I have been following the debate on this subject with keen interest.
Some of us are making wrong claims or conclusions, maybe because we are
getting things mixed up somewhere.
I think for example that the question of whether Internet access can
contribute significantly to rural development or not, should be treated
separately from the question as to whether Internet access will ever
come to rural areas in Africa.
I) Let's assume that, Internet access can be made available in rural areas
Of course I mean affordable access !
1. It would be wrong to claim that, the Internet would have no
significant positive influence on rural development.
* Some areas of development require that the expert not just
visits the rural area from time to time but actually lives there
With access to the internet, such an expert would remain in
touch with recent developments in his field, without having
to travel to Europe or N. America for refresher courses.
Such an expert is to me anything from schoolteacher to
physician, Engineer, etc
I know of cases in Cameroon (I am cameroonian) where even
primary schoolteachers and medical nurses, not to talk of
secondary schoolteachers and medical doctors, refused to be
transferred to rural areas because they didn't want to be cut
off from the rest of Cameroon. Today it is a question of not
being cut off from the rest of the world.
I myself really would appreciate access to information, if I
were to live the rest of my life in a village. Yes, I do
really want to contribute to rural development in Cameroon.
And I think that living there would make me better suited
to think, reason and develop or improve on suitable techniques
by drawing on the experience of the villagers themselves.
* Help encourage and or maintain the ability to read.
News papers and books are rare in rural areas.
* Help reduce rural exodus for reasons mentioned above.
You can include me in the statistics on rural exodus
I am presently not living in rural Cameroon but in Germany.
2. It would be equally wrong to claim that Internet access would solve
all the problems of rural Africa. It hasn't and will never solve all
the problems of urban areas in Europe, North America or Japan.
Another area where we shouldn't mix up things is the Question of whether
Internet access should come before access to clean water and or food-/
income-generating technology. Before dealing with this issue it is important
to make ones starting points or assumptions clear to the others.
This brings me to my second assumption:
A) Someone or a company came to me and made me the following offer:
"I have many gifts with me : access to clean water, food-/income
generating technology, medical facilities, Internet access, etc
I can offer you one and only one of these gifts, so you have to chose
just one of them."
It would be right to start arguing about what is best for now.
It would be a difficult choice but my choice would be
food-/income generating technology.
B) If instead the person or company that came to me said:
"I have only Internet access to offer you. Are you going to accept
my offer or not ?"
It would be wrong to start arguing about whether access to
clean water should come first or not.
Remember the person cannot or is not willing to give you anything
but Internet access now.
My choice will be clear without hesitation:
Give the Internet access now !!!
To me it is not a question of access to clean water or access
to medical facilities or food-/income generating technology etc
(The "or" here is meant to be exclusive)
No, to me it is all of them. So if someone can/will only offer
me Internet access, then no problem, I will say welcome !
Not everyone can build hospitals, bridges, factories, etc.
So contribute what you can/will. You are very welcome!
In my village (njungo, SWP; for those to whom it makes sense) there
is no easy access to clean water, no food-/income generating
technology, no adequate medical facility (a "developed Health Unit
but no physician) etc, but when my brother who lives there asked me
to buy him a "diesel generator" and a TV set for his small business
I did so. I am seriously considering Solar-Technology.
Michael Epah, Networkadministrator
Address : GMD, Institute for Telecooperation Technology (TKT)
Dolivostrasse 15, D-64293 Darmstadt, Germany
Phone : ++49-6151-869-888
Fax : ++49-6151-869-965
Internet : [log in to unmask]