- Many people in Africa connect to the Internet via satellite links, not cables.
- Internet providers in Africa have a difficult time peering with other networks, unlike in the U.S. UUNet and MCI (examples from Ethan) understand that peering and sharing data is important. Getting networks to share with African networks using satellite is a different matter. (Don’t get me started on Network Neutrality.)
- A cable that is about 1 to 1 1/2 feet in diameter runs along Africa’s west coast and circles the continent to the south and southeast. It doesn’t do much to help Africa’s east coast because it doesn’t go north very far.
- Legal issues are preventing many people from taking advantage of one of the cables.
- Internet connectivity in Africa will change business models and trade.
- Africa could inspire some great technical innovation.
- About 400 population centers, including all of the capitals and bigger cities, are connected.
- Many cables and connections run along the roads.
- Language issues offer many challenges: different language sets, complex characters, etc.
- Some older technologies are still very popular in Africa because they work very well for people with slower connections.
- Cities in West Africa, like Accra, provide terrific models for what’s possible with wireless. Wireless is popular and widely used in some areas because the areas don’t have some of the legal issues with open wireless we do in America.
- Radio, and especially community radio, is still very popular and influential.
Information access issues in Africa have lots of implications for librarians. What kind of impact will connected villages have on the online world? What might this mean for Africa’s libraries or lack of libraries in some places? Are there things those of us in libraries in developed countries can do to help new Internet users in Africa?
When I get certain e-mails at work, I’m constantly reminded of the power of the Internet. How does someone in rural Africa know about Harvard University? Will an increase in Internet access in Africa mean more African students might seek schooling outside of the continent?
The slides include many graphics illustrating the current situation and what needs to happen.
I so want to go to Africa.
PS–Telling sj about the talk reminded me I still haven’t knocked this report live.