AFrik-ITers -- I send this about a week ago to the wrong address. :-)
Hope it is still relevant.
Att: Richard Heeks and others involved in this debate:
I have followed the debate with great interest and feel that a balanced
and mature view of introducing Internet (or IT in general) in developing
countries is emerging.
A very similar debate is going on right now within FAO (the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the UN). Various of our technical divisions --
Communications for Development, Education and Extension, Forestries
Research, etc., are holding regular meetings to discuss the uses of IT in
FAO's development work.
At this moment, we have a "travelling scholar", Dr. Don Richardon of
Guelph University, travelling around Africa (Zimbabwe, South Africa,
Zambia, Senegal and Egypt) to look into the use of IT for FAO and prepare
FAO's work to date with IT in development has included Expert Systems
development, Famine Early Warning Systems, MIS, GIS etc. I am now managing
a project to get all of FAOs 85 odd field offices connected (to e-mail now;
In general, I agree with Richard Heeks that the villiage is the wrong
target at this stage. Instead we have to look at empowering the empowerers
or enabling the enablers. By this I mean institutions (Government
Ministries, Universities, Research centres, hospitals, libraries); service
providers (computer retailers, newspapers, the PTTs (why not?)); and
individuals that can by catalytic (health care, agricultural extension,
business-people, journalists). It is not really feasible -- and not even
necessarily desirable -- to try to implement IT projects at the "grass
roots", which in most developing countries means the "have-nots".
I would be happy to share the experience of FAO in this area, in
particular the results of Dr. Richardson's research, with anyone who is
Field Support Unit/Computer Division
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