Tiscali, has begun a project that aims to bring Internet connectivity to many countries in Africa.While SA has a well-developed Internet industry, poor communications infrastructure on the rest of the continent means the so-called digital divide - the gap between information haves and have-nots - is growing.

Recently, the company held talks with senior public and private sector groups in Botswana to outline a strategy to bring Internet access to businesses and individuals. "In a developed economy, the Internet is a given, but in many parts of Africa if you pick up a telephone there is no guarantee of a dial tone," says Michelle Branco, business-to-consumer manager at Tiscali.

"Demand for Internet connectivity in Africa is strong but there are some infrastructure challenges that will need to be addressed. "We will begin our roll-out into Africa from Botswana. We are keen to explore the synergies available between Bytes Technologies, the Botswana government and ourselves in order to move forward on the notion that ICT has the potential to reduce poverty and support social, economic and educational progress in developing countries," she says.

Says Branco: "The most profound effect of information and communication technology has been the creation of a very large window for the ordinary people to come into personal contact with new ideas, trends and sources of information in the world.

"Information and communication technology is a vital catalyst for social change and economic development that is increasingly seen as an essential tool for developing countries like SA and Botswana. "We need to recognise the potential benefits to be gained from harnessing the power of technology and telecommunications and start initiatives to create a technically literate workforce that can contribute to a dynamic economy," she says.

Branco says Internet service providers, computer firms and telecommunications companies will probably work together to create ways for businesses and individuals to connect to the Internet. "For example, new computers will be sold with Internet access included, and telecommunications networks will work with ISPs to create reliable Internet connections," he concludes.

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