I really enjoyed your post, especially as I was in Ethiopia only a
few weeks ago holding a workshop and helping the national veterinary
service to obtain network connections for a planned regional animal
health information network. Sounds like our two projects should get
The project is called RADISCON (Regional Animal Disease Surveillance
and Control Network) and the National Liaison Officer in Ethiopia is
named Wondwonsen. He can be found through the Veterinary Service of
the Ministry of Agriculture in Addis.
My experience in Ethiopia was somewhat less satisfying than yours
seems to have been, but it was quite often very amusing.
As I often do, I had contacted the Ethiopian ISP (if that is what you
can call the monopoly service run by the national PTT) in advance of
the trip through e-mail, and I had connected to their Web site (it
showed the Netscape Web Server default screen). I asked for a "test"
account and explained that FAO would be requiring several accounts in
the following weeks through our project. ISPs in serveral other
countries have given me a "comp" account like this right away. Nothing
doing in Addis. I asked for application forms. No forms. I was told
that, once in Addis, setting up the accounts would be a matter of a
couple of days (as well it should be and often is).
But not in Ethiopia. In advance of my arrival, I had asked one of
the FAO veterinary officers traveling with me (but a few days before)
to begin the application process with the ISP. This was on Friday.
When I arrived on Sunday, I found out that he had gone to the ISP,
had a lengthy meeting with the sales staff and found that it would
take one week to get the accounts and this process could start only
after payment had been made. No parallel processing. It also
apparently took a very long discussion to arrive at a price, through
the costs of the service are published. The good news was that our
officer had managed to get them to commit to giving us the accounts by
On Monday morning, I went to get the check from the local office of
my organization (we won't go into the difficulties encountered there!)
and by noon I had a check and was ready to go to the ISP.
At the ISP, it turned out that the discussion on prices had to be
repeated, as the same clerk was not in. It took over an hour to
finally agree that the price agreed to on Friday was still valid on
Monday. So I turned over the check. "But", said the clerk, "have you
considered the Stamp Duty?". The Stamp Duty? Yes, there is a charge
of 2 Birr for each account for Stamp Duty. For the three accounts
that amounted to about two dollars. Releived, I took out my huge wad
of Birrs and started counting out six. No, that would not do. It
would have to be a check. For six Birr. We left alternately laughing
The following day, at a cost of at least several hundred dollars in
International staff time, we returned with the additional 6 Birr. We
were then allowed to submit our application forms. Again some debate
about the start up. A week. But the other guy, your boss, said by
Wednesday. Let me go check, etc., etc. It was finally agreed that we
should get the accounts by Thursday (I was scheduled to leave Friday
In the meantime, I set up the project computers for dial up IP and
loaded Eudora and Netscape. I provided hands on training to the
veterinary officers and a general outline on networking, the Internet
and the plan of the project.
On Thursday, one of the veterinary officers went to pick up the
accounts (they don't give them on the phone). At the ISP, he was told
that the accounts had already been given. After further
investigation, it turned out that some other office in the Ministry of
Agriculture had also asked for 3 accounts and, through a mix-up, our
accounts were given to them.
The funniest thing in all this is that during the entire week of my
visit, through some problem I expect in the configuration of the DNS,
WWW service was not working and even SMTP mail was on and off. This I
confirmed after "borrowing" another colleague's account and trying to
do a demo. In the end, I had to go through the SITA network to our
main site in Rome. And, as usual, it was very satisfying to see the
amazement and wonder on the faces of the uninitiated local scientists.
But that is another story.
As I was leaving for the airport, one of the local officers ran up to
tell me that he had got the accounts.....
From: Jeff Cochrane [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 1997 8:54 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: A New Year for Ethiopia
Just outside my window a bonfire rages, and prancing children cheer
with unrestrained excitement as the older ones launch rockets
streaming green and red and orange trails into the sky. It is 12
o'clock, the sun is setting, the thirteenth month has ended, and it
is a new year in Ethiopia.......