Nii Narku Quaynor: African father of the Internet


Nii Narku Quaynor: African father of the Internet

Africa has done well on the ICT awareness and use training aspect, but has not done so well with training engineers and computer scientists. Sustainable economies that use ICT and the Internet have a high percentage of university graduates and an equally high percentage of scientists and engineers. Thus training 10 million ICT professionals is to ask to produce less than 2% of the population, which is a modest goal.

Q: How has the access of computer/Internet resources transformed a particular African community? In other words, a techno-liberated success story? 
The introduction of full Internet connectivity to Africa was achieved by engineers trained at ISOC Network Technology Workshops and subsequently by AfNOG’s networking workshops. One would agree that the introduction of the Internet has transformed Africa, and it came about from acquiring technical knowhow.

Q: You have controversially said to critics that affordable computing in Africa is more important than the basic necessities of life such as food and clean water. Explain?       
Take for example, supplying water services in Africa on a large scale. This requires education as well as technology, which also includes computing network resources. That is how consumers are created. But it is the absence of this capacity that creates the vicious cycle of dependence alongside failure of service delivery.
So, long discussions on whether we should take water or food are really immaterial in my opinion. What we are trying to do is to increase the penetration of Internet usage from the almost 5% we have currently in sub-Saharan Africa to the rest of the 95% who are without it.
Yes, Africans need food, water, etc. but we also need affordable computing, which will help us to feed ourselves, as well as provide other basic necessities such as education, housing, sanitation, and in so doing help bring about socio-economic development.

Q: Let’s take the issue of healthcare. Has Internet access in Africa helped the poor to get to clinics and affordable or free medicines?
With an African Internet user penetration of 4.8%, one can hardly boast of Internet access having helped the poor to access clinics or healthcare. However, the role of the Internet should not be ignored since many clinics and hospitals in Africa now have email addresses and their employees have become Internet users.
Furthermore, there is also the Telemedicine Task Force for Africa initiative, where the potential of satellite telecommunication technology was demonstrated as a tool for supporting healthcare systems in sub-Saharan Africa. It aims at extending e-health on the continent. This is becoming the norm as the Internet is being more widely used for healthcare purposes.

Q: In 2002, you wrote a report called “Africa’s Digital Rights”. It seems that you feel that “digital rights” are strongly related to human rights and development. Why?
The impact of the gap between the haves and have nots in a knowledge industry may be devastating. Digital rights are not too far away from the right to education. I consider it as a right that can reduce poverty by building knowledge-based societies.

One response to “Nii Narku Quaynor: African father of the Internet”

  1. Author Thumbnail writerr says:

    Good article, but very annoying to click 7 hyperlinks to continue reading it!

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