From Mon Dec 18 07:18:24 2000
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 23:13:59 -0800
From: Russell Southwood <>
To: News Bunny <>

Mad for ICT, but the Internet not yet a dream come true

News Update, #40, 17 December 2000

Information and communication technologies (ICT) seem to be at the heart of discussions between the government and donors. Through television, radio, newspapers and magazines and the adverts they carry cameroonians are being bombarded with the importance of having these tools in order to enter the third millennium.

Two months ago, during a preparatory colloquium to the French Africa Summit (to be held in January in Yaounde) on the topic Africa and Globalisation, the debate focused on ICT with two main protagonists: Paris-based Cameroonian and native French authoress Calixthe Beyalla and the French president of Audio-Visual Council (CSA) Herve Bourges. Last month, the Minister of Scientific and Technical Research published a press release on behalf of government asking for contributions to a national plan for the successful entry of Cameroon into the 21st century information society. But despite earnest intentions, proclamations and a real craze for ICT there is a long way to go to make the internet a dream come true in the day-to-day lives of Cameroonians.

Introduced in Cameroon in 1992 and officially launched by the Prime Minister in 1998, the internet virtually covers the whole country but is really only properly present in six of the country's ten provinces. Douala and Yaounde, the biggest cities and the economic and political capitals have more than 90% of total connections. In some provinces only a few people are connected and in certain cities only one or two persons.

The reasons for such unequal distribution are diverse and probably common to most other African countries: computer illiteracy, the lack of phone connections, cost, lack of awareness and political will, the absence of a national strategy and the effects of structural adjustment. As a result investment has not been forthcoming.

Nevertheless, the internet is booming today, especially in Douala and Yaounde. No overall statistics are available to date, but two studies are being conducted now about the development and use of Internet in Cameroon: one by the national observatory on ICT of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the other one by the Sustainable Development Network Program under the auspices of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. What follows below is a mixture of facts and observation about what is actually happening:


The boom in the internet is perhaps best exemplified by the considerable spread of web sites that cover a wide range of organisations. These include the Government, the biggest companies, newspapers and NGOs. A selection below gives a flavour of what currrently exists:

The Presidency of the Republic(http://www.camnet/celcom/equipe.htm)

The Prime Ministry ( and the Ministries,

CAMEROON TRIBUNE the bilingual daily newspaper which have a cybertribune since three years and an electronic version ( ,DIKALO( <,DIKALO(> ), MUTATIONS (http://MUTATIONS.NET <> ), LE MESSAGER ( <> ), LA NOUVELLE EXPRESSION (

Association des Femmes Ingnieurs duCameroun(

Association Afrique Developpement Local (ADL) (



The internet business is conducted by around two kinds of 25 local private Internet service providers: the commercial ISP and the not for profit ISP which have different statutes. Some are commercial enterprises, other not for profit associations, universities, schools or cultural centers. No multinational company is yet involved.

There is a wide variety of commercial ISPs, including:

CAMNET , the main ISP is owned by the national telco CAMTEL (the Telecommunications Operator) provides a 128Kbps international internet link to MCI in the US via its existing satellite groundstation with a monopoly on leased lines. In 1998, under the influence of the donors, the government decided to liberalise the telecom sector which was a state monopoly. To date, the process have not been achieved. CAMNET hosts several ministries and is accused by other commercial ISPs of being unfair competition. ( <> )

ICCNET was the first ISP and a pioneer. Started in 1997 in Yaounde, it has today two cyberstations: one in Douala (25 computers), another one in Yaounde(30 computers), 60 cybercafes affiliated and a network of partners. ( <> /iccnet.htm)

gcnet was also created in 1997 and helped some female NGOs in the beginning to discover internet. gcnet have a regular journal on line publishing news on Cameroon. (

SUP TELECOM INTERACTIVE is located in Douala with an extension in Buea and provides wireless access and dial-up connections. ( <> )

WAGNE-INTERNET is a Douala based multimedia publishing group with an informative commercial site. ( <>

AFRICANCES this France based ISP created in 1995 is playing a leading role in internet development in Cameroon. ( <> )

NEW TECHNOLOGY INCORPORATION SA is a new Yaounde based ISP considered by others as a big cybercafe with its 150 computers. When ite began a few months with a hard guerrilla marketing campaign, prices were reduced in yaounde . ( <> )

A lot of very small ISP are operating with poor connections and sometimes one phone line and one computer. After three to six months, they usually go out of business

There are a lot of not-for-profit ISPs with different statutes operating in a kind of no mans land. These include:

CENADI: the national centre for the development of computer services is located in Yaounde and has three computer centres in the provinces: the Douala computer centre, the Garoua computer centre and the Bafoussam Computer Centre. Its mission is to implement government policy in the area of computer services and advanced technologies, develop computer processing methods for all sectors of national life.( <> )

SDNP The Sustainable Development Networking Programme Cameroon (SDNP Cameroon) is an initiative to increase the access of stakeholders to, and enhance the exchange of, information on sustainable development. The principal partner is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its world-wide Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP). The SDNP goal can be summarised in the following manner. Empower stakeholders in Sustainable Human Development (SHD) by providing affordable and reliable access to information Real empowerment means real affordable access to information. SDNP hosts more than 100 not-for-profit organisations( NGOs, Universities, Associations). (

The universities network, UniNet, is based at the Computer Center of the University of Yaounde I (UNIYAO I). It operates a 64Kbs leased line to the CAMTEL internet hub. This is connected to the fiber optic backbone network of the UNIYAO I/Polytechnic campus. There are six state universities with specialized schools. The National Higher School of Engineering (ECOLE NATIONALE SUPERIEURE POLYTECHNIQUE) has played a key role in introducing ICT in the country. ( <> )

UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DAFRIQUE CENTRALE (UCAC) has an ICT project and a cyberstation equipped with 9 computers where students can do research, send mail and surf(CFA 600 per hour). The host page is still in construction.

INSTITUT SIANTOU is one of the private school where ICT is taught in every class and section. This school has a radio and a cyberstation with 9 computers where students and the public can sen ed-mail and surf (CFA 500 per hour) (http://www.gcnet./cm/siantou)

More than 200 sites are hosted by the above ISPs and cover public institutions, private companies , the commerce and trade, NGOs.

E-mail is more widely used and popular than the internet itself because it allows everybody to have a very low cost method of communication. In the beginning email addresses were offered for CFA 5000. Today, with internet development and competition, it is free of charge. Another very popular use is netphone, the telephone via internet. Two days ago, the National Telecommunications Regulatory Office published a press release denouncing this service which it says is illegal under current regulations.

The cost of a dial-up connection for an individual is between 800 to 2500 CFA per hour. Netphone is between CFA 300 to CFA 500 per minute for international calls. Some ISPs give discounts to certain categories of customers like students (New Technology Incorporation Network S.A) or NGOs(GCNET) or at certain time(ICCNET).

There are around 9000 subscribers to Cameroonian ISPs and cybercentres (many people have web-based free e-mail accounts) and probably four or five times the number of users. The internet is poorly used by Cameroonians, probably because of ignorance. According to a study conducted by students of University of Buea in 20 Yaounde based telecenters, women represented 40.71% of the total number of ICT users. They were most interested in e-mail, which accounted for 61.4% of their use of the telecentres surveyed. They requested this service to make friends with European men who would be of great help to enable them travel abroad.

In Yaounde, it appears that many women in cybercafes only connect to find a husband. Cybermarriages arein great demand! In another study looking at companies, it appears that a lot of themconnected to be in touch and to seem modern. The need of a national strategy to harness the technology for the economic development of the country and awareness campaigns of the type seen in other African countries is urgent. Content production is not developed and promoted.

UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, and other institutions are trying to raise awareness amongst government ,the private sector, and the civil society through the framework of internet. UNESCO and American Cultural Center have organised awareness sessions for journalists and librarians. UNICEF promotes internet relay chat for young people, especially children parliament members. Iccnet have also supported internet awareness initiatives for womens' NGOs.

The telecom sector has been in the process of being liberalized since 1998 and two private companies offer mobile phones services: Societe Camerounaise de Mobiles SCN) MOBILIS:( 69,000 subscribers) and Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) :(20,000 subscribers ) And despite the fact that there is no national programme of training, computer communications is taught in many public and private schools. Some initiatives to connect schools are experiencing by New Technology Incorporation Network S.A (MON ECOLE SUR INTERNET ), SDNP(Schoolnet), and school managers.

There is a great enthusiasm for computer courses and ICT in State and private Universities from students, their parents and the academic staff and a proliferation of computer training centers.

The next Yaounde Net com 2001is a professional exhibition scheduled from 9th to 13th February 2001 with three objectives:

An event of this kind is very welcome but to make internet a dream come true in everyday Cameroonian life, a national strategic plan with financing is an absolute prerequisite.