The African Information Society Initiative: A Seven-year Assessment (1996-2002)

in Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
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Abstract

This paper provides a contemporary historical analysis of the African Information Society Initiative (AISI), the first systematic and comprehensive effort by African governments to bring their countries into the information age. Covering the period 1996- 2002, it is based on interviews, documentary and statistical sources, press reports, parliamentary records, and participant observation. For the first five years of the time-span of the study, the author was a senior official of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, in charge of coordinating the AISI. While this may put the objectivity of the author in question, it also brings the advantages of direct personal knowledge of the events and processes described. The paper examines the origins of the Initiative, its content, the process of its implementation, its achievements, and its constraints. The paper's narrative looks at how and why the Initiative developed as it did, in particular with relation to policy decisions. Additionally, the paper presents an AISI progress index, which represents an attempt to measure the relative positions of African countries on each of the major dimensions of the Initiative. It concludes with a brief analysis of how Africa stands in relation to the rest of the world in the utilization of information technology for development and what it needs to do to accelerate its progress.

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