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Highway Africa News
« on: January 28 2007 »

By: Timothy Kasonde

Article summary:
New Internet models for Africa are necessary to improve the up-take of Internet services by Africa's citizens and schools are the starting blocks.

There is need for African governments to embrace Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) to enable internet access in schools.

Advocates of Sciences and Technology for the People (AGHAM) chairperson Dr Giovanni Tapang says schools in third world countries need to have alternative models to make internet access cheaper.

Dr Tapang said only 38 percent of schools in developing countries are connected to the internet of which less than 1 percent is African countries while developed countries have fully connected their primary and secondary schools to the internet.

He explained that it is people that make change, technology will only help them to work  effectively adding that Internet usage in African countries is very low as compared to developed countries.

- The main principle behind FOSS is that any one can modify and improve the code that constitutes the software - it's free and any one can use it, therefore we need to have alternative models in place that will make the availability of the internet in African countries, Dr Tapang said.

He however said increased access comes with a price and rising costs of utilities such as telecommunications and internet itself.

Dr Tapang further said developing countries account for more than 60 percent of the world's telephone lines in 2005 (20 percent in 1980) adding that Mobile phones outnumber fixed lines.

- In Nigeria the number of mobile subscribers jumped from 370,000 in 2001 to 16.8 million in September 2005, making its mobile market the second largest in Africa, which is a tremendous increase, Dr Tapang said.

He observed that the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) 2003 in Geneva and Tunis 2005 encouraged countries to adopt e-strategies of which 85 percent out of 40 of the strategies aimed to expand Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use in governments and schools.

- Some of the alternative models that can be implemented for developing countries is to hold FOSS and internet awareness in schools and government departments so that technology is aimed at serving the people, Dr Tapang said.

He said another alternative is for Computer Companies to reduce the cost of computer hardware since the distribution of FOSS is done freely through out Africa.

- Computer hardware is very expensive in Africa, FOSS has been distributed in many parts of Africa and the rest of the world so there is no need for computer hardware to be costly, hardware companies need reduce on their equipment, Dr Tapang Explained.

Meanwhile Dr Tapang has disclosed that over 400 copies of Ubuntu software have been distributed at the World Social Forum (WSF).

He observed that delegates at the forum got the CDs that were being distributed free of charge by the International South Group Network (ISGN) which is part of AFHAM.

- We have had a tremendous response from people, we are also surprised. We carried awareness and still believe that FOSS could replace Microsoft at some point as long as the African governments are agreeable to what we are preaching, Dr Tapang said.

"Story provided free by the Highway Africa News Agency"

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