SPECTATOR AT THE FEAST - AN AFRICAN AT INET
12 May 2000
INET is the international internet event in everyone's calender. This year over 2000 "movers and shakers" attended three days of countless papers and panel discussions in the Japanese city of Yokohama. News Update asked Perpetus Jacques Houngbo from Benin to report on his impressions of the event and how it might be of relevance to the development of the internet in Africa.
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. NEWS UPDATE 21: SPECTATOR AT THE FEAST - AN AFRICAN AT INET
INET 2000 was the tenth annual conference of the Internet Society (ISOC) and took place in Yokohama, Japan last month (18-21 July). INET is the largest gathering of the internet community. It's the place to advance the development of internet networks, technologies and policies.
INET is the forum that every year brings together the decision-makers, the users and networking professionals who all want to see the internet develop as a tool for the greatest number of people. More than 2000 people attended this year. As a forum, it allows the exchange of experience and proposals to improve the internet. INET's participants are particularly interested in the impact of the internet on the global economy, finance, education and the the quality of life in different societies. It presents a strong technical programme with all papers peer reviewed by industry experts from around the world. (see end of article for broad themes covered).
I went as one of five delegates from Benin. The others were: Pierre Dandjinou (Regional co-ordinator, SDNP), Yaovi Atohoun (RTI/USAID/Leland Initiative), Thierry Amoussougbo (SDNP's Benin office), Louis Agbahalou (OPT Benin) and the author of this article (Perpetus Jacques Houngbo (ISOC-Benin). The Benin attenders benefited greatly from financial aid from the Research Institute for Internet Strategies for two of its number, myself and Louis Agbahalou.
* INET SESSION INSIGHTS
INET ran 5 plenary sessions and 45 smaller concurrent sessions over three days. You simply cannot be everywhere and get a complete overview. What follows is my attempt to put together from what I heard how the developing countries are seeking to participate in the internet and how the rich countries are planning the future of the internet.
* TELECOMS AS A FORM OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
When one talks about telecoms in a developing economy context we're not talking about a single industrial objective but something that has a wide range of potential approaches that go well beyond telecoms itself. These may be characterised as follows:
- A vital economic goal must be internet access you young people. Targeting this group for internet access is vital as they will be the next generation of of potential users. If they are internet literate real potential will open up. If not, things will simply happen very slowly. There is already a wealth of experience in the field for this kind of internet education work and the results of a great deal of it is at best variable. The World Bank has initiated a programme - World Links for Development". Uganda is one of the main beneficiaries of this programme that aims to connect schools to the internet. Many problems have been solved: sensitising stakeholders, gathering equipment for the network (and clearing through customs), training a team to install and maintain the microwave link, setting up the link, and having shown that it could work, getting enough support from the stakeholders to allow a schools network to be established.
- Countries could seek to connect those who are are literate with employment opportunities abroad. This people-as-a-resource based strategy is being pursued by India which has a large number of English-speaking professionals. This approach aims to make distant jobs virtually local, mainly in software development. Nevertheless countries need to be aware that building the ability to get software development work does not necessarily create long-term, sustainable economic development. As Eammonn Fingleton has pointed out, it is almost certainly better for a country to be exporting manufactured goods. Five manufacturing-oriented countries - Switzeland, Japan, Germany, Austria and Sweden - have passed the USA in terms of per capita income.
- Another way that telecoms can be used for economic development is promoting hand-made goods via the internet. This makes local goods available to distant buyers. The classic example is US-based PeopleLink that connects producers from developing countries to customers worldwide.
* The next generation of the internet - Here comes IPv6
Many existing applications transfer exactly the same data to a large number of receivers. The next generation of internet applications will include multicasting services such as digital video (DV) programme multicasting or interactive multi-party multimedia conferences or games. To get these applications working it is essential to establish a stable and cost effective multicast data transmission infrastructure.
The key buzzword is IPv6. The impressive growth of the internet during the past few years has led to the need to overcome the limitations of the current version of the Internet Protocol (IP) so that future growth can be maintained. This is why work started on the next generation Internet Protocol, IPv6. Currently the standardization work on IPv6 and related elements is far enough along that vendors have already committed themselves to a considerable number of development and testing projects. Many prototype IPv6 implementations are already available for test purposes on most commercial routers, Unix workstations and Windows PCs.
The next generation of the internet in the rich countries is all about access everywhere through mobile appliances. Internet-connected cars are a good example of this phenomenon. These cars offer features that provide convenience, personal safety, security and road safety. The i-Mode service on Japanese mobile phones is another good example. Japan has the world's largest mobile internet-user base with over five million people using the i-Mode for internet connectivity via their mobile phones. Users are linked to the internet by simply touching a button on their phone. They can send and receive e-mail messages, check their bank balances, find a restaurant, make flight reservations, check the weather and read their horoscope. Colour screens are becoming widespread amongst mobile users and many companies have set up colour web sites configured for mobile screens. i-Mode is currently operating at 9.6 kilobits per second but 2 megabits per second is expected before 2003.
John Chambers, President/CEO of Cisco Systems summed this next generation of the internet perfectly. Voice will be free over the internet as well as data. Networked economies, net-ready economies will gain billions of dollars through selling content, services, software and appliances. Ken-Ichi Ohmae, management consultant, reinforced the point. The winners in the 21st century will be networked and e-ready countries. The losers are wasting their energies in building national protectionist regulation. He included international institutions like the IMF and UNDP in this "losers" grouping.
* Is there any room for Africa in this bright, new world?
This was the question that anyone from Africa at INET was asking. The question contains two different sentiments: the awareness amongst those of us who are engineers of the colossal scale of the task and a willingness to take to take it on and win. Ken-Ichi Ohmae provided some comfort. He said those that appear about to become most successful can't take their success for granted and likewise those who appear doomed to failure can't assume this will be the case. It is up to Africans to jump in, define what they want and take the opportunities there are to participate. He also said that the internet (after education) is the best way to promote equality and to reduce social divisions.
* John Chambers of Cisco surveys the horizon from a mountain of dollars
It goes without saying that Cisco's presentation was one of the biggest events of INET 2000. John Chambers seemed almost beside himself with happiness at the prospect of so many dollars to be made. The impression I had was of John Chambers standing on a mountain of dollars and not seeing the ground any more. He was in another dimension that seemed to consist entirely of networking interconnections and...billions of dollars. I lost count of how many times he said billions of dollars in his 45 minute speech.
However there's no doubt that the conference was under the spell of the charm of both John Chambers and Donald M.Heath, President/CEO of ISOC, almost literally subjugated by the weight of superlatives used when the latter introduced Cisco's President.
INET had got together a tremendous amount of resources for what was after all a rather expensive event. Company sponsorship went in ranges up to US$200,000. Cisco was one of those putting up US$200,000 or more without quibbling. There was some friendly banter between it and Lucent Technologies who only contributed between US$10,000 and US$24,000. It was surprising not to see Microsoft directly involved in sponsorship of the event. Is this because INET participants seemed largely in favour of open or free software? Microsoft was there indirectly. The stand for demonstrating IPv6 featured computers largely divided into two groups: Windows PCs and Macintoshes.
For a French speaker like myself INET 2000 was three days of intense talking in English. None of us French speakers were very happy at that. One attendee could not prevent herself from exclaiming "cela change d'entendre parler francais" when she received "merci" as a reply from another attendee. But the issue is not simply about English vs French. I went shopping for computer space parts in Yokohama. The people in the shop spoke Japanese and a few words of English. And my English is far from perfect so it looked like a miracle world be needed. And lo and behold, it happened. A passing shopping spoke both French and passable Japanese took up the challenge and acted as interpreter. It turned out that he was a Frenchmen who had lived in Tokyo for several years who was a power user of computers.
However there was much on the plus side. When you have experienced the pollution and din of car horns in a place like my home capital Cotonou, Yokohama is such a pleasure. Can you believe that I only heard two car horns sounded in my entire stay? What a clean and pleasant place to live!
* The internet for Africa - different ways to get there?
Globalisation is now a fact and Africans do not have any choice but to get on board with the development of the internet. At the point at which the rich countries are about to roll out the next generation of the internet as a billion dollar business opportunity, Africa is still trying to get its head around the concept of the internet and why it might be important. The rich countries are preparing to make money whilst Africa (which most needs to make money) has not yet really got off the "starting blocks". Perhaps this difference might offer they key to finding better ways to use the internet? But those of us who are committed to developing the internet, must redouble our efforts if we are to make a serious dent in the size of the task we face.
Perpetus Jacques Hougbo (email@example.com)
There were the following 8 INET presentation themes:
- The technologies and infrastructure of the internet
New applications for the internet will place increasingly stringent requirements on the underlying internet infrastructure. This theme addressed this tremendous challenge. Sessions covered multi-gigabit transmission technology, satellite communication and last mile access.
- Science and technology of the internet for the 21st century
This theme had exciting sessions that covered middleware, TCP scaleability and performance comparisons, web serving, indexing and automation and infrastructure building experiences. These sessions were for power users and internet providers.
- Mobile Internet and IP Network Appliances
The internet laqndscape is undergoing a period of profound change.Network appliances, smart phones and similar devices will connect from almost anywhere without a physical link through a plug. The next challenge is wireless, mobility and impromptou networking. Session papers covered both usage and technical aspects of these topics.
- Interactive, Multimedia and Innovative Content *with full demonstrations*
The digital age is characterised by the way information can be expressed using a blend of text, sound anmd image. The principal goal of this theme was to provide a virtual exhibition of new applications and technologies that exemplify broadband transmission and the convergent content it can deliver. We were asked to consider the internet as a "media coommunications channel" - an informnation universe of live news, webcasts, multicast, music and video on demand and high quality video and audio transmissions. In otherwords all the potential that IP space offers for TV, radio, publishing, teleconferencing, distance learning and teleworking.
- Bio-medical issues
There are now entirely new ways of accessing and managing medical information and of delivering health care. Suddenly a wide range of services for medicine can be implemented using core internet technologies. Sessions included papers describing new technology apps for health and medicine, the quality of medical information on the internet, telemedicine, distance learning for health education and the ubiquitous issues of privacy and security.
The promise of education through the internet is already well understood but achieving it presents a number of challenges. Papers covered advances in schools networking, new theories and techniques of information retrieval and their impact on libraries, and emerging tools for institutional content development.
- E-commerce and e-business
As the hype about B-to-C (business to consumer) companies dies down it will allow business and government to focus on more down to earth B-to-B (business to business) types of e-commerce. The full implications of e-commerce - strategic, geopolitical and social - are only just beginning to emerge. Papers sought to identify the main priorities of the e-commerce agenda for governments, international organisations and citizen-consumers.
- Regulation, policy and governance
Sessions covered: the state of the internet, how the internet is used in emergencies, virtual communities, copyright protection in cyberspace and there were panels on the so-called digital divide, fringe behaviour and how the internet is reported in the media.
Translated from French using a combination of a translator robot at jump.altavista.com and human intervention. All errors lie in human hands.
* AFRICA AND DIGITAL DIVIDE - THERE IS A VIABLE MODEL
I open the mail, and this long, tedious article and news nonsense about the
digital divide, tales of woe, money talk in the billions of dollars, and I
have to wonder just what is this all about?
There is a viable model that works, today, which, when executed, distributes community-based computers to every village in a developing country in a rapid timeframe, costs the villagers nothing out-of-pocket, runs a fraction of the costs quoted to accomplish this the "traditional" ways being discussed around the world, today. Today, the issue of providing computers to every village in every country around the world is for all practical purposes a nonissue.
Why not focus your efforts on spreading the word and getting this step accomplished, today, right now? Then, once the computers are out there, you can move to the important issues that will arise and evolve.
Why not take a minute, and visit:
and review the material. If it makes sense, then come on board and let's make this happen, today.
Thomas A. Poe, M.D., Director
The World Center For Clinical Research
* NIGERIA AND MALAWI LOSE CONTROL OF COUNTRY DOMAINS?
Disputes between national governments and the offshore corporations that
administer their TLDs threaten the continuity of Nigeria's .ng and Malawi's
.mw domains. In Nigeria's case, CNUCE, the Italian firm that runs .ng, is
threatening to pull the plug on the country's domain by the end of August.
The Pisa-based company was appointed overseer of Nigeria's domain in 1995
because the country's infrastructure had not developed sufficiently to
locate its administrator in Nigeria. Now that CNUCE is refusing to continue
its administration, the Nigerian government believes a local ISP may be
capable of taking over. But unless arrangements can be made within the next
month, the .ng domain may go offline, a prospect the Nigerian government
In Malawi, the government is accusing the South African/British businessman
whom it hired to administer .mw of failing to fulfill his end of the
agreement. Moreover, government officials claim that the businessman,
Chris-Cope Morgan, has registered the national domain to his private company
and is refusing to relinquish control. Malawi has appealed to IANA for help,
but until the matter is resolved, Malawi officials claim that .mw is
inaccessible (although Morgan denies this). (source:
In either case, the potential exists for individuals, organizations, and
corporations alike to suffer losses of communication ability and income. (source: afternic.com)
* ICANN UNDER FIRE AGAIN
Depending on who you read, ICANN's plan to approve new domain names
such as .shop and .travel will enable retailers to get in on valuable
domain names, or else it's a poorly thought-out move that will make
protecting trademarks online even harder.
These promised suffixes have been delayed for three years at least, and new
registry businesses have been waiting too, hoping to steal some of the
registry pie from leaders Network Solutions and Register.com. Wired News'
Reuters story boldly proclaimed that the "dominance of the dot-coms is over"
and predicted that by the end of this year we would be surfing .tel, .shop
and .news sites. That may be a bit premature: Other reports said next year
would be soon enough to start seeing suffixes such as .shop, .travel or
.museum. (Source: Media Grok, July 17)
* AFRICAN VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY OPENS FOR BUSINESS
The African Virtual University had its inaugural meeting on July 18. There
are 25 learning centres spread across a total of 15 African countries made
up of eight Anglophone and seven Francophone. In the next three to four
years, the AVU believes it will need US$43 million US dollars to set up a
platform that would cover the whole of Africa. The AVU has plans to launch an academic channel. (Source: PanAfrican News)
* JOHNNIC AND SACON LAUNCH TRADE PORTAL
Johnnic and the SA Chamber of Business (SACOB) have entered into a partnership to form TradeWorld, an Internet portal that will provide e-commerce solutions for local and international trade.
* SOUTH AFRICA'S TELKOM WILL LOSE 15% OF BUSINESS CUSTOMERS
Despite 2.5GB data circuits for customers and 2MB point-to-multipoint wireless transmission, Telkom expects to lose 15% of the business market to its yet to be introduced competition, says Telkom CEO Sizwe Nxasana.
* LEISUREPLANET SHUTS UP SHOP IN UK
South African owned UK company Leisureplanet is closing its internet travel company after unveiling an ambitious plan to produce 30 country-specific sites this year. It said this was "a direct consequence of the changed market conditions whereby capital is no longer available" to fund web busineses selling consumer products or services "that incur losses". (source: UK Independent)
* NSF WEIGHS IN WITH INFRASTRUCTURE ASSISTANCE
America's National Science Foundation, along with several European high-tech companies, is helping African countries build internet infrastructure to give full internet access. The African Network Operators Group is training Africans to provide network support and teach others to use e-mail and the web. The organisation hopes to help implement the recent decision made at the G-8 summit to set up a Digital Opportunity Task Force to spread the use of technology in developing nations. (source: UK Sunday Times)
USEFUL WEB SITES AND DISCUSSION LISTS
Online project documents for the DFID-supported "ICTs and Small Enterprise
in Africa" research project are now available at:
They include a couple of summary papers within the IDPM Development
Informatics series, and the full interim report that analyses:
- The Role of Information in Enterprise Development
- Small Enterprise Development in Botswana
- The Information Needs of Small Enterprises in Botswana
- ICTs and Enterprise Development in Botswana
Back next week at greater length with a look at African MP3 web sites.
IN SEARCH OF THE BUSINESS MODEL
* A SWOP MARKET IN AFRICA?
The phenomenon of online swapping is relatively new. The concept has been
winning over more converts since the holiday shopping season and now appears
destined to become another popular form of e-commerce. The mechanics of
online swapping are simple: Visitors list items they want to get rid of,
along with a wish list of the stuff they want. The swap sites then try to
find a match so a trade can be arranged. The site owners make money by charging a percentage of the transaction value.
By next year, about $1 billion worth of secondhand merchandise will be
either sold or exchanged on the Web, estimated Gomez Advisors, a Lincoln,
Mass. research firm specializing in e-commerce.
"Consumers are starting to get excited about online swapping," said Mark
Gambale, a Gomez analyst. "It's like being able to have yard sale open to
the entire world."
Even if its growth meets Gomez Advisors' projections, online swapping still
will only represent a sliver of the total $180 billion market for secondhand
Swop sites in the USA:
(Source: James Beninger from the Los Angeles Times)
* WEB VIA E-MAIL
You can access any web page using the Kabissa "Web to e-mail" server. To
use it, address a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with only the web page
address (or URL - usually starting with http://) in the text of your
message. The page will then be automatically delivered to your e-mail
* ANOTHER VIRUS
I don't know if this email list is affected, but I have had a virus
infiltrate my computer from an incoming email 2 days ago, Norton and McAfree
Anti-Virus may or may not catch it.
The virus is: WScript.KakWorm or WScript.Kak.Worm
It doesn't go off until 5pm on the 1st of the month, so you have time to
correct it, if you are infected.
For example, the person who sent the email with the virus has Norton
Anti-Virus, fully updated, and the virus was unable to detect until he did a
specific scan. This virus is invisible and then attaches itself as a
signature to all emails you send, once you have it, you may be sending it
with all your emails, this is a good example of how negativity can spread,
and as well, how we deal with it. It was sent 2 days ago, I detected it
yesterday, in this time it may have spread to 10,000 computers or more.
The damage if caught is minimal, perhaps to one .dll file. This virus uses
a security loophole in Microsoft Outlook Express, which allows attachment of
a "signature" by a "scripting" software, basically, the virus tells
Microsoft Outlook Express to attach the virus as a signature to all emails.
Microsoft has a fix for this, the link is located below.
Once you get rid of the virus, you can stop the signature issue from
Microsoft Outlook Express under the Tools/Options/Signatures, there will be
a signature there (surprize!), just click REMOVE, then APPLY, then OK.
You can also remove this scripting capability from your computer altogether
if you want to go that far, under control panel/add remove programs/windows
setup/ accessories and go down to the
SCRIPTING HOST and un-check it. This will stop a scripting from taking
place, i.e., in this case a virus writes a little program on your computer.
If you are using Norton or McAfree, the virus ended up in Windows folder but
I had to do a specific scan for that folder to get it. If you don't have
Norton Anti-Virus, good idea to get it anyway. If you are using Norton,
they have specific info and fixes for this virus (it is well known):
Info on this virus:
Please everyone check your computer and if you are infected this is how you
or below (info from Symantec)
If you have Norton but have not done the Live Updates lately, but do this
and then scan your hard drive, but especially your Windows folder with a
If you do are running under an MS Windows operating system and
do not have an antivirus program, you can check out the free
InoculateIt Personal Edition from Computer Associates:
http://antivirus.cai.com/ -- it is free for personal use, is
simple to use, and has frequent updates to its virus data
files. I have it installed on both my own Windows 98 machine
and my mother-in-law's Windows 95 machine, and it works just
News Update is a free e-letter covering African internet content and infrastructure developments published by Balancing Act. The latest issue and all previous issues appear on the Kabissa.org web site (www.kabissa.org), which is a Balancing Act pilot project. For further information about Balancing Act and its pilot projects, contact Russell Southwood on email@example.com. All material is copyright but can be used if permission is sought.
Past issues have covered:
- Africa and the digital divide: three clouds don't make a rainy season
- WOZA: Building a content-rich site
18.1 Mali: internet access increases tenfold from a tiny base
- Ethiopia: Customers in a queue to get access to internet
- Why isn't Nigeria one of Africa's big internet players?
- Liberia's first fully-fledged ISP
- Speaking in Tongues? A Shona language web site
13.1 Education and ICT - What's the pay-off?
- ICANN vs .ZA - Welcome to the parallel universe
- Interviews with key Zambian ISPs
- Benin - No telephone lines, no wired society?
- South Africa - Growing pains in a highly regulated market
- The All-African portal - A new contender enters the field
- Sierre Leone's leading independent newspaper on the internet
- The state of the internet in Madagascar
4.1 The internet in four countries (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda)
You can read and download these at www.kabissa.org. If you have difficulties accessing the web, mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org.