AFRICA'S DIGITAL RIGHTS: A MINEFIELD OF ISSUES

26 May 2000

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NEWS UPDATE 23 - AFRICA'S DIGITAL RIGHTS: A MINEFIELD OF ISSUES

The internet has generated a large number of moral and legal issues that affect everyone who uses it, whether they're an individual user or an organisation. Because the internet in Africa has developed more slowly than elsewhere, most of these issues are only just becoming apparent. Indeed many of the examples given in the article come from outside Africa. Don't be misled into thinking it won't affect you. This is your early warning wake-upcall. Ignore these issues at your peril. Bretton Vine picks his way through part of the minefield.

If our correspondent is "off the mark" or you have factual amendments, mail them to us and we will include them in subsequent News Updates. If you'd like to contribute, write and let us know.

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NEWS UPDATE 23 - AFRICA'S DIGITAL RIGHTS: A MINEFIELD OF ISSUES

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* WHAT ARE DIGITAL RIGHTS?

Digital rights cover:

- Freedom of expression on the Internet

- Freedom of access to information on the Internet

- Freedom of communication (which may range from the freedom to communicate

with anyone, to freedom from eavesdropping, to freedom from eavesdropping

without a legal warrant etc)

- Freedom to encrypt

- The liability of content providers or data carriers

- Commercial trade issues

 

In countries like the USA there are both efforts to censor the net (i.e.

prevent individuals from accessing certain types of information) and efforts to protect it (i.e. a US citizen has the constitutional right to freedom of expression) whereas in other countries censorship is the norm, and efforts to challenge it are met with prosecution and even death. This is the case in some Eastern European and African countries.

The whole topic is too vast to cover properly in a single article, but I would like to concentrate on a particular aspect if the whole 'digital rights' debate: censorship.

* WHAT IS CENSORSHIP?

There are a multitude of ways that censorship can operate but those most relevant to the internet include:

* RESTRICTING THE RIGHT OF AN INDIVIDUAL TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES (FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION)

Freedom of expression is not an absolute right. Restrictions exist that cover things that are untrue or false (libels) or cause undue harm. But as a principle freedom of expression is a vital component of the framework within which the internet operates. Where the boundary is drawn between what can and cannot be said is the subject of constant, heated debate.

An oppressive government may wish to quell the expression of contradictory or critical political views, the news of human rights violations or the opinions of minorities. Actual examples of such restriction can be found (primarily in press censorship) but this will spill over on to the Internet.

Within South Africa though we now have constitutional protection over the right to freedom of expression. However this has already been challenged in an online context by the British company Biwater plc, which attempted to get information hosted online by GreenNet (UK ISP) and Sangonet (ZA ISP), both non-profit ISPs, removed from their servers. [http://www.igc.org/igc/labornet/statement.html ]

*   RESTRICTION OF ACCESS TO INFORMATION

This is when efforts are made to prevent people of groups to gain access to various sorts of information. Again this is an area in which the issue is not always clear cut.

For cultural, or religious reasons, access to sexually explicit material may be restricted. In some cases like child pornography this may be related to protecting vulnerable individuals, whereas in others (i.e. sexual preference) it may be related to social or religious issues.

One can also argue that it makes sense to restrict access to information of about things like making bombs. Even a country like Britain is vulnerable to disturbed individuals or criminals who have learnt bomb-making on the internet. On the other hand anarchists and US hard-line civil libertarians argue that the availability of this information allows individuals to fight government oppression. Discuss.

Then there may be efforts to restrict access to drug related information, whether for recreational or medical purposes. It is assumed that if people don't know about particular drugs that they won't use them. Recently Dutch drug dealers have begun to offer marijuana via the internet. Drug dependency agencies argue with some conviction that unless you know the dangers of what you're taking, many will take them in ignorance and suffer from badly from their side-effects. For them, access to this information is a life and death issue: for example, those taking ecstacy need to know that it will dehydrate them and without this knowledge they will die. Do you restrict that kind of information? There is also a restriction on medical information which may exist in order to protect commercial interests, not save lives.

Then there is the issue of racist speech or hate speech. There are efforts not only to restrict the expression of such ideas, but also access to such information repositories. One doesn't want to condone or allow hate speech to thrive online, but at the same time censoring it creates a dangerous precedent under which just about any information can be censored. And it may simply force this kind of information underground...

There is also restriction of access to various religious information, especially of a differing nature to that of the prevailing religion within an African country, whether islam or christianity.

Some countries like China have attempted to build "filter-walls" around their country so that their citizens cannot get access to troublesome

information from overseas. Indeed it can be argued that surveillance of e-mail and internet habits in a country like this makes its users

"self-censor" what they communicate.

* RESTRICTION OF THE RIGHT TO COMMUNICATE

Often the very mechanisms used to transfer information are also used for communication. The Internet is a very good example of this. The Internet is not just a vast library of information, it's also a method of communication.

Email is still the largest used element of the Internet and in some cases it's all some African countries have access to.

However some countries actively wish to censor this ability to communicate.

They fear the idea of their citizens having access to the means to communicate. They choose to believe that various negative elements in their society would choose the Internet as a communication medium. (i.e. drug traffickers liasing over delivery methods or schedules; anti-government rebels discussing strategy). Free communication is seen as very dangerous by repressive governments.

In other countries this control over communication will be expressed less obviously through laws or easvesdropping technology. In South Africa the SA Law Commission recently released a discussion paper on electronic monitoring and communication issues, and advocated changes to allow 'online' wiretapping purposes amongst other things.

But regardless of the reasons, one of the greatest evils is either purposefully or inadvertently preventing people from communicating with each other through the lack of infrastructure (i.e. telephones or PC access points). Even in a country with liberal laws, and open standards like South Africa, the lack of telephones; high call charges; and economic monopolies, censorship is occurring through lack of access to suitable communication mechanisms.

Someone out in a rural area may be silenced only because nobody can hear them speak. Even people in urban areas can be silenced due to exorbitant call charges. Not only do African governments and the telecommunications monopolies they create restrict access to telecommunications infrastructure, but they also make it a privilege to communicate, a privilege accessible only to the rich. The closure of several ISPs for offering internet telephony by Ghana's National Communications Agency is a class example. A state sponsored duoploly is being protected at the expense of the citizen's right to communicate. In another African country a new ISP experienced extraordinary problems licensing because the government was hostile to greater levels of competition.

 

* FREEDOM FROM EAVESDROPPING ON COMMUNICATIONS

 

In some countries you may be allowed to freely communicate and freely access information, but the state or police force may be looking over your shoulder. There may be people listening in on your phone calls, reading your email, or tracking your web usage habits. The recent legal changes in Zimbabwe allowed the government to monitor all e-mail traffic. With a backdrop of intense political struggle (often spilling into violence), it is hardly surprising that such a blanket provision is challenged.

Differences in legal requirements will affect the capacity of different African countries to attract and keep digital businesses. European ISP Claranet moved out some of its operation out of the UK to avoid UK surveillance law requirements. A number of ISPs in Latin America host in the USA partly because they are less under threat from censorship issues. One Arab newspaper stores its page proofs on a server outside its boundaries.

While not a specific form of censorship, such action usually leads to some form of control along the line, and control often leads to censorship of information or communication. An important digital right is the right to communicate, but not just that, the right to communicate free from observation or interference! In one African the main communication link for e-mail and the internet is owned by a relative of someone in Government. Not a situation that leaves you feeling comfortable if you choose to oppose the Government...

Of course such monitoring is not always done within the country itself - people from other countries in a private or intelligence capacity could also be looking at your data. For example, the UK's GCHQ facility and the USA's National Security Agency (NSA) carry out extensive eavesdropping on all forms of international communications, particularly business-related traffic.

The system used by the NSA to intercept and process international communications passing via communications satellites is called Echelon. It is one part of a global surveillance system that is now over 50 years old. Other parts of the same system intercept messages from the Internet, from undersea cables, from radio transmissions, from secret equipment installed inside embassies, or use orbiting satellites to monitor signals anywhere on the earth's surface. The system includes stations run by Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to those operated by the United States. Although some Australian and British stations do the same job as America's Echelon sites, they are not necessarily called "Echelon" stations.

But they all form part of the same integrated global network using the same equipment and methods to extract information and intelligence illicitly from millions of messages every day, all over the world...

* RIGHT OF ENCRYPTION

In an open environment like the Internet where a lot of information flow is in plain text it is relatively easy to eavesdrop on a communication stream.

In some cases people may wish to communicate securely with each other and this means the use of encryption. However, some governments feel that encryption is wrong, or that should encryption be allowed, there must be some manner for law enforcement to decrypt it for legal reasons. The threat of key-escrow however is that it would be abused by those in power, or by it's nature, susceptible to decryption by other organisations.

 

An interesting thing to note (which will be covered again in this article) is that voice traffic over ip networks is illegal in South Africa. However it is not easy to differentiate between voice traffic and data traffic on a networked system. Should such a means of determining the difference become available, then encryption would be the way to go as the voice traffic would just be seen as meaningless data traffic - unless of course encryption itself were restricted.

* LIABILITY OF DATA CARRIERS AND CONTENT PROVIDERS

Legal restrictions on content create difficult issues of liability. What is the responsibility of the ISP that hosts data that is deemed illegal, or what of the data carrier that allows such data to be transported? Several court cases in Europe (in Britain and Germany) have laid the liability with the host ISP. Governments can force ISPs to answer questions about their users because they control the licensing of their operations. In Australia the government asked fairly detailed questions about MB transferred per month, number of subscribers, revenues from subscribers. Particularly sensitive questions as the Australian government still owns part of an ISP via the state telco. Also on an individual level it does not take much imagination to see a repressive government leaning on ISPs for details of users.

In another case in the UK a company was held responsible for libelous material circulated by e-mail by some of its employees. As a result there are already companies that monitor their own traffic, from big corporations who monitor employee email and browsing habits (in the interests of the corporation) to ISPs that prevent email with keywords from being transmitted. To what extent should an ISP monitor its traffic? To what extent should a company be allowed to snoop on those who work for it?

Others companies consciously restrict access to e-mail and the internet.

However, the more you restrict communication, the less quickly a company can learn or innovate.

If you run a company and you're doing certain things to increase profitability you wouldn't want key information to be leaked to competitors who might either profit from your move or in the case of government, seek to prevent you from making them. One recent example is the Apple Computer Company which is suing a (as yet unnamed) group of people for leaking new product details ahead of the formal announcement on an unofficial Apple web site. Some companies act against such leaks by monitoring or recording all communication in or out of their systems. This can range from phone calls to faxes, to emails even.

There is software which will monitor employee email and watch for certain keywords and upon finding evidence of something either prevent the email from being transmitted, or notify a member of management or both.

The ethical and legal issues here gets very murky, as on one side employees are using corporate infrastructure for possibly non-job related communication, and on the other individuals who have a right to private communication which is being infringed.

Censorship through via various means and whether intentional or not, is alive and well within Africa. If we are seeking to grow as a country or continent we must foster an environment without censorship, and without fear of a differing opinion. Tolerance is a virtue, and offers much to the communities that believe in it.

The technology exists to enable every African to communicate cheaply but the challenge is to ensure that governments allow access to free communication.

It doesn't make sense to make the Internet available to everyone if all they're going to do is to create one-way, push channels or the internet equivalent of TV soaps. Efforts to increase points of presence for both computers and telephones should be based on increasing two-way, interactive communication between individuals, towns, cities and countries. Two-way communication is essential to make the effort worthwhile. Fighting censorship is about making it possible for all voices to be heard, instead of just a few tailored information streams.

*   HOW CAN WE PROTECT DIGITAL RIGHTS IN AFRICA?

In the USA the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working in the public interest to protect fundamental civil liberties, including privacy and freedom of expression, in the arena of computers and the Internet. EFF was founded in 1990, and is based in San Francisco, California, with offices in Washington, DC, and New York City. http://www.eff.org/abouteff.html

*   AN AFRICAN ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION?

There is a need for a similar body in Africa. Certain African countries are making efforts to pass legislation aimed at dealing with internet and telecommunication issues. Some of the proposed laws could be problematic in terms of protecting freedom of expression, digital privacy/anonymity, intellectual property, freedom of digital association and so on. At the moment there is no continent-wide body or grouping with suitable resources to look into such things from a consumer/individual perspective. If you feel there is a need for such a body or would like to make a suggestion as to why such a body should or should not exist please email bretton@deepsouth.co.za with your comments. I'd like to try and set something up as soon as possible, especially since there are changes being made in South Africa which may impact negatively on both service providers and consumers.

(Our thanks to Tony McKinkley for the information on Echelon.)

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LETTERS

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*   DIGITAL DIVIDE DEBATE - NOT SO SIMPLE?

 

I was excited to read the letter from Thomas Poe in News Update 21 about a viable model (to close the digital divide) and went straight to the web site he referred to. There I had to stop being excited, whilst commending this very worthy initiaitive. I wonder (based on the communities I work with in rural Africa) how on earth people organise themselves to benefit from this initiative. It is very complex and perhaps the writer would like to suggest some practical steps as to how one gathers pledges from every village and community and how to sell marketing rights to corporates. Where does a community based organisation make its first intervention to kick off the process? I also disagree that if you put a computer in a village someone will work out how to use it. I can take you to dozens of sites that can disapprove this.

 

Jo Rhodes

Doctoral Associate

Department of Information Systems. Faculty of Commerce.

Centre for Information Technology and National Development in South Africa University of Capetown

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SNIPPETS

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*   CHILD PORN CONTROVERY IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE country¹s largest providers of Internet services to home dial-up subscribers, M-Web, World Online and SAIX, are carrying links to child pornography websites on their servers. The links are part of the Usenet service, an Internet-wide system of virtual bulletin boards on which subscribers can place and respond to messages. Users access Usenet on their

own Internet Service Provider¹s (ISP) servers, which in turn ³mirror² and update Usenet content on thousands of servers around the world. There are around 23 000 Usenet newsgroups, and their names do not always clearly reflect their contents, which makes it impossible for ISPs to eliminate completely the possibility of such pornography sneaking through. However, service providers can choose which newsgroups they carry and which they don¹t. This gives them more control over newsgroups than they have over where users choose to venture on the Web, and what they send and receive through e-mail. Constant maintenance would be required, however, because new newsgroups can be accepted automatically. M-Web carries at least 12 newsgroups clearly marked as being devoted to paedophilia. There are eight on World Online¹s Icon servers. World Online, however, protest that their

Usenet service is fed to them by SAIX, the Telkom ISP. SAIX¹s comment is that ³the choice of which information a subscriber accesses on the Internet is a personal one². It said it will remove such content only on receiving complaints. The Internet Solution (IS), which serves corporate clients, said it only removes these newsgroups if the images in them are taking up too much space on their servers. ³It¹s unfortunate, but we can¹t play a censorship role for legal reasons,² said Heather Stuart of IS. But finding the relevant newsgroups is not difficult. In half an hour¹s surfing, theMail & Guardian discovered an M-Web newsgroup link going straight to a Web page carrying images of obviously pre-pubescent girls, nude and posing provocatively. This and similar links appeared amid references to ³very, very young boys², ³schoolboys play with each other² and ³little boys get fucked². Among these references were links to pictures of boys with erections. The boys appeared to be between between 12 and 17 years old. In response, M-Web points to its training of detectives from the Western Cape Child Protection Unit. It also says it blocks every night all known newsgroups carrying child porn and is involved in discussions over legislation or procedures that will balance the rights of all concerned. ³We also endeavour to equip our members with the right tools to filter out [offensive] material.² Last week, a representative of the Internet Service Providers¹ Association (ISPA), said most South African ISPs have chosen to remove newsgroups carrying ³obviously damaging content². This reflects a policy of actively cooperating with police and the Film and Publications Board. In 1998, especially, SAIX and others removed certain newsgroups.

Laura Pollecutt of the Freedom of Expression Institute believes it should not be the responsibility of ISPs to filter content in any way. ³I think that could be problematic,² she said, when asked whether ISPs should remove newsgroups marked as carrying paedophilic material. ³One would have to approach it with caution, and try to see how one can do that without interfering with freedom of expression.² M-Web is a 65% shareholder in the Daily Mail & Guardian, the independent company that runs the Mail & Guardian

website http://www.mg.co.za/mg/za/news.html

*   JO'BURG MET COUNCIL GOES E-GOVERNMENT

Oracle SA and Tolken Technologies have been contracted by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council to develop a spatially-enabled database system capable of providing information on properties, buildings and municipal resources.

[http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/business/2000/0008110856.asp]

*   WOMEN OUTNUMBER MEN ONLINE IN USA

The number of women on the Web has surpassed the number of men, and the dramatic growth is being fueled by teens and seniors. "Women are not a minority online; they're not a niche," says analyst Anya Sacharow, co-author of the Media Metrix/Jupiter Communications study. The report, out Wednesday, is based on Media Metrix's sample of more than 55,000 Net users in U.S. homes and businesses. In the first three months of this year, women edged out men 50.4% to 49.6%. Girls ages 12 to 17 increased their presence 126% in the past year--five times faster than the growth in overall Web population.

The number of women older than 55 on the Net increased 110%. Web population overall grew 22%; Media Metrix counts 75.7 million Web users in the USA.

What do we know about women on the web in Africa? 0? (source: Elizabeth Weise, USA Today, 9/8/00)

*   CRIMESTOP FINDS EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING

 

South Africa's Notebook Company says its www.crimestop.co.za

<http://www.crimestop.co.za> initiative has grown by 800 subscribers thanks

to Crimestop's regular e-mails to subscribers informing them of stolen goods

and bad cheques.

[http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/internet/2000/0008110837.asp]

*   HACKERS ATTACK AFRICAN WEB SITES

Gone are the days when African ISPs and the Internet community could be complacent about security threats generated from the continent. Reports from across Africa speak of increasing attacks and computer system break-ins affecting important Web Sites. Before the recent spate of attacks, African hackers were not yet on the world map of underground activity, because of which webmasters could be less cautious while their counterparts elsewhere worked to deal with security issues. The level of sophistication of the recent attacks in Africa, cannot be overlooked, experts say, because the hackers have accessed some high-security sites and defaced them. The hacker "ActOr" has allegedly been responsible for some of the attacks, including placing photographs of copulating hyenas on the Web sites of the South African Police Service. Such hacking incidents are likely to escalate, according to observers in Africa. In the past, webmasters, companies that do business on the Internet, and users took attacks lightly and did not publicize them, but such silence can no longer be afforded, according to Clifford Mongwe, a Microsoft certified systems developer and IT lecturer based in Johannesburg. The number of break-ins multiplied in the eastern and southern regions of Africa, with a few minor cases also reported in the north and west, leading to a general outcry of "down with the hackers," he said. Four of Kenya's ISPs have experienced severe security breaches in recent weeks, and in South Africa, high profile Web sites like that of the National Police Service have been attacked. Most of the hackers are in their mid-teens or early twenties, Justin Stanford, a South African Internet security consultant has said.

(source: International Data Group)

 

 

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USEFUL WEB SITES AND DISCUSSION LISTS

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*   SPECIAL FEATURE ON PROMOTING HEALTH USING THE WEB

 

*"Equity Gauge" - A Tool for Monitoring Equity in Health and Health Care,

South Africa - By Antoinette Ntuli is "... a national project to help South

Africans know if their health is improving and measure progress toward

equity in health care provision. It is a partnership between South African

Legislators and the Health Systems Trust to support the transformation of

the health system."

http://www.comminit.com/downloads/word_docs/who/Equity_Gauge21.doc

 

Democracy And Health: Nigeria Case Study by Susan Krenn, Stella Babalola,

Rebecca Holmes, Bola Kusemiju"Promoting shows how the active involvement of

women in public decision-making processes helps to ensure that practical

gender interests are adequately addressed through appropriate policies and

programs [including] reproductive and child health, literacy, access to

clean water and sanitation, food supplies and prices, increased

opportunities for income generation, early marriage, rights to inheritance

and property, access to quality health services..."

http://www.comminit.com/downloads/word_docs/who/Nigeria41.doc

 

If you want to read the documents from the Fifth Global Conference on Health

Promotion, the draft Technical Reports are available on:

http://www.who.int/hpr/conference/products/reports/index.html

 

An unusual library in Mumbai offers help to those wanting information on

medical issues. Those unable to come can rely on something quaintly

acronymed MISS-HELP (Medical Information Search Service for HELP). In

keeping with the cyberage, HELP's Internet link even provides info on

the latest medical research from all over the globe.

 

HELP (the Health Education Library for People), located in the Indian city

of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is the largest medical- consumer library in the

world, says UNESCO. Each day, it draws both general and specialised

visitors."We have access to information on every health and medical topic

under the sun, explained in terms that the layperson can understand," says

Dr Malpani.

 

In keeping with the cyberage, HELP's Internet link even provides info on

the latest medical research from all over the globe. HELP has become a

prototype of the modern digital library too. Its web site

<http://www.healthlibrary.com> has many full-text health books and

magazines. So visitors can browse them for free.

 

Each month the site receives some 60,000 visitors (500,000 hits), says

HELP. "This lets us extend our outreach services by providing consumer

health information to Internet users from all over the world," adds Dr

Malpani proudly.

 

This initiative was launched by Drs. Aniruddha and Anjali Malpani,

famous fertility specialists. They found that patients abroad were

well-aware of medical issues, as against ignorance reigning here. Its

visitors currently include a lot of lay people, journalists,

researchers, medical students and interns, housewives, senior citizens

and even some very reputed doctors.

 

Many queries come in via email too, says Dr Hufrisha Suraliwala, a

dentist and the medical information manager. It is run by a non-profit

trust. Currently, it has 50 CDroms, 500 video cassettes, 7000 books and

pamphlets, kits, newsletters and journals. All is free of medical-jargon

and is focussed at the consumer.

( http://www.healthlibrary.com)

 

(source: Fred Norhona in Drum Beat)

 

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IN SEARCH OF THE BUSINESS MODEL

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*   NIGERIA: E-BUREAUX TO WIPE OUT STREET BUSINESSES?

 

The informal tyre trade in Nigeria may seem an unusual birthplace for an

African e-commerce revolution. On every street corner, every highway, the

country seethes with small-scale dealers hawking ropy- looking car parts,

living off fraught motorists whose dilapidated vehicles struggle to stave

off inevitable collapse with regular road-side fixes. High-technology

solutions seem a universe away.

 

But, according to Seni Williams, one of Lagos' most dynamic internet

entrepreneurs, it is precisely this low-end commercial fervour that will

transform Nigeria from a techno-backwater into a nation of

cyber-boutiques.

 

"The whole concept of electronic trading plays straight down the line with

the Nigerian trading mentality," says Mr Williams, growing expansive with

his dreams of West Africa's imminent e-take-off. "The thing is to get them

to understand. The minute Nigerians lock on to it, you'll see a massive

array of things for sale.

 

"No longer will they be locked into buying imports from local sources; they

will be able to go direct. We see little e-mail bureaux becoming the

substitute for low-end business on the street."

 

Many might raise a few eyebrows at such optimism. In a country where fewer

than one in two people have access to electricity, telephone lines are

erratic and difficult to obtain, and the cost of a computer is several times

annual income, the concept of an imminent web explosion seems far-fetched.

 

At present, a population of 110m has only 20,000 locally hosted e-mail

accounts, and 40,000 with overseas servers. Only 50,000 people actively surf

the internet, and Nigeria hosts a mere 250 web sites.

 

Similar doubts were expressed during the early days of mobile telephony in

Africa, which has defied critics by its rapid expansion. Mr Williams, who

already runs an ISP, is ready to bet money on his predictions.

 

Over the next few weeks, he will launch the country's first cyber-shopping

site, which will allow customers to buy wine from all over the world. Within

eight days of payment in local currency, purchases will be shipped from a

tax-free state in the eastern US and delivered by United Parcel Services. He

also has plans to offer theatre tickets, books and music.

 

Neither is he the only businessman looking to lead the inevitable arrival of

electronic trading. Louis Edozien, who used to run the IT department of a

large bank, is launching a new electronic cash card which he says will make

it possible for Nigerians to make direct purchases over the web.

 

"I share Seni's view that e-commerce would solve a lot of problems here," he

explains. "The fact that we are so behind could even be an advantage, as we

have the chance to start afresh."In a country where the smallest transaction

requires huge bundles of grubby cash, and international credit or debit

cards are reserved for a small elite, a paperless trading tool could be a

distinct advantage.

 

His company will be using technology based on Belgium's Proton card, which

allows direct loading off and on to the web through a Dollars 60 machine. Mr

Edozien's first step has been to target established communities, such as

social clubs, video shops or distributor networks.

 

Eventually he hopes the various arms will link together, and - with signs

that Visa may endorse the product - take off into the wider market place.

With further agreements, the card could eventually allow customers to

purchase from e-commerce sites abroad.

 

Such projects are worth watching. Analysts calculate that Nigeria has a

potential 10m internet users, and a possible 500,000 local web sites.

Experience abroad has shown the switchover can be remarkably quick.

 

"The bottom line is that there is a lot of value being passed over," says Mr

Williams.

 

(source: Mark Turner, Financial Times)

 

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DIGITAL TOOLBOX

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*   SYMANTEC LAUNCHES AFRICA WEB SITE

 

Symantec has announced a customised Web site for the Middle East and Africa

region which carries region-specific information to address the needs of

clients in the region. [7 August 2000]

[http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/internet/2000/0008070830.asp]

 

*   OPEN SOURCE OPERATING SYSTEMS

 

The worldwide open source movement will receive a boost with

Indian IT industry veteran Dr. Arvind Shah making an equity investment in

FreeOS.com, a leading Web site providing information and resources on all

free Operating Systems, like Linux. Free Operating Systems are the result of

code developed and updated by thousands of programmers around the world on a

voluntary basis. FreeOS.com aims to bring these free operating systems, some

unknown of, to the people by providing news, information, software and

resource links etc. Their focus also lies in professional services such as

consultancy, support and software development for free operating systems.

Founded in 1998, FreeOS.com caters to individuals interested in free

operating systems (like Linux, FreeBSD etc). They are a leading provider of

news, information, resource links, software etc. relating to free operating

systems. FreeOS.com (I) Pvt. Ltd., maintains the web site and specializes in

providing customized solutions, consulting, training and distribution in

free operating systems such as Linux. Contacts: Prakash Advani, CEO

prakash@freeos.com

http://www.freeos.com

(source: Bytes for All)

 

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EVENTS

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*   African IT Exhibitions and Conferences (AITEC) is gearing up for the

second Mombasa computer, communications and office equipment exhibition to

take place from 12 to 14 October.

[http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/business/2000/0008070747.asp]

 

 

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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

info@balancingact-africa.com. All material is copyright but can be used if

permission is sought.

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BACK NUMBERS

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Past issues have covered:

 

  1. Digital villages open up access to skills and education

 

  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 www.kabissa.org. If you have difficulties

accessing the web, mail us to subscribe direct on

info@balancingact-africa.com.

 

___________________________________________________________________________

FREE SMALL ADS

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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 (info@balancingact-africa.com)

 

BYTES FOR ALL

 

Bytes for All, a voluntary online initiative which tries to focus on people

oriented IT practices in South Asia. Bytes for All represents the realities

of computing and Internet for the majority of the world. Please visit us at

http://www.bytesforall.org and subscribe the mailing list at

bytesforall-subscribe@onelist.com

 

 

TELEMATICS FOR AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT

 

Balancing Act is pleased to be working with the Telematics for African

Development Consortium, another initiative focusing on providing free

information on Telematics and Development to e-mail subscriber. This

information service currently goes out to over 1000 subscribers most of whom

are based in Africa. If you would like to receive free weekly Consortium

circulars, send a request for subscription to neilshel@icon.co.za

 

 

LearnEnglish Website

 

http://www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish

 

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.

 

KNOWNET INITIATIVE

 

http://www.knownet.org

 

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

communities.

 

AFRICANEWSCAST

 

You are invited to visit

http://www.AfricaNewscast.com

Online Africa News Publication

e-mail: info@africanewscast.com