There is nothing that will make you catch your breath better
than stepping off a cool, dry airplane into the late
dry-season sauna that is Abidjan in May. For some moments walking
down the steps to the tarmac I actually found it difficult to inhale.
Thunderbolts pierced the sky behind me and reflected upon the glass
doors of the immigration queue area, sparkling on the condensation
inside where the air proved marvelously cool and conditioned, quite
an improvement from years past.
Not much has changed at the Hotel Tiama, my favorite hotel in
Abidjan. Within minutes of arrival I'd connected my laptop to the
standard French modular jack, dialed 0 for an automatic outside line,
and transfered my mail courtesy of Ci-Telcom and AfricaOnline. If
only the telephone lines elsewhere in the country were so clear.
Ah, but change is indeed on the horizon, or even closer.
The next day I drove north toward Bouake, passing through
Yamousoukro to tour the famous basilica and check for
crocodiles. Arriving in Bouake, I found all the side streets
now seem to have small cuts across the asphalt, jarring the wheels of
our car every 50 meters or so like so many speed-control bumps. And
next to each cut on each side of the road are small gray pipes
sticking straight up out of the ground about 6 inches or so.
All the residences and businesses of Bouake are to be rewired, my
host tells me. And the Bouake exchanges have already been
refurbished and hooked at last to the fiber optic cables that run all
the way to Abidjan. Modems now connect with little or no problem
over the Abidjan line, when a mere 6 months ago a PPP link was
And the rooftop of WARDA, the West Africa Rice Development
Association just outside Bouake, may very well soon be adorned with a
small satellite dish and a clear link to CGNeT in California.
Government approval still pending, but my host says it's deemed
"likely". Ok, inhale... and ... hold!
Perhaps this message will hit the wires early on Monday May 4, in
which case I'll have found time to make the connection to Abidjan
before departing Bouake. Or perhaps this will wait in my outgoing
message queue until Monday evening when the link may be from Bobo
Dioulasso to the SITA line in Ouagadougou. If not, then perhaps on
Wednesday from a hotel in Segou, Mali? Certainly by Sunday from the
Hotel Tennessee in Bamako.
Along the way my colleague from WARDA and I will be stopping in a
number of small, rural towns to visit with scientists in agricultural
research stations, to see how email access to the Internet has made a
difference in their work. We'll be testing out a questionnaire that
will perhaps help us to begin to paint a statistical picture of
what's happening in the countryside. With modifications, we'll
likely ask subcontractors to use the same questionnaire to do future
assessments for us in other countries.
Jeff @ Bouake
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1111 North 19th Street Suite 210
Arlington, VA 22209 USA
Tel 1-703-235-5415 Fax 1-703-235-3805