Nii Quaynor believes education is the key to spurring a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs. And in Africa right now, the top priority for this educator is producing such businesspeople.
“It’s great to know how to get connected to the Internet, but then you have to know what to do with it,” says Quaynor, a computer science professor at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. “In Africa, we need Internet entrepreneurs, not just Internet users.”
There is a 1.2 billion-person market that exists on the continent. “We should be reaching them with products and services that are produced here,” Quaynor says. And he speaks from experience -- he founded and ran Network Computer Services (NCS), the first Internet Service Provider in west Africa. It was doing business of $2.3 million a year and had several thousand clients when, in 2003, a shocking event occurred: The company was shut down in a dispute over the land on which it was physically located. All the company’s assets were seized and it had to relocate. But during that fearful time, his clients never lost their Internet connection. The .gh service never went down; Quaynor and his team were able to migrate services to other sites. Today, NCS is survived by a successor company, Ghana Dot Com Ltd., which is an ICANN-accredited...
Today, as professor of computer science at the Asian Institute of Technology and director of its Internet Education and Research Lab, Internet Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Kanchana Kanchansut is concentrating on advancing mobile technology.
“Instead of connecting one computer to another, I’m interested in moving nodes, operated wirelessly,” she says. One major motivation for that interest is the violent weather events to which southeast Asia is prone.
“I went to the area where the massive tsunami struck in 2004 to see how people were using laptops to help victims. It was obvious that it would have been much better if people could use their laptops to form an ad hoc wireless network for their communication. And when the 2008 cyclone hit in Burma, the Burmese ruling junta didn’t allow foreigners to help, so we decided to bring Burmese engineers here. We taught them the technology and gave them small laptops. They went back and used those devices to get people the food, shelter, and communications they needed.”
In Thailand’s cities, people commonly use Facebook or LINE, the fast-growing social network developed in Japan in 2011. But in the rural areas, there is less connectivity, and that is where Kanchana is focusing her efforts.
“In recent years, whenever people have...
Olympic divers get extra points for taking on a tougher degree of difficulty. If that standard were applied to computer networking, Dr. Kanchana Kanchanasut, the modest professor whose efforts in the mid-1980s led to the connection of Thailand to the Internet, would be a gold medalist.
Over the past 81 years, the Thais have seen some 40 prime ministers or acting prime ministers serving with 60 different cabinets under 17 different constitutions. This frequent upheaval unavoidably had a negative effect on technological progress, as engineers and computer scientists could only watch and hope that their efforts would be given high priority and funded at appropriate levels. Through it all, Kanchana has never given up, pushing steadily to create and expand connectivity in her nation.
In 1991, Kanchana’s leadership resulted in Thailand’s first leased line with TCP/IP connection to the global network. “Back then,” she said recently, “there was no Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. There was a project under the Ministry of Science to connect six universities using X.25.” That meant that Kanchana’s team had to divert money from the same pool of funds that aided all scientific endeavors in the country towards the Internet development.
In those days, X.25 was a family of protocols used to access library catalogues in the US. When she sent her first...
Dr. Hessa Sultan Al Jaber, a 2013-14 Internet Hall of Fame Advisory Board member, is Qatar’s first-ever minister of Information and Communication Technology, and the third Qatari woman to assume a ministerial position in the state. Under her leadership, Qatar has become the most-networked Arab nation, putting it on par with the UK and South Korea. In 2012, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering included Dr. Al Jaber as one of the most influential women in technology and in 2013 she was named one of the most powerful Arabs in the world. Learn more about Dr. Al Jaber and her role on the Advisory Board of the Internet Hall of Fame.
In July 1983 in Oslo, a dozen computer scientists sat discussing how to interconnect the isolated academic and research networks then operating in the U.S. and Europe. Francois Flückiger was there representing CERN, the European Nuclear Research Agency. Larry Landweber of America’s CSNet (who had organized the meeting), Peter Kirstein of University College London, and representatives of the American university-centered BITNet and of several small European networks, were pondering a novel idea: Could there possibly be a way for all their networks to interconnect?
Flückiger, recalling that meeting at its scenic location, later wrote: “Talking and looking out from the idyllic Hotel Holmenkollen over the Fiord of Oslo, we carried on our discussions long into the evening, late, very late, in the Norwegian summer, waiting for a night that did not come.”
The reason those discussions went on so long was: Yes, the attendees were tremendously excited about the idea of creating a universal network, and they believed they could make it happen. But they also were deeply divided over the choice of technologies such a network would use. That divide, one of the thorniest issues the researchers...