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Published: March 1999.

Demonstrations

Kenya & the Web: Challenges of Connectivity

Lawrence Monda , National Museums of Kenya, Kenya

www.museums.or.ke

Session: Demonstrations 2

The Internet has become a very effective tool in the exchange of information and sharing of resources. Since its “arrival”, museums around the world have found it necessary to get connected to the Internet to enable the effective exchange of ideas, promote museum activities and share scientific, cultural and natural resources.

Despite the obvious advantages and potential of the Internet, it should be realized that African museums remain at a distinct disadvantage. The major problems facing connectivity include: unstable (or no) power supply, high cost of computers, high local phone costs, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and high dialup access costs.

Given the slowness and unreliability of postal mail in Africa, the Internet presents the perfect solution. Email and the World Wide Web (WWW) permit effective international contact. Even though slightly more expensive in Africa, this is a huge benefit which would otherwise not be possible due to even more exorbitant costs for fax, phone, and courier services.

In Africa most of the telecommunications networks are analogue and many sections are highly unreliable, particularly during the rainy seasons. Since the utility of the Internet depends to a great extent on the quality of the underlying telecommunication infrastructure, the poor quality of the network still remains a basic impediment to rapid developments in this area. Yet despite this poor telecommunication infrastructure, many African countries have developed some form of low cost local dialup store and forward email service with a gateway to the Internet.

Of particular importance in Internet developments in Africa has been the establishment of national Internet working groups comprising actual or potential Internet access providers, users, telecom operators and government officials. The East African Internet Association (EAIA) is the first regional grouping of Internet Service Providers which seeks to face connectivity challenges in the region through improved services, shared resources and ultimately the establishment of an international hub to share leased line costs.