Overcoming Challenges

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-06-11 Print this article Print

I also asked others from Africa about the challenges facing their nations and whether they thought Microsofts goal of bringing computer access to 1 billion people by 2015 is realistic. Dr. Ini Urua, a divisional manager and principal engineer at that African Development Bank, which has decades of experience on this continent, told eWEEK in an interview that the billion people figure is realistic and an achievable target, but can only happen if countries have the political will to pursue key objectives.
"I believe we are seeing an increasing commitment from governments in the region to applying technology to help achieve their socio-economic and political goals," he said.
The bank has a policy of nonexclusive partnerships so as to bring value to the continent. Africa, he said, is more in the international limelight now than it had been in the past primarily because African leaders committed to certain goals for the region several years ago and then reached out and asked for help in achieving those goals. The citizenry, particularly the young, are increasingly demanding more from their governments and are not willing to sit by passively, he said. Representatives from other African countries also told me that Internet penetration is not high, but that their governments are taking action and offering discounts, incentives and financing to increase PC ownership and connectivity. Dr. Ashraf Abdelwahab, the deputy to the Egyptian minister of state for administrative development, said that just some 5 million of Egypts 76 million citizens are connected to the Internet. There are a number of initiatives under way to increase penetration, he told me, including using a modem and fixed phone line, giving users the ability to connect for the price of a local phone call, and subsidizing the cost of DSL, which starts at $5 a month. The government is also offering citizens with fixed phone lines the ability to get bank financing and monthly installment payment terms for computers. Some 70,000 computers are acquired each year this way, Abdelwahab said. Another initiative designed to help create more Internet cafés has been undertaken by the Egyptian government in conjunction with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations. A citizen who has a property suitable for a café is given 10 computers and free Internet connection for the first year, after which the owner is required to pay for connectivity. So far some 1,400 of these Internet cafés have been set up across Egypt, Abdelwahab told me. So, after all this, I have to agree with Ayala, who told me that while a lot has already been achieved in Africa, there is much more work to be done before the true potential of its inhabitants can be realized. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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