Libmonster ID: SE-296
Author(s) of the publication: K. A. PANZEREV

PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF THE AFRICAN INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SPACE

K. A. PANZEREV

Candidate of Philological Sciences (Saint Petersburg)

Today, the formation of the information and communication space in Africa is only at an early stage of its formation, and the continent's states are waiting for the support of world leaders in information and communication production. But one cannot help but wonder: what should the African information and communication space eventually become, and what indicators will indicate that it is fully formed and ready for integration into the global global information space?

In our opinion, the answer to this question lies in two dimensions - quantitative and qualitative. The first category includes such characteristics as the total number of personal computers, telephone lines, Internet service providers providing information and telecommunications services, as well as the total number of literate people. In order to illustrate more clearly the conditions in which modern information technologies are developing in Africa, it is necessary to focus on quantitative indicators in more detail.

Of all the mass media in Tropical Africa, radio broadcasting continued to be the most widespread, i.e. accessible to almost every inhabitant of a particular African country, at the end of the last century. Television was also available in major cities. The ratio of TV viewers and radio listeners is remarkable in such countries as Ghana (115 and 680 thousand), Nigeria (68 and 224 thousand), Senegal (41 and 141 thousand), Cameroon (34 and 163 thousand), Benin (11 and 110 thousand), DRC (2 and 375 thousand), Chad (1 and 242 thousand)1.

The level of telephony was extremely low. The leaders in this area by the end of the 20th century were Seychelles, Mauritius, and South Africa, which had 100 or more telephone lines per 1,000 people (176, 132, and 100, respectively). As for the relatively recent introduction of mobile communications in Africa, by 2000, 120 out of 1,000 people in South Africa had mobile phones. For comparison, in Ivory Coast, only 18 people out of 1,000 used them, in Gabon-7, in Ghana-4, in the CAR-1, and in Chad - 0.

It is obvious that the extreme underdevelopment of the telecommunications sector has created obstacles to the spread of information technologies on the African continent.

THE INTERNET IS NOT FOR EVERYONE

By 2000, only 538,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) had access to the Internet. The leaders in the number of Internet users were Nigeria (100 thousand people), Kenya (35 thousand), Cameroon (20 thousand), Ivory Coast (20 thousand people); in Chad, CAR, DRC, ROK, Equatorial Guinea-barely 1 thousand people.

The total number of Internet users in Tropical Africa, given the growing population, continues to be negligible in recent years. This can be illustrated by the data shown in the table.

During the period 2000 - 2007, African States have made some progress in the development of information technologies. Thus, the number of Internet users increased from 2.35 million to 23.9 million, i.e. more than 10 times. As well as as a percentage - from 0.3% to 3.2% - of the total population of Tropical Africa. However, even with all these positive developments, Africa, one of the most populous regions on Earth, accounts for only 2.5% of the world's Internet users.2 Consequently, this continent continues to remain on the periphery of global information and communication processes.

It took developed countries about 30 years to transform the Internet from a closed resource of the US Department of Defense to a global medium of mass communication and cross-cultural communication.3 In Africa, the Internet appeared only at the turn of the 80s-90s. In this regard, comparing the 30-year history of Internet development in the developed world and the only beginning process of introducing modern information technologies in Africa, we have to talk about the success of only individual countries, but not the continent as a whole.

The Internet is quite widespread in such most developed African countries as South Africa and some countries of North and Tropical Africa. However, the Internet in Africa continues to be essentially a luxury item. In the vast majority of countries in the region, less than 10 people out of 100 have access to modern information technologies, while only four - South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Seychelles - have access to more than 10 people.4 These islands are home to world-famous resorts, and the prevalence of Internet technologies here seems natural.

In our opinion, it is interesting that among the African countries that are leading in terms of the number of Internet users per capita, not the last position is occupied by Zimbabwe - a state that is experiencing a severe and protracted political crisis. However, as a percentage of the population, the total number of Internet users in this country, according to the International Telecommunication Union, is insignificant. Communication with the Internet is almost impossible due to infrastructure problems outside the central regions, and the cost of working online is very high5.

One of the most information-rich African countries would be Nigeria, where about 10 million people have access to the Internet. However, with a population of about 150 million people-

page 26

Table

Number of Internet users in African Countries as a proportion of the total population

Countries

Total population (million people)

Number of Internet users (thousand people)

2000

2007

2000

2007

Sub-Saharan Africa

659,77

757,88

2,358

23,904

without South Africa

616,97

709,30

538

18,804

without South Africa and Nigeria

490,06

561,21

438

8,804

Benin

6,28

9,03

10

150

Cameroon

15,09

18,55

20

370

Cape Verde

0,44

0,53

5

33

CAR

3,60

4,34

1

13

Chad

7,69

10,78

1

60

Democratic Republic of the Congo

51,39

62,64

1

230

Republic of the Congo

2,94

3,77

1

70

Ivory Coast

15,95

19,26

20

300

Equatorial Guinea

0,45

0,51

1

8

Ethiopia

64,30

83,10

8

291

Gabon

1,24

1,33

3

81

Ghana

19,20

23,48

20

650

Guinea

7,42

9,37

5

50

Kenya

30,09

37,54

35

2,770

Mauritius

1,19

1,26

55

320

Mozambique

17,62

21,40

15

178

Namibia

1,74

2,07

6

101

Niger

10,85

14,23

3

40

Nigeria

126,91

148,09

100

10,000

Senegal

9,53

12,38

30

820

Seychelles

0,08

0,90

5

29

Somalia

9,71

8,70

0

94

SOUTH AFRICA

42,80

48,58

1,820

5,100

Sudan

29,68

38,56

5

1,500

Tanzania

33,70

40,45

25

384

Zimbabwe

12,63

13,35

20

1,351

North Africa

138,04

157,07

307

21,402

All of Africa

797,81

963,53

2,665

50,406



However, the number of Internet users in Nigeria is still small.

AFRICA WILL NOT CATCH UP WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD FOR A LONG TIME...

Thus, based on the above, it seems premature to talk about the possible rapid integration of African States into the global information and communication space. The international community still assigns and, most likely, in the foreseeable future will continue to assign them the role of information periphery.

The countries of Tropical Africa are unlikely to be able to catch up with developed countries in terms of information technology development in the medium term. This is explained, in our opinion, by the fact that African countries have too many pressing problems that need to be solved in the foreseeable future. This includes the lack of drinking water, health problems, in particular the fight against AIDS, and numerous armed conflicts. In these circumstances, the development of telecommunications is not a priority. On the one hand, we should add the relative high cost of computer equipment (the average cost of computers ranges from $ 1,000). And on the other hand, the low standard of living of the majority of the African population (according to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the average monthly salary barely exceeds $ 100).6) and a high unemployment rate, which in sub-Saharan Africa is 8.5%. Note that this is an average indicator. For example, Cameroon has an urban unemployment rate of 12.5%, Guinea has an unemployment rate of 16.2%, and Ghana has an unemployment rate of 36.7% .7 In addition, the agricultural sector continues to dominate the economy of most African countries, while in the emerging information society "...knowledge and information come to the fore in productive forces and industrial relations " 8.

Obviously, in Africa, such a reorientation of production is unlikely to be possible in the foreseeable future. The Internet coverage area in Africa covers only large cities and industrial areas. According to the International Telecommunications Union, only 0.38% of sub-Saharan African villages had Internet access in 2008.9

Under the current circumstances, it is possible to create an information infrastructure in Africa that would meet generally accepted international standards to one degree or another only if an extensive flow of investment is attracted to this area, private and state foreign capital is attracted, as well as funds from the AfDB, which was created back in 1963. However, the latter remained a purely African organization only until the beginning of the In the 1980s, when the bank's management allowed the United States, Japan, and Western European countries to acquire a portion of AfDB 10 shares due to the need to significantly expand its operations.

The participation of European capital in the AfDB, alas, confirms the inability of African states

page 27

independently finance projects, including those initiated by this bank. Today, there are very few countries in Africa, with the exception of South Africa, Nigeria and some others, that have the funds and personnel necessary to implement, in particular, projects to create information infrastructure and promote Internet technologies in the interior of the regions.

Meanwhile, in accordance with the human right to information proclaimed in the constitutions of most African countries, the State is obliged to provide any citizen with the technical ability to access global information resources. Which, along with natural resources, should be considered as resources of socio-economic development 11.

In general, assessing the overall level of information technology development on the continent, we can conclude that internetization in Africa today, as noted above, affects only large cities and industrially developed areas, where most of the Internet service providers are located. As for residents of densely populated rural areas, if they need to "get out" to the world Wide web, they are forced to contact their providers via telephone lines, which means that they also have to pay for long-distance communication services. Thus, the lack of local Internet service providers* is another obstacle to the penetration of information technologies into the interior of the continent and the construction of an information society in the region.

The creation and development of information legislation in African countries, the main content of which should be reduced to the creation of an effective system for ensuring the constitutional rights of citizens and social institutions to freely receive and use information, is designed to help solve the above problems. In our opinion, the norms of information law should regulate the following key legal relations that arise in the information sphere.

First, general issues of informatization and dissemination of information in the state using the latest information technologies are subject to legal regulation. Secondly, the activities of Internet service providers must be regulated. Third, the Internet is subject to mandatory legal regulation. Fourth, national legislation should contain norms regulating the exchange of information on the territory of a given State. Finally, and fifthly, the State needs to strengthen its means of combating information crimes.

Today, in more or less advanced countries of Tropical Africa, the process of forming national concepts of state information policy is underway. In most countries of the region, however, attempts are being made to introduce modern information systems into the African culture and lifestyle. A significant role in solving this problem is played by Western Powers, which have already achieved the creation of an information and communication space and an information society on their territory. Now they are trying to promote the Western model of building such a society in developing countries. And this poses a certain danger for African countries, which will probably be forced to use the latest information technologies to impose Western morality and a Western system of spiritual values. A well-thought-out state information policy, as well as a reliable regulatory framework, is designed to counteract this. This is the only way to stop the information expansion of Western civilization to the African continent.

Today, most African States are not yet ready to openly confront this expansion. There are practically no regulatory legal acts that would regulate information legal relations in the territories of African countries.

The States of Tropical Africa face a number of intractable challenges, which together prevent the continent from building an information and communication space and a society in which knowledge and information become not only a commodity, a profitable business, but also an important cultural and spiritual phenomenon, the main generator of social progress. African society, which is still largely agrarian, is simply not ready for this.

* * *

The information situation in Tropical Africa is only a special case of a more general problem. Its essence is that all the assistance that the former metropolises provided to the liberated countries throughout their entire post-colonial history has not led to a qualitative improvement in the standard of living in African States. And the gap between the developed leading world powers and the countries of Africa, which was formed in the early 1960s, continues and, most likely, will continue to grow in almost all areas, including information.


1 African Development Indicators 2002 // Drawn from World Bank Africa Database / The World Bank. Washington, D. C. 2002, p. 249.

2 Telecommunications/ICT Markets and Trends in Africa, 2007 // International Telecommunication Union (далее - ITU), p. 12 - www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/

3 The immediate predecessor of the Internet was the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency NETwork) of the US Department of Defense, which in 1969 united several American universities and companies that carried out military orders. The US Department of Defense's Office of Advanced Research wanted to find out if it was possible to create a control and communication system in which contact between individual parts of the system would be maintained in a way other than physically connecting communication devices with an unbreakable electrical circuit www.willy.nm.ru/articles/inet_hist_1961 - 1970.html

4 Telecommunications / ICT Markets and Trends in Africa, 2007 // ITU, p. 9 - www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/

5 Year Book of Statistics / ITU. Geneva, 2008.

6 African Development Report 2007 / African Development Bank www.afdb.org/en/documents/publications/african-development-report/

7 African Development Indicators 2008 / 09. Youth and Employment in Africa. The Potential, The Problem, The Promise // The World Bank - http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTSTATINAFR/Resources/ADI-200809-essay-EN. pdf

Popov V. D. 8 Informatsiologiya i informatsionnaya politika [Informationology and Information Policy]. Moscow, 2001, p. 16.

9 World Telecommunication / ICT Indicators Database 2008 (12th Edition) / ITU - http://itu.int/ITU-D/ict/publications/

10 Aktual'nye problemy mezhafrikanskikh otnosheniy [Actual problems of inter-African relations]. Gromyko An. AM, 1983, p. 93.

Nisnevich Yu. A. 11 Informatsiya i vlast ' [Information and Power], Moscow, 2000, p. 23.

___

* Most countries in Tropical Africa have one or two providers for the entire country.


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