[Air-l] Re: Internet research/Sub-saharan Africa

Bram Dov Abramson bda at bazu.org
Thu Mar 21 10:01:42 PST 2002

rtynes at u.washington.edu:
>My research involves Africa and the Internet. I've scoured many a journal,
>looking for research on the subject, but haven't come up with much. And,
>most of the studies that I have seen look at policy or IT infrastructure,
>such as the new book:
>"Beyond Boundaries: Cyberspace in Africa", by Melinda
>Robins and Robert Hilliard (2002). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
>Any suggestions regarding African Internet research that I may be

Maybe it's a question of narrowing down the topic to something more 
specific?  Here are some random thoughts.

In the area of diffusion of Internet access, there has been rather a lot 
written to document telecentre experiments and initiatives, for example 
published by IDRC through their Ottawa and South Africa offices.  Maybe 
telecentres is an "African Internet" topic you'd be interested in 
researching.  Maybe in specific locales, even.  WorldSpace would be an 
interesting initiative on which to do a case study imho.

On similar topics, I remember seeing quite a lot of journalistic accounts 
-- less scholarly -- on the lack of submarine and, to a certain extent, 
terrestrial trunking to Africa.  While I was at TeleGeography I remember 
seeing requests come in from time to time on Africa-to-Africa tromboning of 
phone calls through Europe because of lack of intra-African infrastructure, 
similar to the airplane problem that Air Afrique was to address.  This is 
very much the case with Internet, and there's been a shift from U.S. to 
Europe as the centre of African country-to-country Internet 
infrastructure.  Submarine-cable-wise, the Africa One project was recently 
back on the books after years of on-again, off-again, but this time Global 
Crossing is involved, and last time I looked, they weren't doing so well ...

More generally there is a fair bit of work on telecom policy in sub-Saharan 
Africa's many jurisdictions, especially South Africa, and that work has 
begun to look at encouraging Internet diffusion.  Studies on things like 
the licensing of Internet access providers and backbone providers; their 
relationship with the PTT; existence of Internet exchanges (where IAP 
sector is liberalised); initiatives on all-country-local-dial numbers for 
Internet access, often through special area codes.  The ITU has published a 
fair bit on statistical indicators to get a sense of just what we're 
talking about.

Of course, all that is about access and connectivity.  Usage, applications, 
Web-specific studies are another ballgame.  I remember seeing some things 
about this in First Monday (firstmonday.org I think); South African 
government bodies have in recent years commissioned a little bit on it; 
there's bridges.org who have set up an office in Capetown to pitch in for 
e-commerce; and so forth.  But it's hard to talk about such a wide variety 
of topics for such a wide geographic area and do it succinctly!


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