In 1988, I started Network Computer Systems (NCS), a networking company. By 1994, NCS had become the first company in West Africa to operate Internet services by first using international dial-up to the Public I.P. Exchange Ltd (Pipex) in the UK. Thereafter, we focused our energies on sharing the knowledge with other operators in Africa, to accelerate the presence of the Internet in the sub-Saharan region.
Q: How important was or is the role of cooperation and information sharing?
After NCS had acquired the technology in 1994, it shared with colleagues and proceeded to organise, to teach and to share. These efforts culminated in the formation of the African Network Operators Group (AfNOG). AfNOG is a forum for the exchange of technical information, and aims to promote discussion of implementation issues that require community cooperation through coordination and cooperation among network service providers to ensure the stability of service to end users.
The goal of AfNOG is to share experience of technical challenges in setting up, building, and running Internet Protocol (IP) networks on the African continent. AfNOG held its maiden event in 2000, but the AfNOG annual event has now become a major meeting place of Africa’s technical community, where global partners meet to share ideas.
Being a community, our commitment is to support each other. AfNOG remains the principal vehicle of training, coordination, and exchange of technical information.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in trying to establish and expand Internet access in Africa?
I did this work in the “can do” era that prevailed under the government of the former Ghanaian president, Jerry Rawlings, in 1993 and did not experience any undue corruption challenges. The principal challenge was the lack of technical capacity of professionals to man the complex systems.
However, we were able to overcome that challenge by establishing a Department of Computer Science at the University of Cape Coast where we started training university graduates in computer science. Subsequently, as a teacher and researcher, I continued to train and nurture researchers in computer network sciences at NCS.
Q: How were you able to overcome the challenge of there being a lack technical capacity among professionals to man the complex systems?
I initiated the establishment of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Cape Coast to build a culture of training graduates in computer science. Subsequently, as a teacher and researcher, I continued to train and grow researchers in computer network sciences at NCS.
I then focused on building an industrial concern to lead the way in the introduction of technologies into West Africa. The establishment of NCS introduced the Internet to the region in 1993 and 1994.
Q: Was President Rawlings supportive of your efforts?
Yes, former President Rawlings got to know about it before we went operational after the research and development phase. His era had a pro-Ghana “can do” attitude, so his administration embraced the technology. In fact, Rawlings, a former Flight Lieutenant, had one of the pilot user accounts and he was fond of using it, especially with his interests in aviation and model airplanes.
Q: How are you and your colleagues proposing to increase Internet availability, especially in rural Africa?