[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#320: Still Shut Out (Haiti mentioned among other nations))

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

   By Kelechi Obasi 

   Lagos (The News, August 23, 1999) - Many countries are still not 
catching up with the many benefits of the internet. Africa and other 
developing coun tries  are holding the short end of   the stick in the 
race toward the new age technology that abounds on the information  super
   Third world nations, that have been bedevilled by poverty, illiteracy, 
political instability and inadequate  telephone services are disproving 
the theory that the internet would make the  world a global village,  and
in spite of the spurts and bursts of technological know-how in some  of
these countries, experts on the industry have likened the gap  between and
those hooked onto the worldwide web to the ever growing gap  between the
rich and the poor. According to the United Nations only  two per cent of
the global population is plugged in, thereby making the  internet an
exclusive club of the privileged global classes. 
   In Nigeria, out of a  population of  over 100 million there are only 
about 1,000 internet subscribers.  In all Africa there are only  about  1.5
million users online, based on a report by Freedom Forum. 
   Kola Owolabi, a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), blamed the 
negligible presence of Africa on the worldwide web on governments all  over
the continent. "When the leadership places little emphasis on 
communication, there is no way people can get access to information.  There
are no sufficient  telephone lines, and power supply is  epileptic, the
socio- economic factors are not even favourable, so how  can people earning
a minimum wage of N3,000 afford to plug onto the  internet? The government
has put the cost of communication at a  premium, thereby making it a status
symbol, so much  that it is  seen  as being a prerogative of the rich," he
said. In Africa, there are just  about 14 million telephone lines. 
   In spite of these shortcomings, the so-called third world countries are 
making something out of not very much. According to Raul Zambrano, 
Information Technology Specialist for the U.N. Development Project, 
"you'll find people in developing countries doing incredible things  with
their fingernails, scratching out access." 
   In Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, where the 
average per capital income is $250 a year, the first site to be written  in
Haitian Creole came online just this month. 
   However, having web sites on the internet is not the issue, the real 
battle for most developing parts of the world, is to provide access 
nationally in countries with either non-existent or deplorably  inefficient
infrastructure (ISP) in many of these countries and they  are faced with
bitter rivalry from either the major telephone company,  or have to contend
with a populace that has more on its mind than the  internet. Those who are
hell-bent on jumping on the information  superhighway have devised
ingenious means to beat stifling  communications regulations in their
environments. Some Haitians now use  wireless connections and radio modems
to hook onto the ISP. In Goma, a  city in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
and in Nigeria people send  E-mails through personal computers and high
frequency radio modems.  While in Goma, users access the internet through
Bushnet, an ISP based  in Uganda. In Nigeria, users log on to the worldwide
web, through  Hyperia. 
   The advantages of using the internet are legion and range from domestic 
to political and national interest. In Nigeria, two presidency  contenders
launched campaign web site before elections.In Singapore,  the internet is
to be put to use for the 2000 census. In 1989, the  internet played a
prominent role when it was used by pro-democracy  students in Beijing,
China, and in preventing a putsch against  Soviet  leader, Mikhail
Gorbachev in 1991, although in many countries such as  Syria, China,
Singapore and Saudi Arabia restrictions are still placed  on its use and
   Many have argued however, on the need for the internet culture in 
Africa and other underdeveloped nations, when there is so much  widespread
impoverishment, bad roads, and poor infrastructure and  public utilities.
But representatives of many internet websites say  they are trying to form
a network of many websites for developing  countries, with a view to
linking them up and also to make some profit.  "Eventually, the internet is
going to become more important in these  countries, and it is an advantage
to be one of the first ones to be  involved," they believe.