Nii Quaynor: the father of the African internet

As the world celebrates the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web which, as envisioned by its creator Tim Berners-Lee, was the revolutionary stepping stone in making internet technology more accessible to more people, it is often overlooked that Ghanaian engineer and science professor Nii Narku Quaynor was responsible for making sure Africa was part of that revolution.

Quaynor, an engineering and computer science graduate from the University of New York and Dartmouth College in the United Kingdom, returned to his home country to head the first computer science department at the University of Cape Coast in Accra in 1977.

During the early 1990s, as internet technology developed across the world, he began spearheading the establishment of Africa’s first internet connectivity. He did this through setting up key organisations, including the African Network Operators Group, as well introducing Value Added Networks, Swift (global financial telecommunications) and other burgeoning commerce technology systems. These were all integral in making the internet more accessible and above all, more secure.

Quaynor was the first African to be elected to the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), a leading international organisation dedicated to keeping internet technology “secure, safe and interoperable”. Between 2000 and 2004, he served as the Icann director for the African region, ensuring that technology advancements made in the United States and Europe were also available to Africa.

Quaynor has attributed his success as an African technologist to the forward- thinking of those he calls “techno-liberation” leaders. These include Nelson Mandela, who understood how technology could be used to advance the socio-economic development of the continent, particularly highly specialised technological skills that contribute to an evolving modern supply chain.

Inducted into the Internet Society’s Hall of Fame in 2013, he joined World Wide Web pioneers such as Jon Postel (the father of the ‘Internet Standard’ of global computing protocols) and Robert Kahn, the inventor of the standardised IP website address language. The Internet Society is one of the oldest and most respected global organisations tasked with promoting the “open development, evolution and use of (internet technology) to all the people of the world”.

Quaynor won the 2007 Jonathan B Postel Service Award for his work in putting Africa on the global internet protocol standard, as well as for advancing connectivity development on the continent. On receiving the award, he vowed to continue furthering the continent’s human resource strengths, especially in developing more computer engineers, with an overall objective of “strengthening education and research in network technologies in Africa”.

He has also been a member of the United Nations Secretary-General Advisory Group on internet technology, as well as a chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity’s Internet Task Force.

Currently serving as the commissioner for the Global Commission on Internet Governance, he ensures online security remains a priority in advancing connectivity in Africa and other untapped regions of the world.

While Africa represents between 9.4% and 10% of the total global internet population (“users”), the technology penetration – percentage of Africans using the internet – has gradually increased over the last 15 years: 28.1% compared to the global 52.5%, according to Internet World Stats)

Africa must not miss out on the enormous opportunities in rapid advancements of technology, he stresses, particularly mobile data and wireless technologies. “Africa (will) miss a great development opportunity in much the same way Africa lost on the industrial revolution, unless serious and truly committed efforts are made by Africa to address the rapid expansion on the internet-user gap between Africa and industrialised countries,” he told New African Magazine in 2014.

Source: AFKInsider reporter

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