Here is another response from an AFRO-NETS subscriber to the topic:
Value of the Internet
Hello to All,
The advantages of Internet are obvious to all African researchers I
ever spoke to (and they are many). Optimal and real time information
is as important for African scientists as for any other scientist on
This was also strongly advocated by 50 African scientists in Dakar in
January in the context Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM).
Therefore I wonder if the discussion whether electronic communication
is conceptually beneficial is still valid. Especially when we focus
on the empowerment of southern scientists in partnership endeavours
(see reaction 2, very encouraging this comes from the World bank by
the way) the discussion should probably focus on how we can ensure
that Internet does do its job here properly. It is not just a matter
of having access to bulletin-board type discussion groups etc.
My contribution to the discussion will mainly deal with provision of
information to African scientists, not so much on regular e-mail ex-
We have started the EC concerted action SHARED (Scientists for Health
and Research for Development) which is aimed at providing crude as
well as 'customised' information on health projects in - and with de-
veloping countries. A strong African-initiated network to support the
SHARED database is currently under review by the EC for funding, in
close concertation with COHRED.
Some of the points that came up in our early discussions on SHARED I
would like to SHARE with you:
1. Specific elements of electronic communication, such as the polling
mentioned in one of the earlier reactions, and the non-graphic
version of web sites to accommodate less powerful PCs, should be
taken into consideration.
2. 'Short-cut' links to the specific page on a web site of interest
to a 'surfing' researcher can save valuable on-line time.
3. A database type set up should (if possible financially) also pro-
vide the service to do central searches for people on e-mail re-
quest and send either packaged electronic files to the 'client' or
provide hard copies by mail
4. A lot of emphasis should be put on low-orbit satellite communica-
tion and 'last-mile' connection problems in Africa
5. Discussion groups should not only have a strong input from south-
ern researchers, but should be driven by discussion leaders rather
than just stay as bulleting boards, which have the tendency of be-
ing redundant after some time. The Malaria Research Network under
construction on the Web Site of the malaria Foundation
(http://www.malaria.org) can develop into a nice model.
6. In terms of getting African scientists in the front line of inter-
national competition for research funds on the topics of their in-
terest and with the partners of their choice, first of all infor-
mation on potential partners should be provided in a structured
database, but also funding opportunities should be listed.
Small details like the possibility to download proposal forms from
the web, that frequently do not work with the hard and software in
the South will keep African scientists still handicapped. Especially
when for example originally signed partnersheets have to accompany
proposals, like in the INCO-DC programme of the EC, it becomes very
difficult for most African researchers to take a leading role in sub-
mission of proposals. Strong assistance and adaptation of electronic
procedures is needed. If we can find a way to avoid originally signed
official forms in proposal and for example replace them by the
time/date stamped electronic submission by all partners which is cen-
trally packaged into the full proposal text by the co-ordinator, we
would make a mall step forward again.
Let's continue this discussion also on these points and come up with
creative solutions to adapt e-communication to African needs in the
interim phase where Africa is not yet fully equipped to benefit from
designs for the North.
If we do not take this into account, internet may very well widen the
gap between Africa and the North rather than closing it.
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
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