A workshop sponsored by the Sharing Knowledge Foundation and held in Montpellier from December 10-12, 2007 focused attention on the African scientific community, its technical competencies and its commitment to education, training and research. Workshop participants, who included scientific, industrial and not-for-profit actors from 14 countries, underlined the dearth of internet network connections in Africa. Participants reached agreement on a text for a Vision Statement and four Recommendations, while distributing among themselves the job of carrying these conclusions to the various African and international decision-making bodies in professional and political spheres. They plan to meet again to report reactions and follow-up to this initiative.
The conclusions reached by the workshop, written by participants and collated by the workshop organisers, Robert Klapisch and Guy Wormser, can be found below.
Reference sites :
Calculating Grids : http://www.idgrilles.fr/
Sharing Knowledge Foundation : http://www.sharing-knowledge.org/
The development of Africa must involve Science, Technology, Education and Innovation, unleashing its potential to reach the level of the other continents. The contribution of Africa in these fields is well below its considerable human potential, combining youth, plenty of talented individuals and a hunger for knowledge. If there is a lack of immediate action to rectify this, this lack will, in the long term, compromise the progress of all of Humanity.
The Internet, including its most advanced forms such as Grids, is the tool of choice for the development of the Centers of Excellence emerging on the African continent and their international integration.For the general population, numerous studies show a correlation between Internet penetration and Human Development Index.
To develop Internet in Africa, both for the General Population and for the most advanced University, Research and Learning Centers should be a top priority of all decision makers.
Regulations which are favorable for the development of new information technology infrastructures.
The exchange of best practices between the national regulators in order to improve the regulation everywhere.
The development of Education and Research networks which have their own infrastructure.
The use of e-government infrastructures, as is already underway in some countries.
Exchange points (national, between African countries and with the rest of the world).
USE existing or future structures (electricity pylons, railways, pipelines, roads) as a support for the fibre optic network. More extensive coverage could be provided by wireless technologies (WiMax).
SUPPORT quantitative performance indicators for existing installations and their evolution over time, in particular through the international PINGER collaboration.
ENGAGE political decision makers to encourage the use of the Internet and the development of digital literacy, and create the motivation to facilitate, for example, increased competition, regulations, and taxes which encourage the development of the internet and if possible, facilitate the availability of financing.
HAVING OBSERVED :
the isolation of African researchers, the majority of whom carry out their research in Northern countries ;
that regional communities in Africa are either inexistent or struggle to function correctly as a result of the lack of means ;
the difficulties African researchers have in achieving efficient participation in international projects due to the inadequacy of the infrastructure and poor financial resources ;
the need to network African scientific communities ;
the existence of needs which have already been identified in Africa in the fields of human and animal health, the environment and natural disasters ;
the need to put in place ICT resources to facilitate the operation of these scientific networks ;
WE RECOMMEND :
that the creation of Thematic Scientific Communities be effective at a regional and continental level ;
that a pilot program for Grids is implemented at a regional level in order to offer African scientists the technical resources needed to fulfill their research programs ;
the strong involvement of the political authorities to support the financing of this pilot project.
GIVEN THAT :
The youth of the population is a strength ;
The price of ICT is very high in comparison with the resources of the population ;
Rurality remains an important characteristic of Africa ;
The content and services available on the Internet are little adapted to the culture of the African populations ;
The number of mobile telephones is growing very rapidly ;
WE RECOMMEND :
That good quality local experts be trained for the implementation of ICTs ;
That mediation be promoted for the training of the public ;
That ICTs should be adapted to provide support for research and innovation at a regional level, taking into account African cultural specificities and the tools available (mobile phones...) ;
That the public be offered ICT at an affordable price, in line with the world wide trend, based in particular on the measures included in recommendation 1.
CONSIDERING the power of ICT to transcend space and time and create a framework for cooperation at a national, regional and international level, and with the Diaspora ;
Their serious lack of development in Africa
The weak extent of scientific exchanges between African countries ;
WE RECOMMEND the creation of a regulatory framework which is favorable to the development of ICT and the implementation of shared Scientific Information Systems.