An interesting article I found at the Africa Online site.
1997 Africa Online Inc., a Prodigy Inc. Company.
All rights reserved.
Beyond Basic Connectivity
BOSTON, MA, July 10, 1997. Africa Online's Vice-President of Technical
Operations, Karanja Gakio, recently made a presentation to the African
Networking Symposium at INET '97, the premier international event for
Internet and internetworking professionals which took place in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia (June 23-27). This year's INET addressed both the
traditional and evolving frontiers of the Internet as well as the impact on
education, commerce, and societies throughout the world.
"Although we are a long way from providing universal basic connectivity
to the Internet," said Gakio, "Africa is, nevertheless, poised to start
taking advantage of enhanced Internet services, including increasing
geographic and demographic coverage, and increasing the complexity of
services already available."
Gakio defined 'basic connectivity' as access to a TCP/IP Network, PPP
Dialup/Leased Line capabilities, use of a personal or other computer which
are then combined with basic applications such as E-mail, Usenet News and
The continental population of Africa today stands at 700 million. Only
0.1% (700K) are currently users of basic Internet services. 550k of these
live in southern Africa, 50K in north Africa and 40K in the remainder of
the continent. E-mail represents the most common service and in many
capital cities fully interactive services are now available.
"The benefits of enhancing Internet services are many," stated Gakio.
"They include a more efficient and wider distribution of, and access to,
information, which in turn leads to: more efficient corporate performance
thus enhancing the competitiveness of African industries; the creation of
new categories of employment and public revenue facilitating Africa's entry
into the information society; more efficient public services; a better
informed population and, finally, an enhanced capability to create a better
public image of the continent."
Gakio specified a number of concrete goals to be achieved in extending
basic connectivity. First, "efforts must be made," he said, "to increase
geographical reach nationwide including greater access to rural areas."
This can best be done by creating national TCP/IP backbones, introducing
wireless services, for example BushNet in Uganda, and enabling direct
Second, "the demographic range of users can be dramatically increased by
such Internet devices as WebTV and public access kiosks and by
human-to-Internet enhanced services such as e.Shop in Nairobi." Current
users of services are restricted to medium size businesses and a number of
NGOs as well as a limited number of universities and research
organizations. New demographic targets should include schools and
universities, small businesses and government and public sector
Access to the Internet does not require a computer and therefore
individuals who are not computer users (and who may have no wish to be) can
also benefit. The new e-Shop in Nairobi exemplifies this principle. It
enables anyone to purchase items from the Internet without interacting with
a computer. Payment can be made in local currency and products are
delivered quickly to the customer's door.
Third, "enhanced applications must be developed," said Gakio "that will
make 'information at your fingertips' a reality for both the internal and
the external activities of organizations." These applications will enable
both intra-African and inter-African online transactions.
Obstacles to achieving the above goals, according to Gakio, include growing
government regulations affecting the cost and availability of services; the
paucity, quality and high cost of telecom facilities; low public
understanding of the Internet; low but increasing adoption of computers and
the scarcity of expertise in Internet technology.
"As it stands," concluded Gakio, "our progress in introducing the
Internet to Africa has been such that we are rapidly disproving the
following prediction made in 1994 by the founders of the Internet Society:
'it will be a long time before network users in most African countries will
be doing much with tools similar to Mosaic (the precursor of browsers such
For press information contact:
Bill Keefe, Africa Online, 617.306.4440, [log in to unmask]
Kerry Gallivan [log in to unmask]
Chief Programs Officer - SatelLife voice +1 617 789-5455 ex106
1360 Soldiers Field Rd. Boston MA USA 02135 fax +1 617 789-4771
For more info: http://www.healthnet.org or [log in to unmask]