About 1988, I was running a regional development information system at the United Nations economic commission for Africa in Addis Ababa. It was based on exchange of information with nodes in virtually every African country, and it was to be based on satellites for the exchange of that information. Unfortunately the satellites weren’t there. So the information was exchanged by fax where it existed, or by snail mail where it didn’t. And sometimes—well this was an outside case but there were many others like it—in one case an exchange of information with Niger took nine years. If you put your search into Google today and you got your answer back in 2021, would you care? Would you still be alive?
So that stimulated us to move into real electronic networks. And we began at the stage of storing forward pre-Internet, but it became clear that as the United Nations, we were better at contacting governments than splicing cables.
So we in 1995 got the African ministers of economic planning and development to sign on to the African Information Society Initiative to promote Internet in Africa. And after that, a lot happened, and a lot happened very fast. And the strategy I think was quite forward-looking, particularly at the time, because it looked not only at infrastructure but it talked about internal divides. And one thing that’s very gratifying for me being here now is to see so many young Africans doing so much towards realizing the vision of an Internet-based information society in Africa and globally.
But there’s one thing I want to mention. Since 1995, I’ve been very concerned with bringing more women globally to the Internet. And I haven’t seen that many women come up front yet—maybe there’s a lot more coming. And certainly they’ll be coming more after today. But I would just like to mention a few names of a number of others who have been global connectors, and not just on behalf of women but on behalf of the Internet in general. I can mention Nashwa Abdelbaki, Kate Wild, Haymee Perez Cogle, Rinalia Rahim, Anriette Esterhuysen, Karen Banks, [Amoldo Engueno?], Shafika Isaacs, Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, [Aidel Puku Mensa?], Mercy Wambui, Anita Gurumurthy, just to name a few. So I would like to accept this award in the name of all the women who have worked as global connectors for and on the Internet. Thank you very much.