On Tuesday March 26 a workshop was held at USAID headquarters in the
State Department building in Washington, DC USA. 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.
The next session was entitled Information and Communications
Technology in the Development Process: What Works. Joan Dudik-Gayoso
introduced the panel, asking What is an appropriate technology here?
Where is video needed? Is fax enough in some instances? Technology
has both good and bad potential.
Sheila Young was the first panelist. She is the Energy and
Environment Specialist, Office of Energy, Environment and Technology,
USAID. She demonstrated documents available on the Web via either
Netscape of Lynx. Lessons learned: There must be an assessment of
need first. A cookie-cutter approach is counterproductive. Simply
dropping hardware into a country ("hardware drops") is a bad idea.
Technology moves along in incremental steps. Avoid overly high
expectations, and understand the limits of the technology.
Gary Vaughan spoke next. He is the Trade Development Officer, Bureau
for Latin America and the Caribbean, USAID. He noted that USAID
money is to be used as leverage with partners. [My notes are a bit
weak here. By this I think he means that USAID cannot pay for
everything, but can be used in conjunction with funds to be raised by
The next speaker was Lane Smith, the Project Manager of the Leland
Initiative, sometimes called the Africa Global Information
Infrastructure Gateway. Lane noted that Leland money was authorized
in September of last year, but was held by the US Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, which wanted to know what role the US private
sector would play in Africa. He suggested that the Initiative would
be opening doors for US and local private sectors, and will work in
1. addressing policy related issues, access costs, and competition
(as opposed to activities run by the local monopoly government
2. Working with private-sector service providers in target countries
3. Working to make the technology useful for users, looking at the
last mile, beyond the urban information elite. Possibilities here
include using community radio as a "mediator". Information kiosks
are another idea. For example, in some places there already exist
international telephone kiosks. Internet services could be brought
The next speaker was Marlee Norton, General Manager, International
Programs, National Telephone Cooperative Association. She notes that
40 years ago most in rural USA had no telephone. There is an equity
issue for rural areas. We need to involve beneficiaries directly so
that they have a stake in Internet development, and so they won't
then be prone to not paying their bills, stealing copper wire, etc.
We shouldn't overlook the fact that there is money in rural areas,
except perhas in rural Sub-Saharan Africa.
Peter Hobby spoke next. He is the Communications Division Chief, for
the FEWS (Famine Early Warning System) project of Associates in Rural
Development. FEWS is an information project, not a communications
project. It receives satellite data from the US Geologic Service
using FTP, then distributes it to its posts in Africa using Fidonet
technology. FEWS uses local Internet service providers where they
are reliable, but assures its own private email links where the local
ISP is not reliable.
John Mack of the State Department then gave a brief speech, after
which the floor was opened for questions.
Q. A representative of Food for the Hungry (an NGO) noted that the
Leland Initiative does not appear to be collaborating with NGOs and
PVOs. What steps will be taken to prepare a demand analysis. The
big consumers in Africa, after all, will be NGOs and PVOs.
A. (John Mack) In most countries, the essence of the GII will be radio.
A. (Lane Smith) Assessment teams sent to Africa will consult with
NGOs. BITE (Bringing the Internet to Ethiopia) has prepared an
excellent document that makes it easy for Leland to see how to help.
[This concluded this portion of the program.]
[My notes are scanty, and I would appreciate any corrections or
additions from anyone else who was in attendance. Apologies in
advance if I've inadvertantly misrepresented anyone's statements.
These are paraphrases, not quotations.]
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk