19 May 2000

Top Story



If the internet in Africa is to become something more than a useful corporate tool, it will need to be used by far larger numbers of people than is currently the case. The computer skills that are needed to participate in the internet will be among the high value skills of the early 21st century. In this issue Cyril Dadd describes a project that has set out to address both these problems at grassroots level. Whether you sell computers, promote development or are involved in education, the success or otherwise of projects of this kind will be a vital signal as to whether the internet in Africa will become a mass medium. Watch this space.


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Since 1997, Africare and its partners have implemented the Digital Village project, an initiative aimed at making "educational, cultural, and business resources available through the 'computer technology superhighway' in an accessible, affordable and sustainable way for the development of disadvantaged communities throughout South Africa."

Digital Villages are computer education and resource centers located within disadvantaged communities intended to provide training in and access to information and communication technology (ICT). Africare works with disadvantaged communities to support the establishment and operation of viable, sustainable community technology centers for use by marginalized communities.

In March 1997, the first Digital Village site opened in the township of Chiawelo, Soweto in co-operation with Microsoft South Africa. In attendance for the opening was Bill Gates, then CEO of Microsoft. Since its inception, the Chiawelo Digital Village has served more than 2000 members. The site currently houses more than 35 personal computers, a digital camera, fax machine, printer, scanner, and video conferencing equipment for its more than 500 active members. Daily classes provide members with basic computer skills, Internet and Email, and Windows basics, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access training. The center is supplied with the latest in multimedia educational CD ROM's, including Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia, Atlas, My Personal Tutor, and Magic School Bus software.

In addition to the Chiawelo Digital Village, Africare and its partners have supported the establishment of three more centers in South Africa, including a second Soweto center, one in the Galeshewe community outside of Kimberley, and one in the Cape Flats area outside of Cape Town. Africare has been approached by numerous other communities in South Africa and beyond to assist with the establishment of Digital Villages.

Community residents become members of their Digital Village, for which they receive access to training courses and Digital Village resources. Africare works with Digital Village management to design a specific fee structure which meets the needs of its respective community, while generating adequate income to support operating costs. Digital Villages require that users pay small membership fees in an effort towards ownership and investment in the center by community members. Similarly, membership fees contribute to cover the operating costs of the Digital Village, in an effort towards self-sustainability of the center.

Through membership fees and Print Shop revenue, Africare intends that each Digital Village become a self-sustaining operation, able to pay salaries, maintenance, and running costs itself. Digital Villages have had varying degrees of success reaching sustainability. Based upon its experiences with the Digital Village project, Africare and partners are in the process of developing a more concrete business model to ensure sustainability of future centers.

During the initial stages of Digital Village formation, Africare worksclosely with community members and existing Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to ensure that the Digital Village meets the real needs of the community and that there is genuine investment in the project. Day-to-day operation of the center rests solely with the on-site Digital Village manager/trainer, a local resident hired by the Digital Village. Policy decisions lie with a management committee of local community leaders.

In an effort towards self-sustainability of the Chiawelo site, the Digital Village has opened a Business Services Center to provide desktop publishing, graphic design, faxing, copying, and printing services for the local community. Chiawelo intends that this center work in conjunction with the Digital Village, providing useful services to community members while earning money to support operating costs. Africare envisions that all Digital Villages will operate a similar business to ensure sustainability of each center.

Since the project's inception, Africare has worked closely with several private sector organizations on the Digital Village initiative. Partner companies provide not only funding for the project, but technical expertise to ensure the success of each center. Current partners include Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, DeBeers, Intel, Kodak, Compaq and ForwardZone Sports Marketing Agency. Grant funding has been provided by the Kodak Foundation, St. Paul Group of Companies, and Microsoft.

In February 2000, Africare held the first meeting of the Digital Village Working Group, a collection of organizations dedicated to the success of the Digital Village project. Participating organizations included both existing and potential partners in the project, each of whom represent a diverse background of fields, including software, hardware, networking, training, telecommunications, imaging, Internet Service Providers (ISP), and government. Whether member organizations provide advice, funding, supplies, or technical support, Africare intends that this group convene on a regular basis in an effort to keep partners abreast of Digital Village happenings, to inform partners of Digital Village project needs, and for the Group to act as a managing body on issues surrounding the project as a whole.

Regular attendees to Working Group meetings include representatives from Africare, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, DeBeers, Compaq, and ForwardZone. Africare intends that this Working Group oversee the project as it expands across South Africa.

Africare is a non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Washington, D.C. with programs in 28 African countries, and was founded in 1971 with the intention of providing development aid specifically to Africa.




Just one correction on last week's article about INET in issue 21.

"Microsoft was there indirectly. The stand for demonstrating IPv6 featured computers largely divided into two groups: Windows PCs and Macintoshes."

It is not the "stand for demonstrating IPv6 featured " that was divided into two groups, but the "Internet access room". I am sorry this was not really clear in my own text.

Perpetus Jacques Houngbo





*   CAMEROON'S BAMENDA GETS CONNECTED is a collaboration between GammInfoTech and American Ted Johnson. Gamma uses a long distance dial-up connection over Cameroon's weak telecomms infrastructure to provide e-mail to residents of Cameroon's North-West province. Clients of GamaInfoTech collect printed copies of messages or they can dial up and collect them from the server based locally. Because of the difficulty of obtaining additional phone lines in Cameroon, Gamma's clients must share the single incoming line and schedule when they will call. (source: Ted Johnson)





UUNet has bought a 5o per cent stake in Interswana and is in the process of rolling out radio-based internet connectivity to Gaberone and four other areas in Botswana. It is anxious to meet respond to demand from South African companies in Botswana who need internet connectivity.

(source: )





Ghana's telecomms regulator, the National Communications Authority has shut down ISP, InterCom Data Network for operating Voice Over IP (VOIP) technology: in other words internet telephony. It is the third ISP to be closed down for deploying the technology. The monopoly of the two fixed line operators - Ghana Telecom and Westel - ends in 2002. Ghana's Minister of Communications claimed the country had lost US$9 million from VOIP operations by ISPs.

(source: )





Chinese police have formally charged an Internet entrepreneur with

subversion for posting articles on his Web site commemorating the 1989

Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, his wife said Saturday. Under a legal deadline to release or charge Huang Qi after holding him for

more than 30 days, police in western Chengdu city called in his wife, Zeng

Li, on Friday, giving her written notice of his arrest on charges of

``inciting the overthrow of the government.'' (source: Associated Press)





A new site has been set up to encourage interest in involvement in the somewhat arcane workings of ICANN ( ) It is one of the sites trying to provide a community space for members of ICANN@large.   @large is ICANN's nod in the direction of democracy. However the official site ( ) does not have a lot of content.

This kind of space is important for discussion between @large members, so

that some genuinely representative candidates are elected to the ICANN board

later this year It is trying to link up with other similar sites in other regions of the world and if you are interested send your details to and we will forward them to the group running the site.





Telekom has entered into an agreement with the Lesotho Telecommunications Corporation to supply R2.5 million worth of digital equipment. The equipment is a response to the increased demand for high-speed leased circuits for communications between the two countries. It will also offer capacity for internet development.

(source: africamomms





Microsoft has announced that its flagship product Microsoft Office will be

available in Welsh. For those unfamiliar with it, Welsh is a Celtic language

spoken as a first language by around 600,000 people in Wales, part of the

United Kingdom. Although it is a developed country, Wales is far from being

the wealthiest region of the European Union, so this decision by Microsoft

suggests that a language does not have to represent a major new market for

IT companies to consider using it. So not long now before there's a swahili

version then... (source: Cameron Smith)









Predictably most sites offering MP3 downloads of African music are based in

South Africa or outside the continent. But here's a not-definitive listing

to whet your appetite for more...How do you overcome download times and

bandwidth problems?...Who said life was going to be easy?


Sunset Radio offers artists who include: OOM, Ingrid Beute, Felema,

Amaronyi, Acoustic Kitchen, Cauterized Sannatta, Onbula and Babado.


The regions section of has new songs and a daily top 40 of African

music. It also has songs from Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya,

Madagascar, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.


South Africa's Digital Cupboard features Michelle Breeze's Fetish, Wendy

Oldfield's Ruby, Tami Svorinic's Naked Natures and Ma Humble. It also offers

a music e-zine called Amazine. (


Welcome to Oriental Tunes might sound as if you've arrived on the wrong

continent but it includes music from North Africa including Algeria and



Dantemutande does not offer MP3 but if you're interested in Zimbabwean music

it's one of the best sites around. It includes a good catalogue of

Zimbabwean music, a listing of instrument makers and resellers, a calender

of events and an e-mail list. It also has a link to the Zimbabwean Music

Festival 2000 that takes place in Eugene, Oregon, USA between 18-20 August.


*   The web page of South Africa's National Research Foundation contains a

useful overview of the current range of research being carried out in the

ICT area. Its focus areas include: ICT and the Information Society in South

Africa, indigenous knowledge systems and education for the Knowledge Era.







In the article that follows, Mark Mathabane explores his reasons for publishing his own books and how it has enabled him to control how his literary output was treated.


Those who are chortling over the fact that Stephen King's novella, The

Plant, isn't a blockbuster on the Internet miss the point. King's aim is not

to produce a blockbuster or to replace publishers and booksellers, but to

prove that authors have an alternative way of selling their books. And the

116,200 customers who in one week paid $1 after downloading the first

chapter of The Plant prove that they do.


For too long, those of us who are authors have placed our literary fate with

publishers and booksellers. In return, we contended with demoralizing

rejection slips and with seeing our books have the shelf life of fruit

flies. Except for the lucky few who pen mega-best sellers or receive

advances they can live on, most writers remain marginalized. Those who see

their works in print pray that their books receive decent promotion and find

space on store shelves brimming with the latest meretricious tell-all.


Midlist writers suffer terribly, creatively and financially, and literary

and beginning writers even more. Few get published, and those who are

constantly complain of their literary children starving to death from lack

of publicity and promotion.


I can attest to that painful experience. Writing two bestsellers -- Kaffir

Boy and Kaffir Boy in America -- didn't protect me from the vagaries of the

publishing and book-selling world. Of the five books I've published through

traditional publishers, only two, Kaffir Boy and Miriam's Song, remain

officially in print. Publishers stopped printing the others after they

deemed them unprofitable, despite scores of e-mails and letters from

potential book-buyers saying they'd heard of the books from their friends

and asking where they could find them.


After learning the bitter truth -- that books that sell steadily but not in

high numbers often are dropped -- I had an epiphany. Why not use the

Internet to keep my books alive and begin reaping the lion's share for my

creativity and labor?


So I've reissued all of my out-of-print books and now sell them via the Net.

Not only that, but when traditional publishers rejected Ubuntu, my first

work of fiction, primarily because they concluded that few would read a

serious thriller from a writer known for his non-fiction, I decided to

publish it myself. Why? First, I believed in the story. Second, I was

convinced plenty of readers would be interested in reading a dramatic and

suspenseful story about the tensions among truth, reconciliation and justice

in South Africa.


I've already made a handsome profit from selling Ubuntu via the Net. What's

more, several independent bookstores now carry the book. My unorthodox way

of publishing and selling books via the Net proved so interesting that CNN

recently profiled me on its Movers program. After the show aired, I received

dozens of calls and e-mails from writers and would-be writers congratulating

me for taking control of my writing career and asking how they could do the



The answer is simple. You don't have to be a Stephen King to benefit from

the Net. All you need is a Web site. I designed my own from reading how-to

manuals and studying other Web sites.


Sure, there are risks involved. But they are risks writers can live with,

compared to the risks of rejection slips and the odds of getting one's book

well promoted and well displayed in bookstores.


You can provide extra services via the Net to make book buyers happy. You

can offer to autograph and write personalized messages for each book. You

can answer questions readers have. You can offer sample chapters, or provide

links to interesting sites. You can even serialize your book first to gauge

the level of interest before investing in printing hard copies. I'm doing

this with my second book of fiction, The Last Liberal. So far, the response

has been so positive that I plan to issue a printed version of the book in



Writers can no longer afford to be indifferent to the Net and how it can

help them strive for financial and artistic independence. As Stephen King

said, ''I love my editors, and I like my publisher. I also like books''--

but I'm no longer willing to remain a spectator of my own marginalization as

a writer.



Mark Mathabane's other books are Love in Black and White and African

Women: Three Generations.


(source: USA Today)








Access, making big strides recently, has licensed its micro-MORE proprietary

realtime operating system (RTOS) and Compact Netfront browser, to Intel.

RTOS is a variant of micro-TRON and is regarded as a leading contender for

the OS on future-generation cell phones. The OS will be embedded on Intel's

StrongARM microprocessor. The browser supports Compact HTML and is suited

for use on mobile devices. (Source: JIN extract from Nikkan Kogyo, July 17,





Sony has prototyped the world's smallest digital still camera, weighing only

26g. The device uses a 330,000-pixel LCD and comes with a removable 64Mbyte

Memory Stick with a 1,000-photo capacity. (Source: JIN extract from Dempa,

July 27, 2000)




The Web Developer's Journal is a useful on-line/free source for Web


Definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it yet. (source: TAD newsletter)




Of the estimated 30 million e-mail messages sent each day, approximately 30

per cent (according to AOL) are unsolicited commercial missives commonly

known as "spam". Similar to junk mail, spam is defined as when one message,

containing commercial content, is posted to more than 20 newsgroups or more

than 20 e-mail addresses.


Spamming can seriously interfere with public services, to say nothing of the

effect it may have on an individual's e-mail system. Unlike junk mail, which

is sent at the expense of the sender, and can be thrown away as soon as it

is received, spam is sent at the convenience of the sender and the expense

of the recipient. This is because sending the spam is free, but every person

on the receiving end is paying - both in time and money paid to their

Internet provider by the minute or for the phone time.


While the cost to one recipient might be small, the aggregate cost can be

considerable. For example, spamming can dent company profits by tying up

resources intended for business purposes and impact employee productivity

because of time spent sorting and opening the e-mails.


Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are also negatively affected by spam

because relaying the messages ties up bandwidth. This has the result of

slowing down Internet access speeds for paying customers.


Clearly spam is an issue that deserves to be taken seriously by the entire

Internet community. Because of this, M-Web and other reputable ISPs take a

strong stand against members who send bulk unsolicited commercial or other

bulk e-mail.


For example, most ISPs require that mailing lists maintained by their users

have the full permission and approval of all the addressees. Further, lists

containing undeliverable addresses or unwilling recipients, must provide a

mechanism that ensures those addresses can be removed.


Just as in real life, you wouldn't give your telephone number to a stranger,

in the virtual world your e-mail address is your telephone number so use

your common sense when it comes to avoiding spam:


* Keep your e-mail address private. Only give it to friends and business



* Set up filters through smart "Anti-spam" programmes that you can

download from the Internet, for example "SpamKiller at a glance"

( These programmes view your messages and employ

a combination of filters to sort your mail for you. Messages deemed 'safe'

are sent to your mailbox and spam is sent to the bin


* Never fight spam with spam. Spammers hide their identities by relaying their messages off the mail servers of innocent third parties. When you spam back, the innocent party gets punished - not the spammer


In the long run the best way to deal with spam is to forward it to your ISP

and to alert them to the problem. Then delete it and get on with your work

and life.


(This article was supplied by M-Web. It is South Africa's leading online service provider and the first to list on the JSE in August 1999 (previously trading as a linked unit with MIH Ltd). The company focuses on delivering the most compelling Internet experience in SA - regardless of transmission path or viewing device. M-Web delivers e-commerce solutions through its Business Solutions division and is pioneering emerging technologies through WAP and its broadband initiative with a unique content proposition, Siyanda Broadband Satellite Communications. M-Web has invested in leading-edge network and service infrastructure to ensure it provides subscribers with fast and reliable connectivity. Headquartered in Cape Town, M-Web has operations in Johannesburg and Durban and total staff of over 900. M-Web also owns Computicket and manages the Internet Africa and Netactive subscriber base.








Graca Machel, wife of former president Nelson Mandela, will attend the African Computing and Telecommunications (ACT) 2000 Summit at Sun City on 1 September to confer with trustees of the African IT Education Trust.

( )



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 web site (, which is a Balancing Act pilot project. For further information about Balancing Act and its pilot projects, contact Russell Southwood on All material is copyright but can be used if permission is sought.





Past issues have covered:


  1. Spectator at the feast - An African at INET


  1. Africa and the digital divide: three clouds don't make a rainy season


  1. WOZA: Building a content-rich site


18.1   Mali: internet access increases tenfold from a tiny base


  1. Ethiopia: Customers in a queue to get access to internet


  1. Why isn't Nigeria one of Africa's big internet players?


  1. Liberia's first fully-fledged ISP


  1. Speaking in Tongues? A Shona language web site


13.1   Education and ICT - What's the pay-off?


  1. ICANN vs .ZA - Welcome to the parallel universe


  1. Interviews with key Zambian ISPs


  1. Benin - No telephone lines, no wired society?


  1. South Africa - Growing pains in a highly regulated market


  1. The All-African portal - A new contender enters the field


  1. Sierre Leone's leading independent newspaper on the internet


  1. Liberia


  1. 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 If you have difficulties accessing the web, mail us on






This is News Update's free small ads section for its readers. In the first instance, ads will be restricted to 50 words. Jobs, work, web sites, organisations all welcome. Please send them to Russell Southwood, News Update (


LearnEnglish Website


The LearnEnglish website is a FREE site to help young people around the

world improve their English language skills. Backed by the solid reputation

of the British Council in English language teaching, the site features

interactive games and quizzes, stories and poems, songs and lyrics, virtual

postcards and useful links.




Knowledge incubates in Human Mind and when applied innovatively becomes a

factor of growth and development. KnowNet Initiative aims to popularise

knowledge networking in developing countries for overall human development

through the amalgamation of Information and Communication Technology and

Remote Volunteering. It aims to create a team of ICT- volunteers to train

one person in each rural village to open up a two-way communication channel

for managing local information and knowledge for the benefit of the local





You are invited to visit.

Online Africa News Publication