Date: Wed, 07 Aug 1996 14:46:06 -0400
From: M_Bastian@ACAD.FANDM.EDU (Misty Bastian)
NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Africa: Internet Background Paper
>Date: Wed, 07 Aug 1996 10:03:10 -0500
>Subject: Africa: Internet Background Paper
>Comments: Authenticated sender is <email@example.com>
APIC's latest background paper,
Africa on the Internet, is
now available. This posting contains excerpts from some sections,
together with a table of contents and information on how to order the
typeset printed version (by mail), how to find it on the Web, and how
to obtain a text-only copy of the full paper by e-mail.
Our survey of recipients of this distribution list (full report to be available later this month) showed that 85% of the recipients have access to a Web browser. We are therefore not distributing the full background paper text to the entire list, but instead giving you several different options for obtaining it. Please let us know if this procedure causes difficulties for any of you.
(1) Typeset copies of this background paper (8 pages, 2 colors, graphics) are available at $2 ea., $1.60 each for 20 or more. Add 15% for postage and handling, and an additional 20% for overseas orders. Order from Africa Policy Information Center (contact information below). Payment in U.S. dollars; submit payment in advance or institutional purchase order. Please consider ordering this particularly for those of your friends, colleagues and students who are just beginning to use the Internet, or are considering doing so.
(2) The full text, with graphics, is now on the Africa Policy Web Site: http://www.igc.apc.org/apic/index.shtml
The table of contents for the background paper is at: http://www.igc.apc.org/apic/bp/inet.html
There are separate quickloading files containing each section of the paper, as well as a combined (44K) file convenient for printing or saving to disk: http://www.igc.apc.org/apic/bp/inetall.html
(3) To obtain the Web files by e-mail, you can follow the instructions
Web by E-mail section below.
(4) You may also obtain the document by e-mail, in two parts (filesizes 18K and 21K) by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first line of your message should read exactly: send inet
Electronic networks—and particularly the new tools of e-mail and the World Wide Web—have great potential for enhancing global democratic access to policy-making processes. But de facto access to effective use of these technologies is biased in all the predictable directions: by race, gender, economic status, and location. Africa, to date the least connected continent, is particularly disadvantaged. By cutting the costs of long-distance communication, however, the information revolution is also opening up new possibilities. How well Africa and Africa's friends take advantage of these opportunities will depend at least as much on our collective capacity to learn as on the material resources available to us.
The pace of change in information technology is breathtaking.
Surfing the Internet is in fact not very hard, once one has the
right connection. Making practical use of the technology, without
getting lost in trendy bypaths or costly repeated upgrades, is
admittedly more difficult. But communicating via words and pictures
over computer networks is probably as fundamental an innovation as the
printing press. Learning how to use the new medium is inescapable for
anyone needing to get or send information at a distance.
The fundamental difference between words and images on networks and on paper is that—after the initial investment in a computer and the connection—the cost is dramatically less than moving paper around the world, or making a direct telephone connection through a fax. The cost trends are consistently downwards—an average drop of as much as 50% every 18 months. As individuals, we may decide how much we need or want to keep up. For organizations and countries, however, failure to make the Internet connection will be a certain recipe for increasing marginalization as the new century approaches.
This background paper is designed as a quick-start guide for anyone
interested in Africa who is seeking policy-related information via
electronic networks. It is not intended to substitute for general
guides to the Internet. It doesn't provide comprehensive listings
of Internet Africa resources, or even of the
best sites. It
doesn't tell you how to get on-line (that depends very much on
where you are). What it does do—like one of those
How do I
find ? leaflets available at the entrance of any good
library—is try to answer the common question
Where do I start
when there is so much (too much) information available?
Many details in this version will, inevitably, soon be
outdated. On-line, you can find the latest version, with live links,
at http://www.igc.apc.org/apic/bp/inet.html. To receive an ascii copy
of the latest version by e-mail, send a message to
send inet as the first line of the
message. Notifications of outdated links or other corrections should
also be sent to email@example.com.
Section 1: What is the
Internet is best understood as a generic
term, like the postal system or the telephone system. If you have a
postal address anywhere in the world (and your local postal service is
working), you can receive mail. If you have a telephone number, the
same for telephone calls. If you have a computer, a telephone, a
device for connecting them (generally a modem), the appropriate
software, and a service provider, you can get
on the Internet.
This means that you can make connections to all the computers also connected, wherever they are in the world. ... A computer with an Internet connection can be used to send a note to a friend. It can also serve as the equivalent of a instant printing press or an open-access library. ...
Section 2: Internet Communication Tools
**Since the Internet is a general medium for transferring words and images between people, the ways it is used will be just as varied as the multiple ways different individuals use words and images printed on paper.** How you can and should use the Internet depends on (1) what kind of access you have, and (2) what your needs and preferences are.
The tools that are the most relevant for the ordinary user are e-mail, bulletin boards (or conferences), and the World Wide Web. Even if you have full access, it is your communications and information needs that determine which tools are most useful to you. Getting information by e-mail, as by a subscription to a mailing list, is like subscribing to a magazine or a newspaper. You will do it when the information is important enough to you to want to receive it regularly. Using the Web is like going to libraries, bookstores, or a mall filled with hundreds of libraries and bookstores. Your time spent doing it will depend on what information you want, how quickly you can find it, and how much you like browsing.
The minimal level connection, available to any dial-up user to any computer with an Internet link, is sending and receiving *e-mail*. ...
[MAILING LIST GRAPHIC]
*Mailing lists*, or *electronic distribution lists*, are just like subscriber or membership lists kept for sending mail through the post office: lists of addresses all of which get the same messages. ...
[BULLETIN BOARD GRAPHIC]
*Bulletin boards* or *conferences* may be available on the system one is signed up with, or, in some cases, reachable through the Internet for public free access. Electronic conferences are collections of messages left for anyone with access to read. ...
The most popular and rapidly growing Internet tool is the *World Wide Web*. ...
Section 3: The Web by E-mail
For persons with e-mail access only, it is possible to obtain
documents on the Web using one of a number of mail servers set up for
this purpose. You send a command by e-mail, such as
send followed by the URL of the Web page you want. The server
then retrieves the file from its location, and sends it to you by
return e-mail. This should in turn give you URLs of other linked
pages, which you can request next. The process is slow compared to Web
browsing, and response times may vary significantly depending
on your location and network traffic. Nevertheless these services,
which in effect do your browsing for you, are now being used
The major sites providing this service are currently firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
and firstname.lastname@example.org. A
help message to any of the
servers will bring you a file explaining the particular commands it
If you do have Web access, please be moderate in your use of these servers, which are provided as a public service by volunteers. Excessive traffic has caused the abandonment of at least one such effort in the past. These servers are experimental, and you may have to try several before you find one which is currently working satisfactorily.
Example: To get the file http://www- sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/elecnet.html, as a text file, including URLs of linked sites, write an e-mail message to email@example.com with the following text in the body of the message:
send http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/ africa/elecnet.html
To get the file from firstname.lastname@example.org, the message should instead be:
get -t -u -a http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/ africa/elecnet.html
Section 4: Internet Glossary
Section 5: Africa and the Internet
The continuing growth of the Global Information Society, as it is being termed, will have profound implications for African countries. Some fear that it will only accelerate the marginalization of Africa, as the pace of growth accelerates even more and the gap between those who are linked up and those who are not grows larger. Africa's disadvantage is a function of its underdevelopment in general, and of the low density of telephone connections in particular—as South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki remarked in 1995, there are more telephones in Manhattan than in all Sub-Saharan Africa.
These dangers should not be underestimated, but lamenting them will
not stop the rushing train of information technology. And rapidly
dropping costs offer the potential for leapfrogging some development
obstacles, and for Africa's civil society, governments, and
entrepreneurs to take advantage of new technologies. If the minimum
infrastructure is put in place, that presents those on the global
periphery and even in remote rural areas with new opportunities
Section 6: Africa Policy Information on the Web
You may find the information you need in likely or unlikely places on the Web. Or it may not be there at all, but even in that case you might find a useful clue (phone number or e-mail address) to someone who might be able to put you on the right track. There is, unfortunately, no one right search strategy. Among the best starting points: (1) going to a site with a lot of Africa information and/or links to other relevant sites; (2) going to a site of a governmental, non-governmental, or media organization you know or guess to be involved on the specific issue or country; or (3) using one of the Web search engines.
General Africa Sites ...
South African Resources ...
Organizational Sites ...
Search Engines ...
Section 7: Africa Policy Information in Conferences and Newsgroups
Conferences, bulletin boards, or newsgroups, as indicated by the
different terms used to refer to them, are less standardized than the
Web. What is available to you depends primarily on your service
provider, which maintains separate areas accessible by software called
newsreader or by an interface specific to the particular
system. These are essentially places where messages are grouped
together on a
bulletin board you can browse rather than put in
a private mailbox. ... The quality of the information you find depends
entirely on what set of people have access to and decide to post
messages on the particular conference. ...
The largest set of such conferences are the Usenet
which are echoed around the world from computer to computer, with no
central location, but with standard names, such as
comp.infosystems.www.anounce or soc.culture.zimbabwe. On many
technical subjects, particularly computer software issues, the Usenet
newsgroups are one of the most important means of keeping up with
current developments. Unfortunately many newsgroups, including most
Africa-related ones, have a very low proportion of useful information,
and are filled with random chatter and even significant doses of
racist invective. ...
Section 8: Africa Policy Information in your Mailbox
When you join a mailing list, you receive all the messages sent out to
everyone on the list. As with newsgroups or conferences, what you get
depends entirely on who has permission to
post material to the
list and what they select to post. Some lists are
the equivalent of magazines put out by one publisher. Others receive
and automatically redistribute to the entire list messages submitted
by any subscriber, or even echo all the discussions on one of the
Usenet newsgroups. Low-volume lists may send out only one posting,
perhaps the on-line version of a newsletter or magazine, once a month;
others may send out hundreds of messages a day. Discussion lists are
essentially like on-going conversations; their use to you will
fundamentally depend on what conversations you want to listen in on or
participate in. ...
There are e-mail mailing lists, either for discussion or for distribution of news and publications, for almost every African country or region. Many are mentioned under the appropriate topics at the Pennsylvania or Stanford sites (mentioned in section 5). An extensive listing of Africa-related mailing lists is also available at the Web site of Central Connecticut State University (http://library.ccsu.ctstateu.edu/~history/world_history/ archives/bedell.html). ...