The Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP) started
operations in 1992 with the specific goal of facilitating access
to information on sustainable development (SD) form all sectors
in society in developing countries. SDNP's fosters the use of
computer mediated communications (CMC) in its implementation
and is, in fact, a direct response to several of the principles
included in Agenda 21, the plan of action signed by over 170 countries
during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Since 1995, SDNP has concentrated on connectivity (Internet use
and dissemination at the national level), content (provision to
all stakeholder to access to information on SD) and capacity building
at the national level. More than 30 national nodes are operational
today, five of them in Africa. An additional 5 African countries
expected to be operational by the end of 1997. In addition, a
regional project to provide Internet connectivity to another 10
African nations will be financed by UNDP's Regional Bureau for
Africa and implemented by SDNP within the next 3 months.
After almost five years of operations in most regions of the developing
world, SDNP has established a basic (and open) model for project
implementation, as follows: building of in-country awareness on
the advantages of CMC such as electronic-mail; implementation
of pre-feasibility and feasibility studies for SDNP, setting a
national steering committees and a national SDNP coordinating
unit to ensure participation of all sectors, procurement and installation
of equipment and software packages (based on Open Systems) to
ensure connectivity and use of Internet services, capacity building
through training programmes for technical personnel and end users,
and development of local and national contents related to SD.
SDNP has varied profiles in host countries with success stories
in Latin America and the Caribbean (Nicaragua, Bolivia, Honduras,
etc.), Easter Europe (Poland, Estonia, Hungary, etc.), and Asia
(Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, etc). With the initial
assistance of SDNP, a few African countries have pioneered the
use of basic E-mail services among national and local communities
and SDNP nodes are now being developed concurrently with new ISPs.
Angola: in close association with Angonet, an initiative
of Development Workshop, SDNP started operations in 1993. To
date, SDNP has helped in the development of the first Internet
node in the country, Ebonet, which has received support from both
SDNP and Angonet . Negotiations between the three parties are
currently taken placed to try and merge the initiatives and provided
support to all the sectors involved.
Mozambique: The experience garnered by the University Eduardo
Mondlane in connectivity served as ther basis for launching SDNP
in Mozambique. From its implementing agency in the Ministry of
Environmental Affairs, the national node is intended to develop
4 additional nodes in different parts of the country. Equipment
including 7 computers, Cisco routers, 40 modems, etc., has been
shipped from New York and is being deployed in the country.
Chad : a national node located in the Centre dÁppui a la
Recherche (CNAR) is currently using UUCP (store and forward link)
via SDNP New York to provide email access to local users. The
node is intended to serve at least 40 to 50 institutions in the
country. In the absence of any Internet connectivity, the SDNP
node is the first host to provide access to Internet mail in Chad.
Malawi: the country is still planning the implementation of Internet
connectivity. The Chancellor College of the University of Malawi
has been operating an e-mail service (Fidonet/Frontdoor) for the
last 5 years. SDNP is now being implemented in the country and
it is working closely with the University. Plans are to implement
a VSAT solution for Internet access to the country (a license
is about to be granted by Malawi Telecommunications, after lengthy
negotiations). The planned national network includes four main
hosts: Zomba will be the main SDNP node at the University of Malawi,;
an NGO in Blantyre will be the host for another node and cater
the private sector; in Lilongwe the Ministry of Environment will
be hosting the third node; and finally, Nzuzu in the North will
be the forth node). At this point in time, Malawi Telecommunications
has no specific technical solutions to offer so SDNP's proposals
are now being considered as the national solution by all sectors.
Apart from the University of Malawi, two other ISPs provide basic
services of e-mail, and access via Compuserve. It is estimated
that there are about 800 email users in the country.
Cameroon: SDNP's node is located at the Polytechnique in Yaounde
and runs a UUCP connection via SDNP New York. The node has been
operational since late 1996. SDNP is planning to provide access
to at least 50 national institutions that work directly with SD
issues, and including bilateral and multilateral organizations.
There's currently no Internet connectivity in the country but
several national and international institutions are currently
studying the various possibilities, as well as the national PTT.
Gabon: The UNDP country office is directly funding SDNP in the
country. The project started operations in December 1996, after
a series of national brainstorming sessions and workshops on Internet
services. The Centre International de Recherches Medicales de
Franceville (CIRMF) has been a regular user of Internet (Email
and web brousing), with an address in France. Other users have
accounts in France using Calvacom. As the result of SDNP activities
in Gabon, the PTO have been inundated with requests from potential
users for Internet services. International consultations were
initiated in March 1996 to implement full connectivity in Gabon.
A solution is yet to be found between the proposals of MCI's
and France Telecom. UNDP is organizing a workshop on Internet
connectivity in Africa. It will take place in Libreville in March
and will bring together PTOs, ISPs, users and decision makers
from 6 Central African countries.
New SDNP sites with completed feasibility studies and project
documents for 1997 are:
Togo: no full connectivity to the Internet as of yet, but an
proposal to connect four institutions via a host located at the
Togolese Chamber of Commerce is in the pipeline.
Benin: a proposal for connecting 10 institutions representing
multiple sectors with full IP connectivity has been submitted.
It will also link with the other servers developed by the four
existing ISPs: the Postes and Telecommunications Office, the Ministry
of Planning and Economy, Eulodia and TDM.
National capacity building is an integral component of all SDNP
projects. Included here are: in-country workshops on Internet
services, information management; international workshops such
as SDNP's global workshops (India, 1994, Mexico, 1996), and sponsoring
of African candidates for the annual INET training workshops;
sites visits by SDNP staff and consultants for technical backstopping,
specially for new sites managers. For example Chad's networking
specialist travel to Tunis for training and the Gabonese Coordinator
visited SDNP Morocco for management consultations.
A regional workshop for SDNP African nodes is now scheduled for
November 1997 and will tackle, among others, issues related to
content provision and information systematization, Web development,
off-line access to Web resources and databases, promotion of
SDNP services, training for decision makers and key members of
civil society, and leveraging of resources to achieve sustainability.
SDNP has also engaged in collaborative activities with other players
interested in connecting the African continent to the Internet
such as training of 30 participants to the Ghana workshop on networking
organized by the University of Ghana, Legon, from 31 January -
14 February 1997. SDNP provided $ 50,000 for equipment (Servers,
computers, routers, etc.), and recruitment of course instructors.
UNESCO, ITU, and the American School of Physics were the other
partners. This programme is likely to continue and eventually
evolve into a regional activity for West Africa.
Other related initiatives in the region have been using SDNP expertise
both at headquarters and at the field level. REIMP (Regional
Environmental Information Management Project), a project promoted
by GEF and the World Bank, is a Central Africa initiative for
rain forest countries where CMC are being deployed for Congo,
CAR, Gabon, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon in order to
promote and exchange information on environmental issues.
In 1995, SDNP NY was instrumental in the creation of the African
Internet Forum (AIF), a consortium of nearly 20 institutions
concerned on Africa connectivity. SDNP has developed the AIF web
site (http://www3.undp.org/aif/). An agreement has been reached
with PADIS (ECA) to jointly maintain this site and eventually
grant them full ownership with a mirror site in SDNP NY.
Reportedly, there are currently over 100 initiatives dealing with
Internet connectivity for the continent. One of SDNP's main concerns
is to avoid possible duplication of efforts and instead attempt
to coordinate initiatives and projects at both the national and
SDNP is also interested in consolidating existing operations in
the continent, reinforcing the in-country national capacity building
efforts, deploying public access Internet point in both urban
and rural areas, and promoting national and local content that
can be accessed in an affordable manner by all sectors of society
The overall objective of SDNP in the region is, in short, a sustainable
Internet development in Africa that builds on the other major
initiatives such as AISI (African Information Society Initiative,
ECA), the Leland initiative (USAID), and other related programmes
being put forward by ITU, UNESCO, the World Bank and ACCT (Agence
de Cooperation Culturelle et Technique.