- APC Africa Meeting Communique **
THE HOLY FAMILY COMMUNIQUE from AFRICAN ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATORS
at the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Africa Strategy Meeting, Holy Family Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa, February 8-11 1997.
11 February 1997
Many of us have worked in African networking from the early days and welcome the blooming of Internet access across the continent. But the network is not an end in itself. This technology has the potential to bring about dramatic social, political and economic change in Africa.
We work in a variety of roles in the progressive and non-profit sectors to support thousands of users in Africa with the connections and the information they need. We will continue to work together to pursue our vision of a network with a purpose. Our goals of low-cost, cooperative internetworking, quality local content, and the widest possible participation will remain even if and when the current Internet mania dies away.
We have started work on a number of initiatives to address priority areas identified during the meeting and welcome partnerships in developing responses in four thematic areas: supporting electronic networks, promoting strategic use of information and communication technologies among partner communities, developing information content and tools, lobbying and advocacy.
A historic opportunity to develop technology for the good presents itself. However, without action on a number of issues , too many African people will be relegated to the role of passive spectator as the global information society takes off. As a grouping of interested parties under the aegis of the APC, we hope to raise awareness of these key problem areas:
* Relevant African information (“content”) needs to be produced, managed and delivered appropriately within Africa. The raw information heritage is too valuable to be trusted to others. Almost no resources are directed to this need.
* Telephone and other communication infrastructure beyond the cities remains under-funded – a problem that liberalization cannot solve. Private investment in de-regulated markets has so far generally concentrated in the major cities.
* The little international investment that there is in technical training and capacity building – a critical need, especially to bring more women into networking – too often neglects the particular needs of Africa.
* Methods of information delivery must go beyond “putting it on the Web”. The power and flexibility of electronic mail should not be under-estimated.
* Alliances are being developed between some donors and parastatal PTTs which are giving governments a stranglehold on national bandwidth. Donors are mainly focussing on the pipes, not the people.
* We seek greater consultation from the various initiatives which aim to steer telematics developments in Africa – including: AIF, ANI, AISI, AFCOM, SDNP, Acacia and the Leland Initiative. There is a difference between being used as cheap advisors and then ignored, and becoming valued as key stakeholders in an ongoing process.
We believe these concerns are shared by many in the African networking community, and unless they are addressed, the development of the African Information Society will be skewed and the prospect of greater marginalization will be increased.
APC Secretariat Brazil, US, Ecuador , BalanzanNet, Mali , Ebonet, Angola, Haymee Perez Cogle , ECONEWS Africa , ELCI, Kenya , ENDA, Maghreb , ENDA, Synfev , ENDA, Tiers Monde , Epsilon and Omega, Malawi , Green Net, UK , HealthNet Africa , IPS Africa , MARIE, Tanzania , Mukla, Uganda , One World Online, Southern Partners Project , PADIS/UNECA , RIOD Africa , SANGOnet South Africa , UN DHA/IRIN, Great Lakes Zambia Association for Research and Development , APC Grantwriter .
The Holy Family Communique from African Electronic Communicators came out of an APC Africa meeting held in early February 1997. A full report of the meeting is available on the IDRC website.