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AFRIK-IT  February 1999

AFRIK-IT February 1999

Subject:

Longterm loans for ICT infrastructure investments in Africa

From:

Adrian Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Wed, 24 Feb 1999 14:28:28 EST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (79 lines)

Hello all

I am hoping that indigenous pioneers from within Africa and International
players working on the development of the Internet in Africa might comment
on this statement from their respective view points.

A closer observation of the development trend of Africa`s  Internet
Infrastructure and Internet Service Provision suggests that Sub-Saharan
African countries (except South Africa) are building only IP connections
and not IP networks.  Is this a gross oversight on the part of the
indigenous pioneers and International players or has sub-Saharan Africa
approached its organizational and technical limitations based on existing
institutions and telecommunication infrastructure ?

With only IP connections, sub-Saharan Africa`s contribution to the Internet
(links, content, infrastructure, applications, policy) will remain on the
periphery.   The digital age will remain a remote phenomenon for African
public if the indigenous ICT players resign themselves to IP connections
and do not press on to build IP networks. In some African countries, it can
be justified to conceive brand new IP networks (gateway and backbones)
separate from but strategically linked to the International telephone
exchange and Public telephone networks.  There is room for further
development of Africa`s national, regional continent-wide Internet
Institutions.

Interestingly,  history appears to be repeating itself once again. Africa
has yet to fulfill the dream of a continent-wide satellite system,
envisaged over some 12years ago, to support direct intra-contintental
telecommunications traffic. One of the technical reasons for this system
was the limited foot prints of the Intelsat satellites on the continent.
This required telecommunications traffic between African countries to be
routed through hubs in Europe and based on former colonial alliances. If
the hypothesis is true that there is a direct relation between
telecommunications development and economic and political well being of a
country then, failure by African countries to evolve robust national
networks and fully implement regional telecommunications (Panaftel) and the
intra-continental network (Rascom) partly explains Africa`s current
economic and political status.

Africa`s contribution to the Internet within the next five years will have
a direct relationship to its advantage and disadvantages in Global
Information Society.  Some African countries should work to plan and
develop  IP networks instead of just retro-fitting the telecommunications
network. Organizational and technical challenges in developing Africa`s
Internet Infrastructure and Service Provision must be overcome. It is not
an option. It is a must for an equitable position in the Global Information
Society.

Perhaps it is time to consider  long-term loans to support the development
of national and regional IP networks much like the ones provided to develop
Public networks and International Satellite connections. The debt and
credit worthiness of some African countries comes into question but the
hard truth is "Without the financial resources or the technological
infrastructure to influence any sphere of global relations, Africa south of
the Sahara seems rooted at the periphery of marginalization"

An even closer observation shows that the international development
community (in the last five years) has supported all the short term
investments to demonstrate  the potential of the technology in almost every
sector and geographical terrain. The prevailing school of thought has been
to leave long-term solutions and investment to the private sector. Perhaps
it is time the International Development Community certify Africa once
again for long-term loans and for ICT infrastructure investments in Africa
given the demonstrated potential of the technology in Africa.  It is the
logical next step.


Adrian Q. Labor
Technical Advisor
Unganisha (Connectivity) Project, Programs Branch

International Development Research Centre
Mailing address: PO Box 8500, Ottawa, Canada KIG 3H9
Office address: Rm 1247, 250 Albert Street, Ottawa, Canada, KIP 6M1
Tel: (613) 236 6163 Ex 2284
Fax: (613) 567 7748
Email: [log in to unmask]
Web: <http://www.idrc.ca/unganisha>

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