High-Tech Center to Open in Ghana
This month, a state-of-the-art high-tech computer and information technology center with low-cost Internet access will open in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. The center, developed by an American company and Ghanaian businesses, will feature training rooms, office space, meeting rooms, workstations for inexpensive public Internet access, a photocopying shop and a cafe. The center will be housed in a 14,000-square-foot former factory building and equipped with Pentium III computers, flat-screen monitors and Internet access via satellite.
“There are 240,000 telephone lines in Ghana for 19 million people. It takes about seven dials to make some phone calls go through, just across town,” Mark Davies, the founder and chief executive of BusyInternet, told The New York Times.
BusyInternet, a New York city-based company, plans to open similar centers in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Uganda. Davies has said that BusyInternet will operate independent of the local utilities. Nua Internet Surveys, a company in Ireland that tracks Internet use statistics, estimated that there were about 20,000 Internet users in Ghana last year.
“We’ve put in our own link to the national electric grid, our own generator, our own satellite dish for bandwidth,” he explained.
International development officials are following the BusyInternet experiment closely, particularly in light of the current debate on the role of technology investment in developing countries. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has argued that developing countries need basic amenities, such as food and medicine, more than they need personal computers. Others say that the technology can be used to educate people in developing countries and help close the economic gap between them and industrialized countries.
“Our philosophy is to say nobody really knows what’s right for Ghana, and the technology is sort of culturally specific in terms of how it’s implemented and how it works. So the best thing you can do is create these little incubators, if you will, where you’re bringing people together and coming up with solutions on their own,” Davies told The New York Times.
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