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I may start by introducing myself as some people have already done
so. I am a research student in Queuing Networks at the University of
Sheffield. As such I am interested in Information Technology (IT) and
Communication Networks. However my interest is mainly from a
statistical point of view. I come from Malawi - a small country
'engulfed' by Mozambique.
 
Valerie Bruce wrote:
 
> Aid is not given because we're altruistic.  Not at all. The donor expects
> valuable returns on the "investment".  That's what aid really is.
 
Let me respond to this and try to swing the argument slightly back to
IT in Africa.
 
Over the years I too have noticed these expressed concerns about AID
in Africa and thought that probably an acceptable word in many
African circles would be LOAN. And words like 'aid', 'assistance',
'donation' etc though they are partly in line with helping they are
more on the propaganda side. As most of these funds are supposed to be
paid back anyway.
 
For instance I have observed many times that despite the existence of
qualified locals in many occasions, the donor countries 'pretend', if
I may use that word, that there is almost no such expertise. And
on top of this one sees these donor representatives working on the
projects with 'extravagant' fringe benefits when the poor countries
are the ones going to pay back for this expenditure with some
interest. I do believe that it is necessary for them to safeguard the
'investiment' but it seems the packages given to some of these
individuals is not necessary.
 
But the truth is there are some 'assistances' or funding that have
been well intended (and done some good) but the problem has been
slowed by the assisted people or communities themselves. I recall an
incident when a UK university was getting rid of their 386 or 286
PC's and offered them free to an African university. What was needed
from the african university was only money to transport them, which
they could easily do as they had been getting very expensive cars for
college principals, anyway. The administration did not think it wise
to venture into such an offer. Don't you think that the reason was
that they were second hand, no!
 
When one looks at the college that was going to get these computers
sees the following. The e-mail facility can be accessed on about
4 terminals only, the computer science and statistics classes have to
use about 30 computers (half of them MACs, so 15 terminals in a room),
the class sizes range from 60 - 140 students. One also notices that
even after six months of introducing e-mail on the college, the
e-mail network was not taken seriously by administrators except a few
academics. It often puts the one interested in IT in an awkward
position as his suggestions or plead to the decision makers often
will appear unsound to them.
 
Finally as taxes on many african govt for imported goods are high and
that it is not easy for people to buy things directly from
manufacturing or producing world, prices of computers and
softwares, and other computer accessories are in many cases
etremely high.
 
Jimmy Namangale
School of Mathematics & Statistics
University of Sheffield
England.