Published: Sunday 31 December 1995

Ivory Coast has one of the best telephone networks in Africa, yet, the Internet revolution seems to have swept past it. In fact only 12 of Africa's 54 countries are linked to the Internet, raising fears in international policy circles of a further marginalisation of the continent. The two major obstacles to the spread of the new technology are ignorance about the know- how and the fear in the African state-dominated telecommunications sector that it will deprive them of revenue. "Everyone realises that Africa is lagging, that it is the only part of the world that does not have network connectivity," says Lawrence Landweber, a professor of computer science at the University of Wisconsin, us, and president of the Internet Society, a group of Internet users whose aim is to promote the network's development.

However, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Some analysts say that it is ano opportune time for Africa to look at new information- based technologies. Maintains Peter Knight, a World Bank official who specialise, in communications: "Afrill doesn't have huge invest ments in copper wiring, anj in a sense that is to its advan tage. They can go straig4 into things like fibre-opti and wireless communic'I tions, and, if thq du it igir overnight they can be pret close to the leading edge."

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