In June of last year, several dozen dignitaries, including over twenty African Ministers of telecommunications, assembled at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington, DC for the launch of the Leland Initiative (LI) by Vice President Gore and USAID Administrator, Bryan Atwood. In a live video hook-up with Ghana, the Vice-President discussed the importance of being connected to the Internet with a group in Ghana that included government officials, school children and private sector representatives. The LI, named after Congressman Mickey Leland who died in a plane crash while on a humanitarian mission in Ethiopia, is a bold new USAID/State program to install or extend full Internet connectivity in up to twenty sub-Saharan African countries. Such a program was necessary as Africa lags far behind all other regions in telecommunications infrastructure development and Internet connectivity.

Recognizing that sound policies are the bedrock of sustainability, USAID signed an Interagency Agreement with the State Department to negotiate Memoranda of Understanding with the selected countries which included policy conditions that would foster private-sector delivery of Internet services in their countries. To date, MOUs have been signed with Benin, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique and Rwanda. Equipment has been installed in Mali and shipped to Madagascar, Mozambique and Rwanda.

As a part of the Leland Initiative, for those countries where the PTT will operate the gateway and provide bandwidth to private-sector Internet Service Providers (ISPs), a team of experts was sent to assist them to construct cost-based tariffs for their service. Assistance was also given in the area of constructing a business plan to operate and grow the service as well as conducting the selection process for the ISPs. As a result of these activities, templates have been produced and will be available at the conference along with lessons learned from the first year of operations .

John L. Mack
Director, Africa Telecommunications Development Policy
U.S. State Department

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