Appendix D

Background and Context of the Internet in Africa

There are several alternative systems for communication of digital data, and systems using alternative formats predate the Internet in Africa and continue to provide service to specific classes of customers such as airlines and banks. In the past several years, Internet connectivity in Africa has spread to over three-quarters of the countries and thousands of users. A recent status report states that as of November 1997, 47 of the 54 African countries had some form of Internet access and that only five countries remained without full access or any known plans for achieving full access.35 The U.S. Agency for International Development and other Western development agencies have allocated millions of dollars to increasing and supporting connectivity, and an increasing number of commercial enterprises, both Western based and indigenous, are providing Internet services to businesses and individuals.

Internet access is available in most African countries. However, the relatively poor telephone infrastructure in Africa is a limiting factor to Internet growth, and, as a result, in many cases connectivity is limited to capital cities.36 Research indicates clearly that the relative absence of modern technologies in Africa results from a variety of factors– financial constraints, personnel constraints, weak basic telecommunications infrastructure, and especially public policies that too often preempt rather than promote new information technologies and the services they can provide. The relatively high telecommunications costs and small markets have resulted in high access charges compared to Western

35  

Jensen states that 47 of the 54 nations in Africa have either a local dial-up store and forward e-mail service with a gateway to the Internet or full leased-line service. (Jensen, Mike. January 1998. “Internet Connectivity in Africa--A Status Report” at African Internet Connectivity http://www3.wn.apc.org/africa.)

36  

According to the World Bank, Ghana has 1.3 telephone lines per 100 inhabitants. In Senegal the penetration rate in Dakar is 2.5 per 100 inhabitants, and in the rural areas it is 0.04 per 100 inhabitants. (World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/aftdr/connect/default.htm.)



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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet Appendix D Background and Context of the Internet in Africa There are several alternative systems for communication of digital data, and systems using alternative formats predate the Internet in Africa and continue to provide service to specific classes of customers such as airlines and banks. In the past several years, Internet connectivity in Africa has spread to over three-quarters of the countries and thousands of users. A recent status report states that as of November 1997, 47 of the 54 African countries had some form of Internet access and that only five countries remained without full access or any known plans for achieving full access.35 The U.S. Agency for International Development and other Western development agencies have allocated millions of dollars to increasing and supporting connectivity, and an increasing number of commercial enterprises, both Western based and indigenous, are providing Internet services to businesses and individuals. Internet access is available in most African countries. However, the relatively poor telephone infrastructure in Africa is a limiting factor to Internet growth, and, as a result, in many cases connectivity is limited to capital cities.36 Research indicates clearly that the relative absence of modern technologies in Africa results from a variety of factors– financial constraints, personnel constraints, weak basic telecommunications infrastructure, and especially public policies that too often preempt rather than promote new information technologies and the services they can provide. The relatively high telecommunications costs and small markets have resulted in high access charges compared to Western 35   Jensen states that 47 of the 54 nations in Africa have either a local dial-up store and forward e-mail service with a gateway to the Internet or full leased-line service. (Jensen, Mike. January 1998. “Internet Connectivity in Africa--A Status Report” at African Internet Connectivity http://www3.wn.apc.org/africa.) 36   According to the World Bank, Ghana has 1.3 telephone lines per 100 inhabitants. In Senegal the penetration rate in Dakar is 2.5 per 100 inhabitants, and in the rural areas it is 0.04 per 100 inhabitants. (World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/aftdr/connect/default.htm.)

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet countries (relative to gross national product (GNP) per capita or to average monthly salaries), which in many countries limits Internet use to the elite few. Of course, new technologies initially demanding a high price is a phenomenon not unique to African countries or to the Internet. Moreover, prices do vary from country to country, and as more providers enter the market, Internet use likely will spread among all sectors of the economy and access charges should drop. The committee's research confirms the importance of policies that promote information technologies and strong institutions with experienced capable people. In Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya the committee heard from Internet service providers (ISPs) who were able to decrease access prices and improve service as a result of recent government policy reforms. While Africa as a whole can be considered to have a relatively poor telecommunications infrastructure compared to the United States or Western Europe, differences certainly exist among African countries and cities, and marked differences exist between major urban areas and the rest of the continent. The following sections provide some country-specific information on Senegal and Ghana, the two countries visited by the committee in August 1997. Box 1 and Box 2 give a brief summary of the history of Internet development in Senegal and Ghana, respectively. BACKGROUND ON SENEGAL Senegal is located on the west coast of Africa and has a population just under 10 million. It is one of Africa's oldest democracies and has an independent press and judiciary and a flourishing private sector. Its economy, which is dominated by agriculture, is showing signs of improvement after years of staguation and falling GNP per capita. A devaluation of the currency in 1994 and a new government reform program have led to growth in both GNP and GNP per capita, decreased inflation, and increases in agricultural production. In 1995 the GNP per capita was $570.

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet Senegal has received loans and other financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Banks and other institutions in France, Japan, and the United States have provided significant foreign direct investment. The government is gradually reforming restrictive import policies, increasing privatization, and dismantling monopolies to encourage investment, increase competition in the marketplace, and improve the country's economic infrastructure. Sonatel–Senegal's Post, Telephone, and Telegraph administration–s a government-owned agency that holds a monopoly in the telecommunications sector. Sonatel provides a link to the global Internet via a satellite circuit to the United States. It has established Telecom-Plus as its value-added provider, including Internet service. Telecom-Plus operates a full dial-up and leased-line Internet service and leases circuits to other organizations, which can then sell Internet access themselves. At the time of the committee's visit, there were nine providers, including commercial providers and a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and other constituency-based providers. The most commonly stated estimate of subscribers in Senegal was 2,000, approximately half of whom obtain their access through Telecom-Plus. An estimate by Telecom-Plus representatives put the annual growth of total Internet subscriptions in the country at 10 percent, but this figure likely varies greatly over time and among ISPs and likely does not accurately reflect the different modes of Internet use, such as dial-up access and local-area networks with multiple users. The average price of unlimited Internet access per month as of August 1997 was 10,000 CFA, or approximately $20. There are no formal legal or regulatory barriers to other ISPs entering the market in Senegal, though some ISPs complain of Sonatel's favoritism to Telecom-Plus. Two other common problems noted by ISPs were the poor quality of the telecommunications

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet infrastructure (i.e., the phone lines) and the difficulty of finding employees with the required technical expertise. Of particular interest in Senegal is the availability of Internet access from anywhere in the country at the cost of a local call. Sonatel has established a special number service that can be used by any Internet service provider, encouraging the use of its service and eliminating the need for local points of presence in other cities. This makes up in part for the lack of direct Internet links between the country's 10 regions. In most cases, providing Internet access is not (yet) profitable, nor is providing it the primary activity of most ISPs. Rather, they cover their Internet operating costs with fees for Internet access and make a profit through other (usually) telecommunications products and services. ISPs in general seem to have the technical expertise to track some use information, and in fact at least some do track information on traffic coming into and going out of the country, though they do not know what percentage of that is simple electronic mail versus the transfer of files and other information flows. One organization the committee met with reported monitoring the source of hits to its Web page.

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet Box 1 History of Internet Development in Senegal The use of electronic mail by NGOs and research institutions spread in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ORSTOM, a French research organization with branches in several African states, established a computer network in 1989 to improve communication between its Paris headquarters and its overseas centers. That network, RIO, was born as a tool of communication based at the organization. The first node was established in Dakar. Interest in e-mail by the scientific community grew in the early 1990s, and other organizations developed electronic communications abilities. In 1992 ORSTOM and ENSUT (today called ESP-Ecole Superieure Polytechnique) declared the domain “SN.” This declaration was the result of a long-standing collaboration between the computer science department of ESP and ORSTOM. ESP remains the manager of the domain registry. The year 1995 saw the beginning of Internet access in Senegal, with dial-up access and exchanges with outside sites. In March 1996 Senegal obtained full Internet connection when the Sonatel put in place a number of special 64-kbps lines connected to the United States. In the months that followed, the number of ISPs grew to seven, with numerous other constituency-based providers. As of November 1997, there were nine full Internet service providers.

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet BACKGROUND ON GHANA Ghana, located on the west coast of Africa, has a population of approximately 18 million. It is an agricultural country and its economy has been based on the export of such primary products as cocoa, timber, and gold. After gaining independence in 1957, Ghana went through a period of state-controlled development during which the economy declined significantly and the country's infrastructure virtually collapsed. International assistance programs and the economic recovery program initiated by the Ghanaian government in 1982 have helped stabilize and liberalize the economy and reduce rural poverty. The business environment and private sector are growing.37 Today, Ghana has a democratic government and free press. In 1995 the GNP per capita was $390. Ghana's infrastructure, particularly the telecommunications infrastructure, is still far below Western standards. The country's telephone network has less than 100,000 phones for a population of nearly 20 million, although the network has undergone an expansion since 1994 and is developing further with the appearance of a new carrier. The government has recently encouraged such development, and in 1995 it adopted policies to encourage private participation in the telecommunications sector. Despite its poor telecommunications infrastructure, Ghana has a relatively well-developed Internet sector compared to other African countries, due in part to a large number of international assistance projects, the shift toward policies more open to local and international providers, and the leadership of strong individuals. The number of Internet subscribers in the country as of August 1997 was estimated at 3,000, with about 2,000 getting their access through one provider, Network Computer Systems (NCS). Also as of that time, there were three full Internet service providers offering access to the World Wide Web, FTP, and other Internet services–NCS, Africa Online, and Internet Ghana. NCS was planning to establish points of presence in 37   Ibid.

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet regional capitals, starting with Kumasi, Takoradi, and Tamale and was also pursuing satellite technologies. Ghana's ISPs are sophisticated providers, able to project and monitor traffic, although currently the focus seems to be less on tracking and more on securing the necessary technical equipment and expertise and expanding the user base. According to some individuals in Ghana, the driving force behind Internet development in the country is the private sector, with the government playing only a limited role. The Ghanaian government does not have any concrete plans to interconnect all the government ministries, nor is the Internet used in daily operations. But nor is the government trying to control or limit Internet use, and the telecommunications sector in general is much more liberalized in Ghana than in some other African countries. Several government officials noted to the committee the need to develop an overall policy framework for Internet regulation and use.

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet Box 2 History of Internet Development in Ghana A number of electronic mail systems existed in Ghana in the 1980s, based primarily on Fidonet and the UUCP system. In 1988 the computer company Network Computer Services (NCS) began using limited dial-up electronic mail to communicate with colleagues and customers. By 1990 NCS was looking at introducing a public electronic mail system, primarily to international organizations (e.g., embassies, assistance organizations operating in Ghana). In the early 1990s the country 's university started a Fidonet e-mail service. During 1993-1994, the African Association of Universities started a UUCP e-mail service, and NCS began working with UUNet Pipex (U.K.) to provide e-mail service and some surfing capabilities. In January 1995 NCS obtained a leased line from Ghana Telecom, and Ghana was fully connected. Two other commercial companies, Africa Online and Internet Ghana, began offering Internet service in 1996. Africa Online was the first to employ a fully digital leased line. By this time, realizing that a faster bandwidth was needed, NCS obtained permission to bypass Ghana Telecom and use its own international satellite link. That dish is now the gateway for much of Ghana's Internet service. In 1997 the country's ISPs established wireless links with major users. It is clear to the committee that Internet use in both Senegal and Ghana is growing noticeably in most sectors. Individuals, both providers and users, reported frustrations with infrastructure, quality of service, and technical expertise but were also optimistic that the difficulties were temporary. Many individuals were particularly interested in building in to their activities a means of studying the impacts of the Internet during this early stage of its development. The committee believes this work is especially timely because many African governments are liberalizing their telecommunications sectors and hence expanding opportunities for information technologies to impact society. Creating

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Internet Counts: Measuring the Impacts of the Internet empirical baselines early in the diffusion process is important to serve both policy and analytic purposes.