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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 14:29 GMT
Internet 'necessary' to Africa's growth
Children with $100 laptop
The $100 laptop is one of the ways to give cheaper internet access
A professor whose work in spreading information technology in Africa has been awarded by the Internet Society has hit out at critics who say the continent should focus first on basics like water and sanitation.

Nii Quaynor, professor of computer science at the University of Cape-Coast, Ghana, said affordable computing was "necessary" to Africa's development.

"If the critics did not have any internet, I am sure they would talk differently," he told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme.

"While we need food and we need water, we also need the tools and instruments that will allow us to create food and water and take control of our development.

"Affordable computing is necessary. What is going to power development in Africa is going to be lower-cost user interfaces."

Reversal of privatisation

Dr Quaynor is chairman of Network Computer Systems and, and pioneered the take-up of the internet around Africa.

He was given the prestigious 2007 Jonathan B Postel Service Award for his "leadership in advancing internet technology in Africa and galvanizing technologists to improve internet access and capabilities throughout the continent".

He said he did this through an "evangelical way" of encouraging technology workshops, which would then travel the countries sharing that knowledge.

Nii Quaynor
We need to accelerate things like e-commerce and voice-over IP so that we can get the traffic going
Dr Nii Quaynor
"After you have created the operators, you help them get going with respect to getting the internet service going," he said.

"You then have to organise them as a community to begin to support themselves with various best practices."

He also backed the message from the recent meeting of the international telecommunications union in the Rwandan capital Kigali, which called for Africa's telecoms to be deregulated to allow individual states to bring ICT in.

"Issues such as shutting down ISPs should be things of the past," he said.

"Reversals of privatisation policies are, I think, really bad - they affect investor confidence.

"In general, we need to accelerate things like e-commerce and voice-over IP so that we can get the traffic going.

"In so doing we will begin to have a more equitable share of our information society, and feel some sense of ownership and drive towards that growth."

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