<html><head /> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><title>The Digital Future of Africa</title><meta name="keywords" content="information,africa,communications,computers,development,digital,economy,e-mail,globalisation,henrietta,industrial,internet,knowledge,mobile,moore,productivity,technology,telecommunications,telephone,wireless,global,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">The Digital Future of Africa</span></td> </tr> <tr> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; "></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "> Can the global information revolution reach Africa? In an era when Botswana and Gambia have a greater degree of digitalisation than Germany or Japan, the answer is, surely, yes. In this article, Moore acknowledges that new technologies cannot themselves bring about the necessary socioeconomic changes, but they can act as a catalyst. </span> <P> <img src="auth_Moore.JPG" alt="Moore" height=146 width=100 align=right vspace=10 hspace=10 border=0><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;">Although Africa has roughly the same number of computers connected to the Internet as Latvia has, Moore (right)outlines the advances that Africa has been making in connectivity, digitalisation and cellular communications. With African countries broadcasting radio over the Internet, African newspapers going online, poets and artists just waiting to digitise their work, and significant expertise in wildlife conservation, forestry and tourism, Africa has a lot to offer a Web-savvy world.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>The global information revolution</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Many international development organisations are committed to the idea that the future of Africa depends on its entrance into the global economy via information and telecommunications technology. But is it likely that the knowledge economy and technology will allow Africa to leapfrog a stage in development and to reduce poverty and improve welfare?</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">One way to approach this question is to ask what impact information and communication technology has had on economic growth and productivity in the industrial economies of the developed world. The world information-technology market grew at an annual rate of 14 percent between 1989 and 1995; this was about twice the growth rate of the gross domestic product (GDP) worldwide, according to the findings of Matti Pohjola, published in his 1998 paper "Information Technology and Economic Development." The production of information- and communication-technology goods and services has contributed significantly to economic growth. Pohjola also points out that from 1991 to 1996 the relative contribution of information technology to GDP growth was less than 2 percent in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Spain, Thailand and Venezuela, but larger than 10 percent in Canada, Finland, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and the US.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Nevertheless, the relationship between information technology, productivity and welfare is not so easy to establish. Pohjola's evidence from the 1980s and early '90s disclosed a broad negative correlation between information-technology investment and economy-wide productivity in the United States. Admittedly, more recent research has found positive relationships between information-technology investments and various measures of economic performance across firms in industrial countries. Chrisanthi Avgerou's 1998 study, "How Can IT Enable Economic Growth in Developing Countries?" in the journal <I>Information Technology for Development</I> found that data from 11 Pacific Asian countries for the period 1983-90 showed a significant positive correlation between investment in information technology, growth in GDP and productivity. This is clearly evidence for information-technology-led growth. However, Avgerou also noted that information-technology investment was related to a country's wealth, infrastructure and wage rates. This suggests a reverse causality between information-technology investment and economic growth. In other words, it is the wealthy who invest in computers.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Avgerou's work reveals that the relationship between information technology, investment and productivity is complex, because the diffusion of information technology is related to business changes such as organisational restructuring, improved quality and a variety of products and services. This suggests that what information technology brings about is socioeconomic change rather than simply efficiency improvements that can be measured as economic growth. Indeed, research demonstrates that information-technology systems do not bring substantial benefits, including reductions in costs and increases in productivity, unless they are linked to wider changes in firms, organisations and structures. All this merely serves to illustrate what has long been known about technology and technological change, which is that they do not necessarily in and of themselves bring about socioeconomic changes. What they do is act as a spur for change.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Producing, processing and transmitting large amounts of data is one thing, but turning that information into applied knowledge is another, and has quite different potential consequences. However, there is no proven path or clear model that explains the relationship between enhanced use of knowledge and economic growth. Part of the problem is how to measure knowledge. Knowledge of markets, of human relationships, of governance, of innovation, of organisational structures, and many other types of knowledge all affect economic growth and productivity.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The spectacular performance of the East Asian economies is often cited as an example of knowledge-led growth. Economists recognise that the economic growth of these countries cannot wholly be explained by accumulation and investment in human and physical capital. After these factors have been accounted for, there remains something left over in the growth in productivity, a residual that is attributed to knowledge, to a more clever usage of the resources. For example, the World Bank's 1999 Development Report suggests that Korea and Ghana had equally low incomes per capita in 1950, but by 1991 Korea's income per capita was more than seven times that of Ghana's. Part of that gap remains unexplained even when differences between human and physical capital are taken into account.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The problem of measuring knowledge does not undermine its importance for economic growth and development. The link between innovation and development is a solid one, and those countries and firms that have allocated resources to research and development are reaping greater rewards than those that have not. A conscious decision to invest in closing knowledge gaps is a necessity in a situation where the world economy is becoming ever more global and dominated by multinationals. It is estimated that half of the GDP of the major OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries is based on the production and distribution of knowledge. This means that more workers in those countries are involved in producing knowledge goods than in producing physical goods.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Africa, like every other part of the world, is affected by these changes and is seeking ways to respond. The situation is particularly urgent when we realise that Africa's market share has been subject to reductions. It has been threatened not only by the increasing market share held by information and communication technologies but by the replacement of traditional goods by knowledge-engineered substitutes--for example, the replacement of African cocoa beans by cheaper chemical substitutes.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Africa's information revolution</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">But what is the situation on the continent; and is there any hope for Africa, given the speed of the information revolution? In the early 1990s, the Internet moved from being a specialised tool for expert communities to becoming a public network potentially open to everyone. The number of computers with a direct connection to the Internet rose from less than 100,000 in 1988 to more than 36 million in 1998. The Internet is the fastest-growing communications tool ever, and in 2001 it will have more than 700 million users.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Africa's information and communications infrastructure is the least developed in the world. Akhtar and Laviolette's statistics in Derrick Cogburn's 1996 book <I>Information and Communications for Development: Nationalism, Regionalism, and Globalism in Building the Global Information Society</I> demonstrate that Africans have the smallest number of telephone lines per capita, the most underdeveloped information networks and the most restricted access to computer equipment. However, use of the Internet has grown rapidly on the continent over the past five years. In 1996, only 11 countries had local access, but today only Eritrea has yet to establish service. In most countries, access is largely confined to the capital cities, although a growing number of countries--among them Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Botswana and Ghana--have access in other towns. In some 15 countries, telecommunications providers have established a special area code for Internet access, which means that national coverage can be provided for the cost of a local telephone call.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Current estimates of the number of Internet users in Africa are difficult to calculate, but the figure is thought to be around 1.5 million. About a million of these are in South Africa, leaving only 500,000 among the remaining 734 million people on the continent. This means that Africa has roughly the same number of hosts (computers connected to the Internet) as Latvia, which has a population of only 2.5 million. However, the number of hosts is growing rapidly, with a 36 percent increase between July 1998 and January 1999; a growth rate (as Mike Jensen's article "The Internet in Africa" points out) almost double the world average.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Access to the Internet and the telephone in Africa is very skewed. Urban dwellers predominate over rural, the better educated over the less well educated, and men over women. The largest number of users are connected to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private companies and universities. The characteristics of users vary from country to country: Jensen found that 44 percent of users surveyed in Zambia were nationals, compared with 90 percent in Ghana; 86 percent of users in Ethiopia were male, compared with 83 percent in Senegal and 64 percent in Zambia; and 87 percent of users in Zambia and 98 percent in Ethiopia had a university degree.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">One of the major factors influencing access to the Internet and telecommunications in Africa is cost. There are approximately 26 countries with more than 1,000 dial-up subscribers, but only about nine with 5,000 or more. The average cost in Africa of using a local dial-up Internet account is about $60 for five hours a month, compared with $74 in Germany, $65 in Britain, $52 in France and $29 in the US for 20 hours per month. Furthermore, all these countries have per capita incomes at least 10 times greater than the African average.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Because of high international telephone tariffs and lack of capacity, international bandwidth (the amount of data that can be sent or received within a fraction of a second) is a major difficulty. The time delay involved prevents delivery of Web pages, large amounts of data and other services over the Internet. The result for African users, in spite of recent improvements in bandwidth availability, is that connections to remote sites are very slow and expensive. With the exception of South Africa, almost all international Internet circuits in Africa connect to the US, the UK or France. Apart from a South African hub and a link between Mauritius and Madagascar, there are no links between countries in the region.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The main reason is the high international tariffs charged by telecom operators, which discourage ISPs from establishing more than one international link. Generally, ISPs must pay the entire cost of the connection to the US or Europe. This effectively subsidises the developed world's access to Africa but makes Africa's connection to the rest of the world very expensive. It has been estimated that African economies are paying more than $400 million a year to the developed world just to stay connected. The result is an Internet service that at the moment is predominantly e-mail-based, slow and expensive. Despite these difficulties, e-mail still provides a degree of connectivity at a speed and price previously unknown in Africa, and it has an amazing potential for interregional connectivity which has been seriously lacking with traditional communication, telephone and fax technologies.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The 1999 the UNDP's "Human Development Report" said, "A 40 page document can be sent from Madagascar to C&#244;te d'Ivoire, for example, by five day courier for $75, by 30 minute fax for $45 or by two minute e-mail for less than 20 cents--and the e-mail can go to hundreds of people at no extra cost." Jensen adds that, in Ghana, Africa Online came to an agreement with the Ghana Post Office to provide free e-mail addresses to the public, so they can send e-mails for about 0.25 cedis per message, and in the first two months of operation 30,000 e-mail addresses were issued.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>The technological flowering of Africa</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The future of technology in Africa is by no means bleak. The cost of telecommunications is falling, and so is the cost of software and hardware. Digitalisation is driving convergence between the telecommunications and computing industries, and allows for services that manipulate data, images, voice, video and text. This means that technology change is heading towards a situation where telephones, the Internet, television and data transfer share a generalised digital information structure. Consumers in Africa are not necessarily benefiting fully from convergence and the reduction in costs, but technical change and liberalisation of markets is having an impact on prices.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">New satellite and wireless technologies mean that disseminating knowledge does not have to be dependent upon old wire-based telephone lines. This provides a real opportunity for certain countries to overcome their poor telecommunications infrastructure by investing in new and more appropriate technologies. The 1999 World Bank Report revealed that Botswana, Gambia and Mauritius have a greater degree of digitalisation than Germany or Japan.</span><br><br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Some new technologies are not only cheaper, because they do not require heavy investment in infrastructure from individual countries, but they are also more appropriate for the circumstances of the continent. For example, the increase in the number of mobile telephones has enormous potential for Africa, and some developing countries with a very low density of traditional phones have already invested in cellular technology and have begun to provide much cheaper telephone services for their customers.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">A story published in <I>Wireless Week</I> in 1999 makes the point. In a shantytown outside Cape Town, a car mechanic, Joseph Mbele, is sitting outside his shack watching his children playing. The sound of a telephone blares out; an incoming call has just rung on Mbele's new cellular telephone. It's a business acquaintance offering him another repair job for a local cab firm. Last year, Mr. Mbele was out of work, with little hope of employment. "It's very good," Mbele says. "I can run my own business from this telephone. If I'm not available, my customers can leave me a message on the cellular answering machine so I can call them back later."</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Although some of the 300,000 people who live in the shantytowns of Cape Town had water and electricity, none of them had telephones or telephone service, but South African GSM operator Vodacom has just introduced the lowest prepaid charges anywhere in the world. The result is a degree of connectivity for citizens in the shantytowns that has never been achieved by other forms of modern technology, and the evidence is that it's having an impact on employment. It is always wise to be wary of anecdotes such as this. The real impact of cellular-phone technology requires proper evaluation and assessment, but even then interpretation of the evidence will weave its own genealogical narrative about the pros and cons of the information technology revolution in Africa.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">One of the most successful developments in the past five years in Africa has been phone shops and telecentres. Telecentres are fixed location points with access to phones, fax and the Internet, although few as yet have Internet connections in Africa. However, telecentres have proved enormously popular in certain countries and are being used as delivery points for training, distance learning and development initiatives. Phone shops consist of a number of telephone booths built into a refurbished freight container and connected to the cellular network via a digital telephone interface. Phone shops can be transported to any rural or urban location where there is cellular reception. The development of satellite technology and coverage means that phone shops will potentially be able to connect any location in Africa to the cellular network and the Internet. Satellite technology may have brought little except satellite television to the developing world, but in the future its potential is enormous.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In an Indian village without telephones, freestanding solar-powered computers are updated daily with information relayed through radio handsets and cell phones from a regional centre with direct Internet access. The UNDP points out that the village computer acts as a bulletin board for the availability of medicine in health centres; market prices and microcredit availability; transport services; weather warnings; and educational materials for schoolchildren.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">High-speed wireless technology will further transform connectivity within less than two years. South Africa already has what are known as CIDS (Community Information Development Systems); these provide online access for communities with no fixed-line infrastructure by means of a low-cost, high-speed wireless network. A central hub, connected to the Internet via a fixed line, can support a network of stations via wireless links. Martin Hall's 1998 piece for <I>First Monday</I> observes that the network points can, in their turn, be connected to schools, community centres, health clinics and other facilities within a radius of about 10 kilometres.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The most impressive development in this area will be WAP (wireless application protocol) phones, which will allow users to send e-mails and to access information from the Internet via a mobile phone. This has been made possible by advances in bandwidth, and these phones will even be able to be used for video transmission. At the end of 2000, the major manufacturers will stop making conventional mobile phones, and within two years everyone will have access to WAP technology, whether they use it or not. WAP phones could take over from computers as the most common way of surfing the Internet. However, the limiting factor with a mobile phone is the size of the screen. WAP technology is likely to be replaced swiftly by GPRS (general packet radio service), which will have higher bandwidth and allow a user to send up to 10 times more information than with WAP technology.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Computer hardware is expensive--even though prices are falling--and facility with the use of software requires training. These are limiting factors for Africa, as elsewhere, but technological convergence means that computers will not be necessary to access the Internet; in the future, this will be done via a mobile phone or a television. Advances in computer technology, however, will have a massive impact on computer use; touch screens, voice/text interchange technology, simulation, software that recognises the user's voice, and simultaneous translation will mean that a user will no longer have to be literate in English (currently the dominant language on the Internet) in order to access or send information. These advances will mean that computers are easier to use and they will also be much more appropriate tools for training and community-development work.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Many international agencies and NGOs have begun to support development in Africa through the use of information and communication technologies. African ministers adopted a framework initiative called the African Information Society Initiative (AISI) in 1996 to accelerate Africa's entrance into the global information infrastructure. This initiative is being coordinated by the Economic Commission for Africa and the UNDP.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In order not to repeat the problems caused by the lack of coordination in development assistance in the past, donors and development agencies involved in information and communication technologies for development in Africa have established a forum for exchange of information on projects called PICTA (Partnerships for Information and Communication Technologies in Africa).</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank are involved in large-scale assistance; UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) has a project on teacher training and another on cooperation between African states; the UNDP has made $6 million available for Internet connectivity in Africa; and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has launched a bold initiative to demonstrate how disadvantaged communities can use information and communication to solve local development problems. These are only headline pointers to the vast number of projects and initiatives that are under way. Local and international NGOs are active in the field, and some, like Environment and Development Activities (ENDA) in Senegal, are exclusively devoted to using new technologies for development.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Given the large number of projects, it would be impossible here to provide an overview of the successes and failures of, or even the potential for, information and communication technologies development in Africa. Such technologies are already having an impact in African health delivery, education, distance learning, information on financial markets, e-commerce, small and medium-sized enterprise development, environmental management, agricultural development and many other areas. The question of whether or not Africa needs information and communication technologies has already been answered, and not just by donors, international agencies and NGOs but by the citizens of Africa themselves.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">There are many ambitious and probably unrealistic goals for information and communication technologies in Africa, as there have always been for development initiatives of all kinds. What is clear is that new technologies have given a new impetus to development thinking about and for the continent. In 1999, the Economic Commission for Africa announced the goal of halving poverty in Africa by the year 2015, even though it acknowledged that while the GDP grew 3.3 percent on average in 1998, to reduce poverty by half in the stated period would mean a sustained growth in GDP of 7 percent per annum. Economic growth will not come about without substantial investment in human and social capital. One criterion for the success of information-technology-led development in Africa is whether or not it will contribute to such investment. However, in terms of the knowledge economy, this may not just be a question of augmenting or accelerating investment in human and social capital but, rather, of using what resources there are more effectively, applying knowledge in new ways, of working smarter as well as harder.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">One of the major constraints on African development has always been poverty of information, and not just for donors, international agencies and development workers but for local people themselves in various communities and contexts. Information technologies do provide a qualitatively different kind of connectivity for both rural and urban populations. New technological developments mean that access to information will no longer be the privilege of the literate and the computer-trained, and that the form and degree of connection can be managed by communities themselves. Some of the most exciting developments in this area have come through telecentres in relation to the predominant livelihood of African populations, which is farming.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In 1999 an article by John Stackhouse appeared in the <I>Globe and Mail</I> called "Information Highway Comes to Ugandan Village." It discussed M. Busulwa, a farmer from Buwama, in Uganda, who grows avocados, French beans, peppers and bananas for export on approximately one hectare of land. He signed up for Internet training at the local telecentre because he wanted to get electronic access to markets. "We get most of our information from traders and agents, but you never know if they're telling the truth. This is where the Internet could come in handy. I want to know what the market is for my crops." Women make major contributions to the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector in Africa, but the productivity of their enterprises is constrained by lack of access to information on resources, markets and credit. Women Information Resources and Electronic Service (WIRES) is an information-technology infrastructure developed by the Council for the Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa which connects two rural sites to Kampala, and provides women entrepreneurs with access to repackaged and redesigned information that is relevant to the development of entrepreneurial skills and the expansion of their enterprises.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Information and communication technologies have the potential to empower communities and individuals by giving them access to information that allows them to extend and improve control over decision-making and over their own lives. Information in and of itself will not make a difference to climate, late delivery of inputs and poor storage facilities, all of which are factors that influence agricultural production in parts of Africa. However, the very fact that farmers in the C&#244;te d'Ivoire use cellular telephones to get international cocoa price quotations direct from Abidjan demonstrates that new technologies, unlike many examples in the past, have the potential to work against information poverty, social exclusion and power relations. "Currently, people have to go to Kampala for information," says Elizabeth Amuto, a Nabweru community-development officer. "It costs money to travel, and then they may find the person is not there or they don't have the information. This &#91;telecentre&#93; will save us time and money."</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">African Internet service providers such as Africa Online, SangoNet, MangoNet and ZAMNET are making strenuous efforts to reach out to rural areas and remote communities, and they have managed to provide Internet services to many of the intermediary organisations who serve small producers and rural communities. In Senegal, for example, telecentres in many urban areas are run by local entrepreneurs and housed within or alongside their other businesses. Sonatel, the telecommunications provider in Senegal, estimates that a telecentre makes between $60 and $120 a month for the person who runs it, although these figures are for Dakar and not for rural areas. Sonatel has made efforts to reach out to poor rural areas, and all rural areas in Senegal are now within five kilometres of a telephone service. It is no longer accurate to see information and communication technologies as just imported technologies parachuted in from the outside; they are now also African technologies, developed by African countries and African initiatives.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Africa's digital riches</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Information and connectivity are not in and of themselves enough. Health care is an area where information technologies have made an impact in Africa, but sometimes drugs, rubber gloves and sterilising agents are in shorter supply than information. SatelLife's HealthNet, started in 1989, provides connections to medical libraries and links health professionals to one another. Burn surgeons in Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda have used HealthNet to consult on patient treatment and reconstructive surgery, providing an example of the value of regional collaboration. In the Gambia, health workers who used to travel 700km per week to collect data for a clinical trial now send it electronically. Doctors in Ethiopia use HealthNet to schedule consultations and referrals, making it unnecessary for ill patients to travel long distances with no guarantee of seeing a doctor. These are all successes, but HealthNet has also encountered considerable difficulties, inadequate training for personnel, inadequate content for health professionals, the demands and difficulties of overstretched and underresourced health services.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">This means that information on drugs, diagnosis, and other new and relevant medical information for African health practitioners is not necessarily being used in the most effective way. Information technologies could underpin an improved health delivery in Africa and cut the costs of overstretched services by improving distribution of resources, cutting supply costs, improving information retrieval and storage, allowing the use of telemedicine for long-distance diagnosis, improving staff training and addressing the problem of staff shortages. Information technologies can help with all of these things, but an integrated information system of this kind is a long way away from the reality of local health services in Africa. This is true even of South Africa itself.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">There is much very good work being done, but the underlying fact is that what is wrong with health in Africa cannot be solved by technology alone. This seems an obvious point, but it needs reiterating to support those who claim that we need to get health right before we even start to think about information and communication technologies.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">What is true for health is also true for education. A number of projects in Africa have been successful in linking schools to the Internet, in developing materials for teacher training, and in developing links and materials for lifelong learning. One of the most ambitious projects is the African Virtual University, which was set up in 1995 to address the lack of professors, up-to-date materials and modern curricula in African universities, despite the large demand all over the continent for qualified and skilled scientists, business leaders and policymakers. This is a large-scale project, but it is hampered by the difficulty and cost of developing appropriate materials and then managing their delivery online. Only a very few universities in Europe and the US have successfully delivered large-scale distance-learning programmes.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Applying knowledge for development is the way forward, and what information and communication technologies do is to act as enablers of this process. Health and education are a very small, albeit crucial, part of the equation. Information and communication technologies are having a major impact on government planning in Africa, and the media are playing an entirely new role. About half the countries on the continent now publish newspapers online, and 14 countries broadcast radio on the Internet. Continent-wide, African news agencies are facilitating the use of information technologies not only to get more information into Africa but to get more information out to the rest of the world. This has consequences for public debate and discussion, and also for business and trade. The more information that becomes available about Africa, the more Africa becomes a place of possibilities rather than of lost opportunities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In a more critical vein, one might not like the image of Africa that is portrayed on e-commerce sites and websites, but there is no gainsaying the scale of public discussion that has been opened up by the Usenet and discussion sites on African issues--even though some of the debate is not of high quality. There's no denying the opportunities available for African writers, poets, artists and musicians to publish online and make their work available. African cultures are now reaching out to the world on their own terms, in a way that has not been possible before. African languages, African cultures, African music, African writing, African business models, African governance models--all will be part of what is available on the Internet. Africa will no longer be a net importer.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Conclusion</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Information and communication technologies are having one consequence that was perhaps unforeseen: they are beginning to shift some of the prevailing Western discourses on Africa, not in and of themselves, of course, but by virtue of the socioeconomic changes they enable. What is important, however, when talking about the ability of Africa to enter into and compete in the knowledge economy is that we do not imagine that process to be one-way. What the information-technology revolution reveals is something that many have been aware of for a long time, and that is that Africa is a continent of resources, and not just physical resources but knowledge and human capacities. Information and communication technologies allow knowledge and the capacity to move in both directions.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">What are these types of knowledge? To speak in very concrete development-oriented terms, they consist of expertise and specific competencies in such things as wildlife conservation, drought-resistant agriculture, labour-intensive manufacture, forestry and wildlife tourism. New domains of competence and knowledge could be developed with potential application to other parts of the world, such as remote administration of health and education services, regional stock markets, microcredit organisations, family welfare policies and culture-led development.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Developing and consolidating knowledge in these areas requires much more than simply investing in information and communication technologies. It also has to proceed hand in hand with developing human and social capital. However, this is not an either/or situation; e-information and communication technologies are now part of the solution for developing education, health, business and governance in Africa. The clever part is making that solution work, and here Africa will have to develop unique African solutions to the challenges that the continent faces. The development agencies and the international community, for their part, will have to recognise that in the global knowledge economy Africa is also an exporter and not just an importer.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:medium; ">Relevant links</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><A HREF="http://www.worldbank.org/wdr/" TARGET="_blank">The World Bank's annual World Development Report (WDR)</A><BR><A HREF="http://www.worldbank.org/wdr/" TARGET="_blank">(www.worldbank.org/wdr/)</A></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">Copyright the London School of Economics and Political Science.</span></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>