And then we wonder why people become sceptical of the benefits of the
Internet?!!! Either this World Bank project was reported very inaccurately or
this is yet another example of a totally misguided attempt at 'technology fix'.
To be realistic, both the report by AP journalist and the African
Virtual University (AVU) need some critics. Development aid agencies
may need to spend 10% of the 1.2. million to educate journalists
to report on technology and on what they are doing accurately. (Like
government officials journalists are often excused and privileged
not to know). It is embarrassing to hear hypes like "cyberspace",
"information society in colleges" without a report on "what is
going on". Why not report on indigenous achievements (a scientific
breakthrough in Chemistry department of Addis Ababa University or
at medical school at University of Dar es salaam, etc.) or how
Zamnet was built up with simple tools and dedicated individuals or
the works of CIEUM in Mozambique and NAMIDEFF in Namibia? May be
the flaw in AVU is not knowing what is "going on" as noted by Dr.
The report did not also indicate what happened at the pre-launch
conference (I was there partly). Participants at the pre-launch conference
although they had limited knowledge of the technology indicated that they want
something "interactive" not just to receive video via direct
satellite connection (AVU is not using VSAT). They made plea for
stakeholders involvement in such complex projects. As Nemo noted,
they indicated that many of these courses are already being offered
in Africa. Then what is new about virtual university? It has been
tried with television before it was converted to the "idiot box".
Another try with TVRO!
I agree fully with Crawford and Menisteab. The same universities
that receive a ground station worth of $120,000 are badly in need
of CWIS, full connection to the Internet, few O'Rielly books on
networking technology and programming, upgrading one or two labs
for their students - to reduce the queue to touch PCs. These in
addition to salaries of few additional highly skilled staff would
cost less and could bring more impact under the current situation.
The rest of the money could help remote universities to get
Now, the project is launched (what do we do?). Universities in Africa may need
to push the Bank for conversion of the technology to VSATs (for
interactive access to TCP/IP and virtual university simultaneously)
or datacasting over the current Receive-Only satellite ground
stations being installed in African universities. This would allow
students to receive usenet news while watching their virtual