San Diego, CA — The Internet is gaining a stronger foothold in Africa thanks to a new public/private collaboration that promotes networking expertise on the continent. With partners in the U.S. and Europe, African network engineers are learning how to deploy the latest information technologies for research and higher education.
Funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other sponsors are helping the African Network Operators Group (AFNOG) prepare African network engineers to manage email, mailing lists, World Wide Web, domain name servers and help desks as demand for services expands rapidly. To help them manage large-scale network backbones, AFNOG also offers training about Internet routing architectures, router configurations, Network Operations Center (NOC) facilities and exchange points between multiple networks.
Technical preparedness is key to Africa’s participation in the information economy, according to Nii Quaynor, chairman and chief executive officer of Network Computer Systems, a company based in Ghana. “AFNOG is taking the crucial first steps to provide insights, organizational focus, and technical resources, along with a context for strengthening technical leadership on the continent,” said Quaynor, a member of AFNOG’s organizing committee.
Founded in 1999, AFNOG works with the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC), a non-profit organization that for the past decade has helped design and deploy computer networks in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. The NSRC is funded by NSF and works in collaboration with the Advanced Network Technology Center (ANTC) at the University of Oregon to help international academic institutions and non governmental organizations (NGOs) gain Internet access.
The need for such grass-root efforts to bridge the international Digital Divide was affirmed at last week’s G-8 economic summit in Okinawa, Japan. The participating nations agreed to establish a Digital Opportunity Task Force to promote the adoption of information technologies in developing nations.
AFNOG’s first benefits are emerging due to an intensive, five-day series of courses held at the University of Cape Town, South Africa in May 2000. Organizers from Ghana, Kenya and Uganda arranged for sessions led by instructors from Ghana, Togo, Mali, South Africa, the U.S., the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Network operators came from Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. Many of the participants were from universities in their respective countries.
Funding for AFNOG outreach has been arranged by the Network Startup Resource Center. Sponsors included NSF, Cisco Systems, USENIX, PanAmSat, the Mellon Foundation and Cequrux Technologies. Books for AFNOG trainees have been donated by O’Reilly and Associates, Addison Wesley Longman, John Wiley and Sons and Cisco Press.