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Nii Narku Quaynor: African father of the Internet

Interviews

Nii Narku Quaynor: African father of the Internet

Did you know that Professor Nii Narku Quaynor, from Ghana, pioneered Internet development and expansion throughout Africa for nearly two decades, establishing some of the continent’s first Internet connections and helping found key organisations, including the African Network Operators Group, to advance Internet connectivity and use in Africa? For his sterling efforts, Dr Quaynor has been inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. Curtis Abraham went to interview him.

Dr Nii Narku Quaynor’s many achievements include helping to establish the Computer Science Department of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in Ghana, where he has taught since 1979.

He was also the first African to be elected to the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees policies and protocols related to Internet domains and addresses, and served as an at-large director of ICANN for the African region from 2000 to 2003.
Dr Quaynor was also a member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Group on ICT, chair of the OAU Internet Task Force, and president of the Internet Society of Ghana. In 2007, the Internet Society awarded him the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award for his pioneering work in advancing the Internet in Africa. In 2012, he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.

In this interview, Dr Quaynor talks about his hopes and fears for the future of the Internet in Africa. With African Internet user penetration currently standing at a mere 4.8%, Dr Quaynor warns that “Africa is about to miss a great development opportunity in much the same way Africa lost on the industrial revolution, unless serious and truly committed efforts are made by Africa to address the rapid expansion of the Internet user gap between Africa and industrialised countries.”

Q: What was life like for you growing up in Ghana during the 1950s and 60s?
Life was good growing up in Ghana. My family experienced no particular hardships at the time, although the instability of the coup d’état of 1966 [that overthrew President Kwame Nkrumah’s government] was sufficient for several students to move overseas for education.
I myself left Ghana and went to the US for my university education three years after the coup. It was not because of the coup, however, I was simply following a line of senior brothers who all went overseas for their university education.

Q: What initially excited you about science and technology?
I was the youngest in a family of scientists and although my father did not have a university education, my siblings included an eye surgeon, a dentist, a wood technologist, and a highway civil engineer. Coming from a noted scientific family, my strengths were clearly physics, pure maths, applied maths, and chemistry at A Level; and scoring 3 as I did at Achimota School. I also admired all my elder brothers who taught me a lot.
 

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