but they just want to study to be
sure of their decision. At AFCOM (a conference to be held near
Washington) 20 African ministers are registered. This will allow
them to experience the net. I invite you to come to a public forum
just like this and talk to them.
Q. ?: Is the State Department prepared to help reduce the $900
million spent on intra-African telecommunications so that it can be
plowed back into Africa?
A. John Mack: We are unabashed supporters of US business. If US
products can help the Ivory Coast talk to Ghana, so much the better.
Q. ?: Will the email registration list of this meeting be
A. John Mack: Yes, except for those that ask their names to be
This concluded the formal question and answer session. What follows
was a session on "Next Steps".
Q. Cicil John, Virgin Africa Web Site WebMeister: Is a web site to be
done by the State Department?
A. Lane Smith: USAID's WWW server will have something about this, but
we should take the next step since the WWW server is not accessible
to many in Africa. Please indicate if you are willing to participate
in a working group, e.g. to work on SO3. We invite you to submit a 2
or 3 page document of ideas. You can fax it to 202-647-2993, or send
it to Lane Smith at USAID/SD, 2201 C Street NW, postal code
20523-0089 USA. Or [log in to unmask]
A. John Mack: [log in to unmask]
Q. UNC: Can we form a univerisity consortium working group?
A. Lane Smith: Submit it as an idea. We can perhaps link it to
something ongoing at USAID.
A. John Mack: Those who are here at this meeting should link up.
Q. Ron Lewis, National Association of Small Businesses: Will the $2
million be put into new contracts? Who should we call to help spend
A. Lane Smith: Most of the money will be spent in Inter-Agency
agreements. We do not anticipate new contracts.
Q. Ambassador from Tanzania: Will you hold a meeting with African
ambassadors in Washington so that they can facilitate?
A. John Mack: Good idea.
After a few other last comments, this ended the meeting. There was
much mingling and discussion before all departed.
And this ends my notes. I welcome any corrections or additions.
Jeff @ Washington, DC USA
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk